The Beatles in Montréal is an exhibition on the Montréal stopover of this legendary British group that revolutionized pop music around the world, and that also had a profound influence on musical trends that took root right here in Montréal and throughout Québec.
Designed as an exhibition-experience, The Beatles in Montréal uses this musical event as a starting point for an examination of Montréal history and the emergence of “yéyé” music in 1960s Québec.
September 8, 1964 at the Forum
Upon entering the exhibition room, visitors are immersed into the effervescent atmosphere of the era through recordings showing John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr—the four idols—in action on giant screens. The exhibition takes a look at the quartet’s only appearance in Montréal, a stopover lasting less than 12 hours. The Beatles performed just two shows at the Montréal Forum on St. Catherine Street on September 8, 1964, at 4 pm and 8:30 pm; tickets cost $4.50 and $5.50. But what memorable shows! Exhibition visitors can relive The Beatles’ Montréal performance through a soundtrack to the show, on loan from Gilles Valiquette. Never-before-seen photos, some of which are from the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec’s Fonds Antoine Desilets and Fonds Jean-Louis Frund, will literally transport visitors to the show.
John Lennon’s famous Rolls-Royce, with its flowery paint job, is sure to attract attention as it plays a prominent role in the exhibition (see the information sheet). The Rolls-Royce was able to make the trip to Montréal to be the highlight of the exhibition through a successful partnership between Pointe-à-Callière and the Royal BC Museum, owner of the spectacular car since 1993.
Colourful first-hand accounts
The Beatles, from the moment they got off the plane at Dorval Airport on September 8, immediately set the tone for that memorable day. A news report shows journalist Pierre Nadeau interviewing young people as they waited for the doors to open at the venue. Visitors will hear first-hand accounts from personalities who attended the show, including Janette Bertrand’s colourful tale of how she passed herself off as a journalist in order to get into a press conference held that day. We also learn why The Beatles nervously left the city that very same night.
Beatlemania, through the eyes of collectors and the general public
In all, some 360 objects are on display in the exhibition, including personal items, objects signed by The Beatles, records, instruments, Beatlemania-related items, film excerpts, archival photos, and pages from newspapers showing the madness and euphoria brought on by the group’s appearance, both here and elsewhere. In addition to Gilles Valiquette, several other collectors, including Richard Lapointe, Pierre Marchand, Luc Bouthillier, and Jean-Louis Vaillancourt also generously loaned objects to the Museum. Thanks to the many fans and collectors among the general public who answered the call, the Museum has also been able to set up a space specially dedicated to their precious items, presenting them in a very entertaining way, and showing that back in the era, it was possible to eat with The Beatles, sleep with The Beatles, decorate Beatles-style, and have fun by dressing like The Beatles.
Baby Boomers and their successors
The exhibition also shows how, at the time The Beatles visited Montréal, both Québec and the city, through great reforms, were taking giant steps to catch up with the modern world—with music following in the wake. Period record players, transistor radios, princess telephones, television sets and teenagers’ clothing are presented alongside one another in the exhibition. It is an opportunity to relive the effervescent music scene in 1960s Montréal and Québec with the emergence of groups like Les Baronets, Les Classels, Les Hou-Lops, and Les Sultans— groups that are synonymous with the “yéyé” era, which still resonates today among the young and the not-so-young.
Be the 5th Beatle
As they make their way through the exhibition, visitors will also have a chance to be the 5th Beatle, sharing the stage with John, Paul, George, and Ringo, singing karaoke to certain songs performed on the Ed Sullivan Show. They can choose to sing such songs as All My Loving, She Loves You, I Saw Her Standing There, and Twist and Shout, to name but a few.
Souvenir LP Book
A souvenir book has been published to complement the exhibition, and to pay tribute to the 1960s, it has been designed in the style of a record sleeve. The book is illustrated with magnificent photos, some of which have never been seen before, from de Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec’s Fonds Jean-Louis Frund. Short descriptions accompany the photos, as well as accounts from various music industry figures, such as Gilles Valiquette, Sylvain Cormier, Claude Rajotte, and François Pérusse. Some of these accounts will be presented over the course of the exhibition on the Museum’s website and social media pages. The souvenir book is available at the Museum Shop for $9.50 plus tax.
During its presentation from March 29, 2013 to March 30, 2014, 242 880 people visited this exhibition.
The Beatles in Montreal was produced by Pointe-à-Callière, the Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History, and presented by Rouge FM et Musimax. Pointe-à-Callière thanks the Royal BC Museum, partner of the exhibition and its sponsors: Aéroport de Montréal, Air Canada, InterContinental Hotel, La Vitrine culturelle, La Presse, and The Gazette.