It was 51 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.
The Beatles held a press conference on August 11th in Chicago, the night before they were due to perform, with Lennon trying to explain exactly what he meant in the interview. In lieu of an actual apology this quelled the Beatle bonfires, but the controversy cast a shadow over the tour, which proved to be lackluster — both in the Beatles’ performances and ticket sales.
Beatlefan magazine’s executive editor Al Sussman says that it was clear that by the summer of ’66 that “Beatlemania” was on the wane: “There were rumors at the time that the tour might be canceled. And indeed a number of the shows including Shea Stadium were not sellouts, and that upper deck was pretty empty.”
On August 14th, 2014 Paul McCartney returned to Candlestick Park to play the stadium’s final concert before the structure was leveled. In commemoration of the “Fab Four’s” final gig, he snuck in a cover of Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” into the setlist, tipping his hat to the last song the Beatles played at the venue back in 1966.
The story of Beatles’ 1966 tour and final Candlestick Park concert is featured in Ron Howard’s 2016 award winning documentary, The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years.
Photo Courtesy of Apple Corps Ltd.