Rock & Roll Rewind: Beatles 1966
Seeing the Beatles live in concert is in boldface on my resumé.
Which is frankly the best way to express the experience.
It’s more a gotcha of oneupsmanship when playing rock & roll
smackdown than it was any sort of extraordinary musical experience.
My pal Moop and I were at the opening show of the group’s last tour
on August 12, 1966 at Chicago’s International Amphitheater.
How without tickets we came to be sitting in a box on the stage is a quick
story. One of the show’s MCs was his cousin, DJ Ron Britain, at WCFL AM,
the sponsoring Top 40 station. His wife Peach met us at the stage door,
and walked us in. Simple as that. Easy peasy.
The audience was mostly teen girls. Beatlemania.
The security was a somewhat over done it would seem. My memory
is that there was an usher in the aisles at the end of every row, and
every couple feet in front of the stage.
There were several opening acts. All of whom were on the bill at every
stop of the 14 city tour.
The Remains, a garage outfit from Boston, Bobby Hebb, who had a hit with
“Sunny,” Brian Epstein’s “American Beatles” the Cyrkle, and the Ronettes.
Though, strange dude that he certainly was, Phil Spector sent a sub to sing
lead, not his live in love and future bride, Ronnie (born Veronica Bennett) for
whom the group was named. The lore is that Spector was paranoid his lady
would have an affair with one of the Fab Four.
I have no independent recollection of what songs they played.
One source advises the Beatles did the same 11 tunes in their 30 minute set at
every stop along the way. “Rock & 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.”
That’s not correct, because there are videos of them playing “Twist & Shout”
at Shea Stadium, their last live concert ever except for that rooftop gig.
Anyhow, such was the shrieking of the assembled and the scene, the
music was peripheral.
The Last of the Screaming Teenage Heartthrobs, it was a no brainer that
the tour was their last. They were already moving on to more sophisticated,
genre-changing recorded pop music.
The rest of the story is that they could have, should have and intended to play
at the Fairgrounds in Louisville. Which I know for a fact because promoter
Martin Cohn showed me the actual contract signed by Brian Epstein.
But it was eventually rejected by the State Fair Board, because it would have
been “too close to the State Fair, and impeded preparation.”