We’ve all been there, as we approach the festive period or one’s birthday, family and friends circle you for a hint or a clue at what you might like as a gift. You may quickly mention how much you’ve enjoyed the latest episode of the Great British Bake Off and find yourself enrolled in an intensive bread-making course. For The Beatles George Harrison, it was jelly babies and it was a lot more dangerous.
When Beatlemania landed it set down with a very heavy thud. Suddenly across the globe, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr became household names and pin-up stars with fans not only hanging on their next record release but their every word too. Everything the band said was hurriedly noted down and printed. It meant that flippant remarks were usually taken quickly out of context and plastered across the pages of every newspaper in the land. The fans weren’t exactly shy about their affection, either.
There are countless moments when single members of The Beatles have found themselves face to face with over-eager and unwelcomed fans in their abodes. There are far more stories of moments that John, Paul, George or Ringo found themselves surrounded by screaming girls without any escape in sight. While it’s safe to assume that for a moment this was exciting and exhilarating but, soon enough, it became a real problem.
The world had never really experienced fame like it and with the continued globalisation offered by air travel, the band were becoming an international sensation like no one had ever seen before. It meant that hysteria boiled past a point of control. It would eventually become one of the reasons The Beatles would stop touring altogether, their fans were just a little bit dangerous when faced with the Fab Four.
When mentioning something as innocuous as enjoying a particular sweet now poses a serious threat to your career, then you know it is time to pack it in. In 1963, George Harrison had to do just that when, on stage, he was continually being pelted with his favourite confection, jelly babies. In a 1963 letter to then-15-year-old Lynn Smith, Harrison wrote, “Think how we feel standing on stage trying to dodge the stuff, before you throw some more at us. Couldn’t you eat them yourself, besides it is dangerous. I was hit in the eye once with a boiled sweet, and it’s not funny!”
In the snippet from an interview below, Harrison is again asked about the sweet and he is, again, very forthright in his damnation of it: “It’s a bit dangerous, y’know. A jelly bean travelling at around 50 mph, if it hits ya in the eye, well, you’re finished aren’t ya? You’re blind.” The seriousness with which Harrison answers shows that it was clearly a continuous annoyance.
While it cannot be confirmed just how much being attacked with confectionary affected The Beatles decision to stop touring in 1966, the likelihood, of course, is that it was fairly low down on the priority list. But it was a symptom of the fever pitch atmosphere The Beatles had created with their revolutionary act.