It seems like yesterday that the Beatles played Toronto year after year
The Fab Four always drew fans when in Toronto, but they caused less of a frenzy here over time
In 1965 and 1966, the Beatles played Maple Leaf Gardens on Aug. 17 — their second and third appearances in Toronto.
The city had experienced the chaos of Beatlemania before, when they played two September concerts in 1964.
Back then, the quartet delivered two half-hour sets which a Globe and Mail reporter described as impossible to hear, because "four Beatles can't out-vocalize a Maple Leaf Gardens full of youngsters baying out their adulation."
When they made their return in 1965, the story was much the same.
The city's teenagers greeted them with the same enthusiasm, camping out to capture the coveted tickets to one of the two shows.
And as they had the first visit, fans subjected the quartet — and the city's police force — to their frenzied attempts to reach out and touch the group on their arrival at the airport, on their way from their hotel to the concerts, and at the concerts.
No plans to be anybody else
At the between-concert press conference, reporters asked for a critique of their questions.
John Lennon said "some of them are good, some of them are bad, and some of them are good."
He elicited hearty laughs with his quip about how he liked being a Beatle.
"It's good, we like it," he stated. "Or else we'd be the Rolling Stones."
Frenzy to 'mere popularity'?
When the Beatles returned to play on the same day a year later, the city — and the police — were ready for them.
But the situation did not seem quite so frenzied, as the Toronto Star reported on Aug. 17, 1966.
The police presence at the airport, awaiting the group's arrival, began with 150 officers, but with only about 70 fans on hand, many were sent home. The paper said only about "40 RCMP and city police [were] present" when the plane touched down.
Comparing the numbers of fans who turned out at the airport — 10,000 in '64, 1,000 in '65 and a "generous" estimate of 800 the night before, the Star suggested "the 1964 frenzy has slumped to mere popularity in 1966."
That year, as they had before, the Beatles played two concerts, although newspaper reports put the afternoon show at less-than-capacity, with only 15,000 concertgoers, as compared to the 18,000 at the evening show.
The press was curious to know if this was concerning to the quartet.
'We'll be the last to worry'
George Harrison took the microphone for that question.
"Well for a start, there's no signs as far as we're concerned of it diminishing," he began. "Our records and our shows are still selling as well as ever."
"You're finished, George, you're finished," Paul McCartney interrupted.
"And if our popularity does diminish, well, we'll be the last to worry," Harrison concluded.
Perhaps he was reflecting on the expected $96,000 payout — the equivalent of nearly $750,000 today — from their Toronto shows that they would be taking with them.