Sixty years on, how the Beatles changed New Zealand's cultural landscape forever

Sixty years ago the Beatles toured New Zealand and Australia and upended our cultural landscape.

Kiwi Andy Neill and Aussie Greg Armstrong have spent 20 years analysing just about every moment of that tour to write a book called When We Was Fab: Inside the Beatles Australasian Tour 1964, which the pair launched in Masterton on Friday night.

It was a lucky break the Beatles came here at the height of Beatlemania. Negotiations began a year before, just as the promoter was getting word this British band could surprise.

"He said, 'oh yeah, the Beatles, yeah they've had a couple of records out, they are rising and if you were to book them for Australia and New Zealand by the time they come out they will have peaked and I think you know that would be the optimum time for them to come'," said Neill.

But "peaked" is an understatement. By June 64 it was global mayhem and crowds here were huge.

Previously Royal visits were the only ones to get New Zealanders to line the pavements.

But especially in Auckland, few in authority were ready or even willing to shoulder the responsibility for keeping the band and the public safe.

"The Chief of Police responded: you are not royalty," said Neill who says only four or five police officers were sent to monitor the biggest crowds, which he described as an accident waiting to happen.

"It's evident from the correspondence which we've reproduced in the book that people were caught napping and when it happened they were sort of panicking. 'What are we doing? How do we handle this?'" said Neill.

Many who were there and young in 1964 attended the launch of Neill and Greg Armstrong's exhaustive, definitive book at Hedley's in Masterton last night.

It was a tour that changed the face of the country.

"The Beatles tour was a line in the sand. It was almost like when the 1960s began, 1964, for kids in New Zealand," said Ellis.

The Beatles were here for just one week playing their 28-minute sets in Wellington, Auckland, Dunedin and Christchurch.

But those who attended them may not have heard much.

"It's like, I guess, your home hi-fi system facing out against 3000 screaming kids mostly at the top of their lungs so it was just bedlam.

"And we're still talking about it 60 years on, I mean I can't think - no disrespect to Taylor Swift or Ed Sheeran or any of those people - but are we going to be talking about it in 60 years' time, you know it remains to be seen," said Ellis.

It was a whirlwind week when New Zealand did nothing but twist and shout for the biggest band of all time.