It was 47 years ago tonight (August 29th, 1966), that the Beatles performed their last official concert in San Francisco at Candlestick Park. The tour, which had already hit Germany, Japan and the Philippines, was dogged by controversy -- protests greeted the group in Tokyo prior to their performance at the Budokan Arena, which until then had been reserved strictly for the martial arts. And in the Philippines, the group fled the country after being accused of snubbing the infamous President and First Lady Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, after they politely declined to attend an official state luncheon.
By the time the group landed in the U.S. to kick off the tour on August 12th, a furor was brewing over John Lennon's remarks about religion made months before in a British interview, which had been reprinted out of context in a teen magazine, saying: "Christianity will go, it will vanish and shrink. . . Jesus was alright, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. . . We're more popular than Jesus now." Lennon's statements, which were ignored in Britain, ignited protests, including record burnings all over the "bible belt" and southern U.S. states.
On August 29th, 1966 at 8 p.m. the Beatles took the stage on the second base line at Candlestick Park, and ran through their 33-minute show, performing 11 songs: Chuck Berry's "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 Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally."
Sussman explains that despite the fact that the Beatles had released their latest album Revolver just in time for the tour -- as unthinkable as it may seem by today's standards -- the group didn't feature even one of the songs in the tour's setlist: "Y'know, the fact that in '66 they toured, what -- the tour began the week after Revolver came out, and it wasn't as if they were touring behind the album, because they didn't do anything from it. Y'know, because they basically really couldn't."
Paul McCartney, knowing that the show was to be the Beatles' last, captured the 33-minute show on a portable tape recorder, the tape from which has eventually made the rounds of bootleg collectors. Rather than end with "I'm Down," which was their usual set-closer for the tour, McCartney surprised the rest of the group by launching into their original set closer, Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally," as a nod to the music that originally inspired them.
Afterward, George Harrison broke into a few notes of "In My Life" from the group's 1965 Rubber Soul album. The group then turned their backs on the 25,000 screaming fans and posed for a camera set on an automatic timer, to symbolically cap off their performing career. They were then whisked out of the stadium by armored van.
Although the Beatles performed in public one more time, with keyboardist Billy Preston on January 30th, 1969 on the London rooftop of their Apple headquarters, during the finale of their Let It Be movie, the group's Candlestick Park performance was their last officially advertised and ticketed concert.
Upon returning to London on August 31st, 1966, the Beatles all went their separate ways, with John Lennon heading to Spain to star in the film How I Won The War, and George Harrison going to India to study the sitar. McCartney and Ringo Starr stayed based in London for the first month or so, with McCartney composing the score for the movie The Family Way and Starr tending to his growing family.
During the Beatles' group hiatus, McCartney slicked his hair back and grew a mustache so that he could drive through Europe anonymously. He eventually met up with Lennon and manager Brian Epstein in Paris. He also realized a life-long dream by going on Safari in Africa. Starr traveled to Almeria, Spain for a long visit with Lennon on the set of How I Won The War.
On November 24th, 1966 all four Beatles regrouped at Abbey Road Studios to begin recording "Strawberry Fields Forever," which was the first track recorded for the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, even though it was removed from the project early on and released as a single.
Photo Courtesy of Subafilms Ltd / Bruce A Karsh