The Beatles' 1966 US tour

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The Beatles' 1966 USA Tour
Tour by The Beatles
Start date 12 August 1966
End date 29 August 1966
Legs 1
Number of shows 19
The Beatles concert chronology
  • The Beatles' 1966 World Tour
  • 1966 US Tour

The Beatles staged their third concert tour of America in August 1966, and it was the last commercial tour they would ever undertake. Lasting a total of nineteen performances, with seventeen shows in American venues and two in Canada (Toronto), it was plagued with backlash regarding the controversy of John Lennon's remarks about Christianity, death threats, and the band's own dissatisfaction with the noise levels and their ability to perform live. Although it was a commercial success, ticket sales had noticeably declined in number. After the tour, they would become a studio band and focused exclusively on record production.

The "More popular than Jesus" controversy[edit]

In March 1966, Maureen Cleave interviewed John Lennon and the rest of the Beatles as part of a London Evening Standard cover story on the subject of "How Does a Beatle Live?". During the Lennon interview at Kenwood, Cleave noted Lennon's interest in Christianity and religions, to which he replied:

"Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I'll be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first—rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me."[1][2]

Although the article went largely unnoticed in the United Kingdom, the American magazine Datebook printed the quote containing Lennon's words on the front cover of its August issue.[3][4][5]

Fearful of the possibility that protesters or radicals would try to kill them for their supposed "anti-Christ" stance, the group's manager Brian Epstein contemplated canceling the tour altogether.[6] However, during the tour's stop in Chicago, he arranged for a press conference to address the controversy and for Lennon to explain himself. Lennon stated that he was only commenting on the decline among churchgoers, that he made a mistake in using the Beatles' following in comparison with that of organized religion, and that he "never meant it as a lousy anti-religious thing". Despite this explanation, Lennon continued to be asked about the topic in subsequent press conferences throughout the American tour, often visibly exasperating not only him, but his band mates as well.

The Memphis incident[edit]

Despite numerous explanations by Beatles' press agents and Lennon's televised apology, the Memphis city council voted to cancel the 19 August afternoon and evening concerts rather than have "municipal facilities be used as a forum to ridicule anyone's religion." The Ku Klux Klan nailed a Beatles album to a wooden cross, vowing "vengeance", and conservative groups staged further public burnings of Beatles records.[7][8] Despite the fact that it had originally been canceled, Epstein agreed to proceed with the concert in Memphis. Various threats were made before the concerts. Although no problems took place during the afternoon show, an audience member threw a lit firecracker onstage that did not hit any of the members, but the band believed that somebody had tried to shoot them.[6]

When the firecracker went off, the Beatles' press agent Tony Barrow recalled that "everybody, all of us at the side of the stage, including the three Beatles on stage, all looked immediately at John Lennon. We would not at that moment have been surprised to see that guy go down. John had half-heartedly joked about the Memphis concert in an earlier press conference, and when we got there everything seemed to be controlled and calm, but underneath somehow, there was this nasty atmosphere. It was a very tense and pressured kind of day."[9]

Set list[edit]

Lasting between 30 to 40 minutes per show, the typical set list was as follows (with lead singers appropriately noted):

  1. "Rock and Roll Music" (John Lennon)
  2. "She's a Woman" (Paul McCartney)
  3. "If I Needed Someone" (George Harrison) - the first (and only) Harrison composition the group performed live
  4. "Day Tripper" (Lennon and McCartney)
  5. "Baby's in Black" (Lennon and McCartney)
  6. "I Feel Fine" (Lennon)
  7. "Yesterday" (McCartney) - performed with all four Beatles, rather than the one guitar/string quartet arrangement by which the song was recorded, and in G major, not in F major
  8. "I Wanna Be Your Man" (Ringo Starr)
  9. "Nowhere Man" (Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison)
  10. "Paperback Writer" (McCartney)
  11. "Long Tall Sally" (McCartney)

None of the songs from the group's most recent LP, Revolver, released only days before the start of the tour on 5 August 1966, were performed, nor was the group's most recent US single, "Eleanor Rigby"/"Yellow Submarine". Four of the songs from the US-only Yesterday and Today, released on 20 June 1966, are the most-recently released songs performed. "If I Needed Someone" is the most recent US released song (appearing on Yesterday and Today in June 1966) and "Paperback Writer" is the most recent US released single (released in May 1966) performed. The three remaining tracks performed from Yesterday and Today were previously released in 1965 and early 1966 as singles.

Tour dates[edit]

Date City Country Venue
12 August 1966, two shows Chicago United States International Amphitheatre
13 August 1966, two shows Detroit Olympia Stadium
14 August 1966 Cleveland Municipal Stadium
15 August 1966 Washington, D.C. D.C. Stadium
16 August 1966 Philadelphia John F. Kennedy Stadium
17 August 1966, two shows Toronto Canada Maple Leaf Gardens
18 August 1966 Boston United States Suffolk Downs Racetrack
19 August 1966, two shows Memphis Mid-South Coliseum (evening performance originally canceled, but went ahead)
21 August 1966 Cincinnati Crosley Field (originally scheduled 20 August and support acts performed but Beatles' performance postponed due to rain. Support acts also performed on Sunday. "Rain" on Saturday night was downpour that lasted several hours and prevented anyone from performing on stage located on second base.[citation needed])
21 August 1966 St. Louis Busch Stadium
23 August 1966 New York City Shea Stadium
25 August 1966, two shows Seattle Seattle Center Coliseum
28 August 1966 Los Angeles Dodger Stadium
29 August 1966 San Francisco Candlestick Park

The Beatles' final concert[edit]

The Beatles made an unannounced live appearance on the roof of their London Apple office at Saville Row on 30 January 1969 but their final paid live concert took place on 29 August 1966 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. Only 25,000 tickets were sold despite the fact that Candlestick Park has a capacity for 42,500 people. A local company called Tempo Productions was in charge of the arrangement and due to the low ticket sales and other expenses this concert resulted in a loss for them. At 9:27pm the Beatles finally took the stage and proceeded to play eleven songs: "Rock And Roll Music", "She's A Woman", "If I Needed Someone", "Day Tripper," "Baby's In Black", "I Feel Fine", "Yesterday", "I Wanna Be Your Man", "Nowhere Man", "Paperback Writer" and "Long Tall Sally". Knowing that this would be their last concert, members of the band took measures of their own to capture their last moments on stage. Each brought a camera and McCartney asked Beatles' press agent Tony Barrow to successfully make a rough audio tape recording from the field. The recording of this final concert is now widely circulated on bootlegs. "Long Tall Sally" on the bootlegs is not complete, as Barrow did not flip the tape over during the show then the song was cut off. Barrow gave the original tape of the Candlestick Park concert to McCartney. He also made a single copy, which was kept in a locked drawer in Barrow's office desk. The Beatles were quickly taken to the airport in an armoured car. They flew from San Francisco to Los Angeles, arriving at 12.50am. During the flight George Harrison was heard to exclaim: "That's it, then. I'm not a Beatle anymore."


  1. ^ Cleave 2007.
  2. ^ Cleave, Maureen (5 October 2005). "The John Lennon I Knew". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 20 December 2007. 
  3. ^ Rawlings, Terry (3 October 2002). Then, Now and Rare British Beat 1960-1969. Omnibus Press. Retrieved 2 March 2008. 
  4. ^ "The Beatles Are Bigger than WHO?". I Remember JFK. Retrieved 12 July 2009. 
  5. ^ Chittenden, Maurice (23 November 2008). "John Lennon forgiven for Jesus claim". The Times (London). Retrieved 12 July 2009. 
  6. ^ a b Gould (2008), pp. 346–7.
  7. ^ Gould (2008), pp. 340–41.
  8. ^ Bielen, Kenneth (11 May 2000). The Lyrics of Civility. Garland Publishing. Retrieved 3 March 2008. 
  9. ^ Beatles Interview: Memphis, Tennessee 8/19/1966 - Beatles Interviews Database
  • Gould, Jonathan (2008). Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain and America. Piatkus Books. ISBN 978-0-7499-2988-6.