Beatles 50th Blog

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: August 20, 1966

The Beatles’ Cincinnati concert is postponed!

The Beatles were due to have played an open-air show at Cincinnati's Crosley Field on this day. However, the promoter failed to provide a cover for the group, and heavy rain began shortly before they were due to take the stage.

The support acts on The Beatles' final tour were The Remains, Bobby Hebb, The Cyrkle and The Ronettes. The downpour began after each of the acts had completed their sets. The promoter originally insisted that The Beatles should perform, but they refused unless he could guarantee their safety.

Tony Barrow: In Cincinnati on August 20, torrential rain caused the cancellation of the show at Crosley Field Stadium, the first and only time this happened during The Beatles' touring years. The decision to put off the boys' appearance was taken when Mal Mal [Evans] was thrown several feet across the stage while plugging into a wet amplifier. We were advised that touching any of the stage's rain-soaked electrical equipment could be lethal so Brian Epstein had no option but to call off the concert.

The rain was serious enough for The Beatles to have risked electrocution had they performed. As the heavens opened there were 35,000 fans inside the stadium, but the show was postponed and rescheduled for noon on the following day.

George Harrison: Cincinnati was an open-air venue, and they had a bandstand in the centre of the ballpark, with a canvas top on it. It was really bad weather, pouring with rain, and when Mal got there to set up the equipment he said, 'Where's the electricity power feed?' And the fella said, 'What do you mean, electricity? I thought they played guitars.' He didn't even know we played electric guitars.

It was so wet that we couldn't play. They'd brought in the electricity, but the stage was soaking and we would have been electrocuted, so we cancelled - the only gig we ever missed.


The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: August 19, 1966

Mid-South Coliseum, Memphis

The eighth date of The Beatles' final tour took place at the Mid-South Coliseum, Memphis, Tennessee, where they performed two concerts.

The Coliseum was able to accommodate 13,300 people. For the first show, which began at 4pm, The Beatles were seen by 10,000 people; the second started at 8.30pm and was attended by 12,500.

The support acts were The Remains, Bobby Hebb, The Cyrkle and The Ronettes.

The Beatles' final tour was mired in controversy arising from John Lennon's comments that The Beatles' were "More Popular than Jesus". Although they had sought to downplay the statement in press conferences and interviews, there was much opposition to them, manifested in record-burning, radio boycotts and protests outside venues.

The anti-Beatles feelings were particularly strong in America's Bible belt, and a local preacher, the Reverend Jimmy Stroad, staged a rally outside the Coliseum. Six members of the Ku Klux Klan also picketed outside the venue wearing full robes.

During their second Memphis concert an event which subsequently became known as the 'Cherry Bomb' incident took place. A cherry bomb firecracker was thrown onto the stage. The Beatles each looked at one another, thinking a shot had been fired and wondering who had been hit.

One night on a show in the South somewhere somebody let off a firecracker while we were on stage. There had been threats to shoot us, the Klan were burning Beatle records outside and a lot of the crew-cut kids were joining in with them. Somebody let off a firecracker and every one of us - I think it's on film - look at each other, because each thought it was the other that had been shot. It was that bad.
The concert was recorded by two teenage girls; the tape reveals that the explosion took place during If I Needed Someone, and The Beatles finished the song with increased urgency. If there was a single catalyst that led them to the decision to quit touring, this may well have been it.

After the show various decoy cars were used to fool protestors, but The Beatles' coach was still surrounded by demonstrators. They were driven to Memphis Metropolitan Airport, from where they flew to Cincinnati, Ohio. They arrived at 1.35 the following morning.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: August 18, 1966

Suffolk Downs Racetrack, Boston

The seventh date of The Beatles' final tour took place at the Suffolk Downs Racetrack in Boston, Massachusetts, where they gave one concert before 25,000 people.

The concert began at 8pm. The Beatles had previously played in Boston on September 12, 1964 at the Boston Garden. This time they were in the middle of a horse racing course.

The support acts during The Beatles' final tour were The Remains, Bobby Hebb, The Cyrkle and The Ronettes.

After the show The Beatles and their entourage stayed at a Boston hotel. They left the city at 11.30am the following morning and flew to Memphis, Tennessee.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: August 17, 1966

Live: Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Canada

The sixth date of The Beatles' final tour took place at the Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto. It was their only Canadian stop on the tour.

Two concerts took place. The first took place at 4pm and was seen by 15,000 people, and the second began at 8pm and was attended by 17,000. The Beatles had played at Maple Leaf Gardens on two prior occasions, on September 7, 1964 and August 17, 1965.

After the show The Beatles spent the night in Toronto before flying to Boston on August 18, 1966.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: August 16, 1966

John F. Kennedy Stadium, Broad St. and Patterson Ave., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

The fifth date of The Beatles' final tour took place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they performed one concert before around 20,000 people at the John F Kennedy Stadium.

The concert began at 8pm. The stadium had 60,000 seats available, but by this point in their career The Beatles were only able to sell around a third of tickets. They had previously played at Philadelphia's Convention Hall on September 2, 1964.

Support acts for the entire tour were The Remains, Bobby Hebb, The Cyrkle and The Ronettes. The show took place during the beginning of an electrical storm with near-constant lightning, but the rain held off until shortly after The Beatles left the stage.

After the show The Beatles and their entourage immediately boarded their Greyhound tour bus and were taken to Philadelphia International Airport, from where they flew to Toronto, Canada.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: August 15, 1966

DC Stadium, Washington, DC

The fourth date of The Beatles' final tour took place in Washington, DC, where they performed one concert before 32,164 people at the DC Stadium.

Prior to the concert, five members of Prince George's County Ku Klux Klan, dressed in red, white and green robes and led by the Imperial Grand Wizard of the Maryland clan, held a parade outside the venue in protest against John Lennon's comments that The Beatles were more popular than Jesus.

Support acts for the entire tour were The Remains, Bobby Hebb, The Cyrkle and The Ronettes. After the show The Beatles and their entourage immediately boarded their tour bus and began the journey to Philadelphia.

The stadium was renamed in January 1969 after US Senator and presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy, who had been assassinated in Los Angeles the previous June. It subsequently became known as the Robert F Kennedy Stadium, or the RFK Stadium.


The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: August 14, 1966

Cleveland Stadium, West 3rd St. Cleveland, Ohio USA

The third date of The Beatles' final tour took place in Cleveland, Ohio, where they performed once concert before 20,000 people.

Support acts for the entire tour were The Remains, Bobby Hebb, The Cyrkle and The Ronettes. The show was temporarily halted during The Beatles' fourth song, Day Tripper, when 2,500 fans invaded the baseball field. The group spent some time backstage before order was restored. After the concert The Beatles stayed in Cleveland. The following day they flew to Washington, DC.

Cleveland Stadium, also known as Lakefront Stadium and Cleveland Municipal Stadium, was normally used for baseball and American football matches. It was demolished in 1995 and the Cleveland Browns Stadium was built on the site.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: August 13, 1966

Olympia Stadium, Detroit, USA

Two shows, 2:00 and 7:00 pm, before a total of 28,000 fans at this indoor arena, although neither concert was sold out. They had previously performed at the venue on Septembe 6, 1964.

The Beatles had arrived in Detroit at 11:00 am, they left for Cleveland by Greyhound bus immediately after the second show, arriving there at 2:00 am. 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: August 12, 1966

International Amphitheatre, Chicago, USA

The Beatles flew into the United States from London Airport on August 11th, landing at Boston and switching planes there within minutes for Chicago. That evening they hosted their usual one-a-city press conference,  this one relieved of its usual monotony by a resolution of the "We're more popular than Jesus" now, in which John, supported by the three Beatles, tried to placate the American public about his famous statement. Naturally, the Beatles' press conferences were usually filmed and recorded by local radio and TV stations, but this one carried additional worldwide interest so extracts were screened in news rograms around the world. In the US, the three TV networks, NBC, CBS, and ABC, all screened special programs in the evening.

The Beatles began their 14-date final tour with a concert at Chicago's International Amphitheater, a venue they had previously played in September 1964.

They played two shows, at 3pm and 7.30pm, each of which was seen by 13,000 people. Support acts for the entire tour were The Remains, Bobby Hebb, The Cyrkle and The Ronettes.

The Beatles' standard set throughout the tour consisted of 11 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 I'm Down. During the tour they occasionally substituted the final song with Long Tall Sally.

The International Amphitheatre stood at 42nd Street and South Halsted. It became unable to attract enough large events during the 1970s and 1980s and suffered a decline. The venue was demolished in August 1999.



The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: August 11, 1966

August 11, 1966: John Lennon defends his claim that the Beatles are 'more popular than Jesus'

The Beatles arrived in the US amid huge controversy after John Lennon's claim that the band was "more popular than Jesus" had prompted angry Christians to call on fans to burn their records in protest.

In the late summer of 1966, the Beatles’ popularity in America – previously unshakeably strong - had been threatened after a comment made by John Lennon to a British journalist that the band were now “more popular than Jesus” was reprinted in a US magazine.

When the interview, by Lennon’s friend Maureen Cleave and originally published in the Evening Standard in March 1966, appeared in the American publication Datebook in the July, reaction among some Christians, particularly in the south of the country, was immediate - and angry.

Several radio stations banned the playing of Beatles music; some organised public bonfires in which fans were encouraged to bring their Beatles records and memorabilia and toss them into the flames in order to register their disgust.

The Beatles arrived in Chicago for the first leg of a US tour on August 11, and met the American press for the first time since the controversy had broken.  A visibly nervous Lennon was asked to explain – and apologise for – his comments.

"If I had said television is more popular than Jesus, I might have got away with it...” he began. “I used the word 'Beatles' as a remote thing… as ‘those other Beatles’ like other people see us. I just said 'they' are having more influence on kids and things than anything else, including Jesus.

“I was pointing out…that we meant more to kids than Jesus did, or religion, at that time. I wasn't knocking it or putting it down, I was just saying it as a fact... it is true, especially more for England than here. I'm not saying that we're better, or greater, or comparing us with Jesus Christ as a person or God as a thing or whatever it is.”

The reporters still seemed baffled as to whether Lennon had truly apologised, or whether he felt he needed to; Pressed by one for more clarity, he said: "If you want me to apologise, if that will make you happy, then OK, I'm sorry."

Against the better judgement of their manager Brian Epstein – who had organised the interview over fears of what could happen to the Beatles – the tour would continue, largely to great success, but the controversy and the difficulties it created for the band would be a major factor in them deciding it would be their very last.

Was Lennon right - did the Beatles mean more to young people than Jesus?