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51 Years Ago: The Beatles Receive ‘Germ Bomb’ Death Threat

The Beatles
Keystone, Hulton Archive, Getty Images

For all the smiles and good humor that accompany memories of the Beatles‘ early days, there were frequent moments where it wasn’t all fun and games. One such occurrence took place in New Zealand on June 26, 1964, when their plane was delayed following a “germ bomb” threat.

Five days earlier, the Beatles touched down in New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington for their first-ever tour of that country. The jaunt was part of a larger world tour and was penciled in between two different stops in neighboring Australia. As they had on previous tours, the group hit the ground running, playing the first of six shows across just as many days on the night of their arrival.

After playing two concerts in Wellington, the band departed to play two more in Auckland before their fifth scheduled stop in Dunedin – which is where they ran into a bit of trouble. Before they could even make it to the runway to try and get to the next gig, a tip came in that a “germ bomb” had been planted aboard their plane.

What sort of germs might be on the aircraft remained unknown, but the Beatles were grounded as the police combed through every bit of luggage that the touring party had brought with them for the weapon in question. As it turned out, the threat was a complete hoax, and only ended up costing the band and the 2,000 fans awaiting their arrival on the Dunedin tarmac a 30-minute delay.

When a reporter later asked Paul McCartney for his reaction to the episode, the singer remained nonplussed. “I don’t take much notice of them,” he said. “On one tour in England we had a bomb hoax every single night.” Adding, “The trouble is going to come one day when someone really does plant a bomb.”

The show that night went off without a hitch, but the band did run into some more trouble the following day in Christchurch when a group of males unleashed a barrage of eggs against them at their hotel. For Ringo Starr, more than the bomb threat, the eggs gave him pause about ever making a return trip to New Zealand.  “We certainly hope they get rid of egg-throwing if we do come back,” he said in an interview on their way back to Australia. “I think that was a disgusting display of bad manners.” George Harrison, however took a different stance. “I didn’t mind the eggs,” he said. “I thought it was quite funny.”

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