At 21, I've been a Beatles fan for three quarters of my life. I never thought I would see Paul McCartney live in concert and hear a fresh Beatles song all in the span of a week.
The second the lights dropped and Sir Paul sang the first line of “Can’t Buy Me Love”, I felt as if I were a 1960s teenager who had secured seats to The Beatles’ 1964 concert at Sydney Stadium in Rushcutters Bay.
“I love you Paul!” shouted my sister, hands cupping her mouth in the hope that the music icon would hear her over the 45,000 fans at Allianz Stadium.
“How do you two know Paul McCartney?” asked the man seated next to us, already on his second plastic cup of beer.
“Because he’s a Beatle,” I replied, though the answer goes so much deeper than that. In 2008, I was five years old and, setting aside Hi-5 and The Wiggles, The Beatles were the first “proper” music I was introduced to. Mum and I jumped around the living room as we listened to the group’ s more innocent records. I took a particular liking to the verbal instructions of “Twist and Shout” and the relatability of “A Hard Day’s Night” after a long day at kindergarten. As I grew older, so too did the maturity of the tracks I listened to.
I began to appreciate the magnitude of The Beatles’ ongoing cultural relevance as mum shared stories of their ongoing presence in her life. Mum was three when The Beatles broke up in 1970, however, their music provided a source of excitement as she navigated the first-generation Australian experience as a child of Maltese immigrants.
In primary school, she spent her lunchtimes practising her autograph “Mrs Maria Lennon”. At age 15, she sat in the audience of Michael Parkinson’s interview with Ringo Starr, after mailing Network 10 a letter that said “Can I please get tickets to see Ringo?” written 100 times over. In 1993, she cut her honeymoon short to meet Paul McCartney at Brashs Music Store, where he shook her hand and sang her name in his classic vibrato. She still gets chills telling this story.
It was my mum’s palpable feeling of nostalgia for Beatles music which launched my own musical Magical Mystery Tour into fandom. In 2010, I embraced One Direction (1D) mania.
My love for One Direction is closely tied to the way they’ve been inspired by The Beatles, the first fathers of fandom.
Looking back, I can see my love for One Direction was closely tied to the way they were inspired by The Beatles, the first fathers of fandom. Both groups offered archetypes which fans could buy into and fall in love with: there was the cute one, the funny one, the mysterious one and the rebellious one. Both groups began their careers with innocent love songs before experimenting with different genres and lyrical content. A 2015 Rolling Stone articlenoted how 1D’s song “Olivia” offered a nod to The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper-era through its playful, sing-along quality.
Both groups commanded a rare level of hysteria that saw fans go to extreme lengths to meet their idols. In 2013, my older sister and other fans convinced a concierge that I, a harmless 10-year-old, needed to use the bathroom so I could instead catch a glimpse of One Direction’s Palm Beach accommodation. In 2022, I waited with other 1D fans at Sydney Airport to meet Louis Tomlinson as he departed for Melbourne and the next leg of his Australian tour.
Louis Tomlinson takes time to pose with his fans, including Vanessa Hill, at Sydney airport.SUPPLIED
Most importantly, the powerful relationship between a band and its fandom allows it to carve out a space in society for community and social change. Ron Howard’s 2016 documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years revealed the band refused to play to racially segregated audiences on their 1964 USA tour. Comedian Whoopi Goldberg shared a story of her mother surprising her with tickets to New York's Shea Stadium and how she screamed along with the other girls in the crowd as one.
The legacy of The Beatles’ early activism can be seen in the concert traditions and fan projects of today. At Louis Tomlinson’s 2022 Hordern Pavillion performance, fans waved pride flags during the song “Only The Brave”, while others including myself, created rainbow light projections on our phones in support of the LGBTQI+ community. Harry Styles helped a young fan come out to her family at his 2023 Accor Stadium show, a tradition he has continued across the globe. It is moments like this that make me proud to be part of the fandom, something much bigger than myself.
The power of fandom lies in its ability to carve out a space in society for community and social change.
The presence of social media has allowed The Beatles community to transcend age barriers, connecting both old and new fans. In April, footage from the 1960s of "Adrienne from Brooklyn", a teenage Beatle fan, screaming out her love for Paul McCartney attracted over 2.7 million views and 607,000 likes on TikTok.
That’s why, as Paul McCartney’s set rolled on through a catalogue of Beatles, Wings and solo hits, I was struck by just how calm the crowd was. When I had attended One Direction concerts in 2013 and 2015, as well as Tomlinson and Styles’ solo performances, the atmosphere was marked by unwavering energy and a reciprocation of sound. If they were singing, we were singing even louder. However, besides the unforgettable communal experience of “Hey Jude”, most of the audience remained quiet and/or seated. My mum explained that “when you’re in the presence of someone that legendary and with that much talent, you want to be able to take it all in.”
Paul took the crowd on a journey back to the early days of the original Quarrymen, sharing the story behind the recovered track “In Spite of all the Danger”, right through to the death of John Lennon, before launching into a powerful virtual duet of “I’ve Got A Feeling”. He also dedicated an emotional performance of “Something” to George Harrison, playing a ukulele which was gifted to him by his late bandmate. It was an almost religious experience.
Sixty years after their first No. 1 hit "From Me to You", it was no surprise that the November release of The Beatle’s latest single “Now and Then” made history by also topping the charts. It was the longest gap between first and last No.1 singles in the UK music chart history. Mum and I shed a few tears as we watched the music video. The timelessness of the band is encapsulated by the sight of an aged McCartney and Starr performing and goofing around with a youthful Lennon and Harrison, just like old times.
The Beatles offer Gen Z a sense of nostalgia and innocence we crave in the modern age.
The Beatles offer Gen Z a sense of nostalgia and innocence we crave in the modern age. Our longing to go back to a simpler time can be satisfied by pressing play on songs like “Here Comes The Sun”, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” or “All You Need Is Love”. As ongoing cultural icons, The Beatles have created a space where people from all walks of life and from across the globe can unite over their shared love of music.
And I’m grateful to be a part of it.