The Beatles' 1966 US tour
|Tour by the Beatles|
|Associated album||Yesterday and Today, Revolver|
|Start date||12 August 1966|
|End date||29 August 1966|
|No. of shows||19|
|The Beatles concert chronology|
The Beatles staged their fourth concert tour of America in August 1966, and it was the last commercial tour they undertook. Lasting a total of 19 performances, with 17 shows in American venues and two in Canada, it was plagued with backlash regarding the controversy of John Lennon's remark about the Beatles being "more popular than Jesus", 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 declined since the group's previous visit, in August 1965. Late in the tour, the band returned to Shea Stadium in New York, where they performed to an audience of 45,000, compared with the 56,000 world record attendance they had achieved the previous year. After the 1966 tour, they would become a studio band and focused exclusively on record production.
Incidents and controversy
"More popular than Jesus"
In March 1966, Maureen Cleave interviewed John Lennon and the rest of the Beatles as part of a London Evening Standard series on the theme "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."
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 cancelling the tour altogether. 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 organised 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 bandmates as well.
Despite numerous explanations by Beatles' press agents and Lennon's televised apology, the Memphis, Tennessee city council voted to cancel the group's 19 August afternoon and evening concerts at the Mid-South Coliseum rather than have "municipal facilities be used as a forum to ridicule anyone's religion". The Ku Klux Klan nailed a Beatles LP to a wooden cross, vowing "vengeance", and conservative groups staged further public burnings of Beatles records. 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.
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."
The Beatles' final paid concert of their career took place on 29 August at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. The band played to an audience of 25,000, leaving 7,000 tickets unsold. A local company called Tempo Productions was in charge of the arrangements. Due to the reduced ticket sales and the expense of paying the Beatles their prearranged $50,000 performance fee, in addition to having to hire an orchestra to satisfy the local musicians union, the concert resulted in a loss for the company. At 9:27 pm, 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 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, due to Barrow not flipping the tape over during the show. 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.
After the show, the Beatles were quickly taken to the airport in an armoured car. They flew from San Francisco to Los Angeles, arriving at 12:50 am. During the flight George Harrison was heard to say: "That's it, then. I'm not a Beatle anymore." He later said of the band's decision to quit touring: "We'd been through every race riot, and every city we went to there was some kind of a jam going on, and police control, and people threatening to do this and that … and [us] being confined to a little room or a plane or a car. We all had each other to dilute the stress, and the sense of humour was very important … But there was a point where enough was enough."
Lasting between 30 and 40 minutes per show, the typical set list was as follows (with lead singers appropriately noted):
- "Rock and Roll Music" (John Lennon)
- "She's a Woman" (Paul McCartney)
- "If I Needed Someone" (George Harrison)
- "Day Tripper" (Lennon and McCartney)
- "Baby's in Black" (Lennon and McCartney)
- "I Feel Fine" (Lennon)
- "Yesterday" (McCartney)[nb 1]
- "I Wanna Be Your Man" (Ringo Starr)
- "Nowhere Man" (Lennon with McCartney and Harrison)
- "Paperback Writer" (McCartney)
- "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 concurrent US single, "Eleanor Rigby"/"Yellow Submarine". Four of the songs from the US-only Yesterday and Today, released on 20 June 1966, were the most-recently released songs performed. "If I Needed Someone" was the most recent US released song (appearing on Yesterday and Today in June 1966) and "Paperback Writer" was 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.
|12 August 1966, two shows||Chicago||United States||International Amphitheatre|
|13 August 1966, two shows||Detroit||Olympia Stadium|
|14 August 1966||Cleveland||Cleveland Stadium|
|15 August 1966||Washington, DC||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[nb 2]||Memphis||Mid-South Coliseum|
|21 August 1966[nb 3]||Cincinnati||Crosley Field|
|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|
- "Yesterday" was performed by all four Beatles rather than as a solo performance by McCartney accompanied by a string quartet, as the 1965 recording had been.
- The evening performance was originally cancelled, but went ahead after all.
- The Cincinnati show had been scheduled for 20 August but was postponed due to rain.
- Frontani, Michael R. (2007). The Beatles: Image and the Media. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi. pp. 111–12. ISBN 978-1-57806-966-8.
- Cleave, Maureen (4 March 1966). "How does a Beatle live?". London Evening Standard. Via "'Bigger than Jesus'". 47 Shoe Lane. Retrieved 16 June 2019.
- Rawlings, Terry (3 October 2002). Then, Now and Rare British Beat 1960–1969. Omnibus Press. Retrieved 2 March 2008.
- "The Beatles Are Bigger than WHO?". I Remember JFK. Archived from the original on 13 July 2011. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
- Chittenden, Maurice (23 November 2008). "John Lennon forgiven for Jesus claim". The Times. London. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
- Gould (2008), pp. 346–7.
- Turner (2016), pp. 282–83.
- Gould (2008), pp. 340–1.
- Bielen, Kenneth (11 May 2000). The Lyrics of Civility. Garland Publishing. Retrieved 3 March 2008.
- "Beatles Interview: Memphis, Tennessee 8/19/1966 - Beatles Interviews Database". www.beatlesinterviews.org.
- Miles, Barry (2001). The Beatles Diary Volume 1: The Beatles Years. London: Omnibus Press. p. 243. ISBN 0-7119-8308-9.
- Turner (2016), pp. 309–10.
- Tillery, Gary (2011). Working Class Mystic: A Spiritual Biography of George Harrison. Quest Books. ISBN 978-0-8356-0900-5. p. 34
- Harrison, Olivia (2011). George Harrison: Living in the Material World. New York, NY: Abrams. p. 204. ISBN 978-1-4197-0220-4.
- Gould, Jonathan (2008). Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain and America. Piatkus Books. ISBN 978-0-7499-2988-6.
- McCollum, Brian; Elbinger, Doug (15 August 2016). "See rare photos of The Beatles' last show in Detroit". Lansing State Journal/Gannett. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
Fifty years later, the photos he captured are among the few surviving high-quality images of the show. Until now, most of his shots have sat in the shadows, seen only by diehard Beatles collectors and those who have purchased Elbinger's self-published career retrospective. Armed with two rolls of film, a Rolleiflex box camera and a plucky spirit, the teen snapped John, Paul, George and Ringo in their red-pinstriped suits during the day's matinee show, part of a doubleheader that turned out to be the Beatles’ final Motor City visit – just two weeks before the group stopped touring for good.
- Turner, Steve (2016). Beatles '66: The Revolutionary Year. New York, NY: Ecco. ISBN 978-0-06-247558-9.