The Events That Happened At The Last Concert Of The Beatles
They Saw It Coming
It’s called Beatlemania for a reason. They were one of the most popular rock bands, they sold out shows, had thousands of fans following them and making camp outside their hotel building, they released one innovative album after another, and they made history over and over again.
But by 1966, disaster followed them wherever they went.
At the time, The Beatles were spent – literally and figuratively. Passion for music brought them together and the lack of it was slowly tearing them apart. They no longer found joy in concerts – it was way too loud and noisy. They couldn’t even hear themselves. They’d end up altering the lyrics just for amusement.
“In 1966 the road was getting pretty boring. It was coming to the end for me. Nobody was listening at the shows. That was OK at the beginning, but we were playing really bad.” – Ringo Starr
Aside from the boredom, there was also the question of safety. During their stop in the Philippines, they were manhandled at the airport and their security withdrawn after inadvertently snubbing the first family. And they also made enemies after John Lennon’s infamous “More popular than Jesus” remark which earned them the ire of several people including the Ku Klux Klan. Their US tour was marred by protests and threats. Conservative groups publicly burned their Beatles records.
Another issue was technology. Back then, they couldn’t easily perform live those songs which were recorded using studio techniques and other effects. They were basically playing tunes they released a few years back and even if they only released Revolver a few days before the tour kicked off, they didn’t play one song from that album.
Even nature wasn’t too kind to them. In St. Louis, they were met with heavy rains and only had a makeshift shelter as shield. There were sparks on stage during the performance.
At the Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium, some fans clashed with the police and The Beatles’ getaway car was damaged so they ended up using an armored car to get out of the area.
“I remember us getting in a big empty steel-lined wagon, like a removal van. There was no furniture in there – nothing. We were sliding around trying to hold on to something, and at that moment everyone said, ‘Oh, this bloody touring lark – I’ve had it up to here, man.'” – Paul McCartney
They had enough. Fortunately for them, they only had one concert left.
So on August 29, 1966, The Beatles held their final concert at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. They couldn’t wait to wrap up the tour.
“It wasn’t fun anymore. And that was the main point: We’d always tried to keep some fun in it for ourselves. In anything you do you have to do that, and we’d been pretty good at it. But even now America was beginning to pall because of the conditions of tour, and because we’d done it so many times. So by Candlestick Park it was like, ‘Don’t tell anyone, but this is probably our last gig.'” – Paul McCartney
At 5:30PM, their chartered jet arrived at the San Francisco International Airport. Contrary to what they’ve gotten used to seeing, there was no hysteria, no high-pitched screams from thousands of fans. Instead, there were members of the press and security detail.
They were immediately taken to the stadium and as fate would have it, the gates were locked.
“All of us on the bus were laughing like crazy. The driver headed to the outermost perimeter of the parking lot and began driving faster and faster around the park to escape the fans. Suddenly, in an attempt to get away from a growing convoy of fans following the bus, he exited the parking lot and drove around the neighborhood near the park. We were cruising around residential streets, nearly getting lost.” – Barry Tashian
When The Beatles finally managed to go to their respective locker rooms, it wasn’t any better. It was utter chaos.
“There were loads of people there. The press tried to get passes for their kids and the singer Joan Baez was in there. Any local celebrity who was in town was in the dressing room. They were having a party in there.” – Radio DJ “Emperor” Gene Nelson
The stadium had a capacity of 42,500 but only 25,000 tickets were sold. At 8PM, a local band played the National Anthem followed by the opening act. It was a windy night and with the technology back then, the musicians struggled to be heard by the audience who were around 200 feet away. The Remains performed first, then Bobby Hebb, next was Cyrkl and finally, the Ronettes.
In their dressing room, press officer Tony Barrow noticed something different about the boys.
“There was a sort of end-of-term spirit thing going on. And there was also this kind of feeling amongst all of us around the Beatles, that this might just be the last concert that they will ever do.” – Tony Barrow
And just before they were due on stage, Paul McCartney went up to him and asked him to do something.
“I remember Paul, casually, at the very last minute saying, ‘Have you got your cassette recorder with you?’ I said, ‘Yes, of course.’ Paul then said, ‘Tape it, will you? Tape the show.'”
At 9:27 PM, The Beatles emerged and began performing their 33-minute set. Aside from the wind, they also struggled with the screams. Some overenthusiastic fans rushed to the stage but fortunately, that was all there was to it.
The Beatles knew it was going to be their final concert and they wanted to immortalize that moment.
“We placed our cameras on the amplifiers and put them on a timer. We stopped between tunes, Ringo got down off the drums, and we stood facing the amplifiers with our back to the audience and took photographs. We knew: ‘This is it – we’re not going to do this again. This is the last concert.’ It was a unanimous decision.” – George Harrison
It may have been their final concert but it wasn’t the end for them as a group YET. And though they have stopped touring after that show, they still managed to create albums which had a huge impact on rock ‘n roll and music in general.