The Beatles, rock’s most popular and important band, ruled the music world for a relatively short period, just seven years, from their March 1963 debut LP Please, Please Me to their final album Let It Be which appeared in record stores on May 8, 1970 — about a month after Paul McCartney announced that The Beatles were no more in the liner notes to his own first solo album, McCartney.
But out of those seven short but world-changing years, 1966 was perhaps the most tumultuous in the always-tumultuous career of the “Fab Four” from Liverpool, England. Though they recorded and, in early August, released what many critics and fans now consider their finest and most revolutionary album, Revolver, 1966 was dominated by an arduous and trouble-plagued world tour that ended 51 years ago today — August 29, 1966 — in San Francisco, California, when The Beatles performed in Candlestick Park, then home to the San Francisco Giants’ Major League Baseball team (the 49ers NFL football team would move in five years later).
When they played that show, only the four Beatles themselves — McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr — knew a secret that would soon shock the world: the Candlestick tour stop would be the last time The Beatles would perform together as a band in an official, live concert.
In one last difficult moment on the tour, only about 25,000 fans bought tickets and showed up in the 42,500-seat stadium. However, one of them — to this day, no one is certain who — brought a cassette recorder and captured the entire, 28-minute concert on tape.
Listen to that crude but nonetheless historic recording below. The Beatles played 11 songs that evening. Following the video, below on this page, see the complete set list along with the time stamp at which each song begins in the recording.
1 – “Rock And Roll Music” [0:00]
2 – “She’s A Woman” [1:40]
3 – “If I Needed Someone” [4:53]
4 – “Day Tripper” [7:50]
5 – “Baby’s In Black” [10:58]
6 – “I Feel Fine” [13:43]
7 – “Yesterday” [16:24]
8 – “I Wanna Be Your Man” [19:10]
9 – “Nowhere Man” [21:48]
10 – “Paperback Writer” [24:36]
11 – “Long Tall Sally” [27:20]
The group had weathered a number of controversies on their world tour in 1966, including a frightening incident on July 5 in the Philippines when, as they attempted to reach their plane at the national airport in Manila, they were mobbed by an angry crowd who wrongly believed that, two days earlier, The Beatles had “snubbed” the country’s First Lady, Imelda Marcos. The group supposedly skipped a luncheon she had scheduled in their honor at the palatial home of the country’s then-dictator, Ferdinand Marcos.
In reality, the group had not been told about the Marcos lunch, and spent the day relaxing on a boat — only to find two days later that their security detail had been ordered to stand down and all official assistance for the band had been withdrawn, even though they had played two concerts to more than 100,000 people in Manila the day before. Even the airport escalators were turned off, forcing the exhausted four Beatles to haul their own luggage up steep flights of stairs as crowds jeered and threw objects at them.
When the band landed in the United States the next month, they found themselves greeted — especially in the Southern states — with angry protests over a remark made by Lennon months earlier, but only recently reported in the American press, in which he called The Beatles “more popular than Jesus.”
As a result, the band endured numerous deaths threats, and fans staged bonfires, incinerating their Beatles records and memorabilia. In addition, the night before their last concert, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, fans had rushed the field where the Beatles stood on stage, resulting in a violent clash with police. And concerts the previous week at baseball stadiums in Cincinnati and St. Louis were dampened, literally, by dangerous and soggy downpours.
But those ugly incidents may have been tolerable if the four young Beatles, still in their early 20s, had not been physically and mentally burned out from four years of seemingly non-stop touring, press interviews, TV appearances, recording sessions, and even acting in two feature films. By mid-1966, they had simply had enough. Not only were they playing their final concert, they were, as far as they knew, breaking up. On a plane back to England following the Candlestick show, Harrison told a reporter, “That’s it. I’m not a Beatle anymore.”
“We were fed up with being Beatles,” McCartney would recall in an interview 28 years later. “We really hated that f****** four little mop-top boys approach. We were not boys, we were men. It was all gone, all that boy s***, all that screaming, we didn’t want any more.”
John Lennon selfie taken at the Beatles’ last official concert, Candlestick Park, 51 years ago today. pic.twitter.com/DerEtTCaoB
— RetroCo (@Retro_Co) August 29, 2017
But The Beatles would not break up for another three and a half years. Despite going their separate ways for a few months, the four Beatles reconvened at Abbey Road studios in November of 1966 to begin recording what would become their landmark album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The album was released the following June, kicking off the 1967 “Summer of Love.” The Beatles would follow with three more albums, The Beatles (aka The White Album) in 1968, Abbey Road in 1969, and their finale — though actually recorded prior to Abbey Road — Let It Be in 1970.
The Beatles also released a six-song EP, Magical Mystery Tour, in 1967 — which was released as a full-length album in the United States with the addition of five songs that had been previously issued as singles.
The band would play one, final, unofficial and impromptu live concert, on the roof of the building housing their company, Apple Corps, on January 30, 1969. The brief performance, cut short by the police and with the band not even visible to passers-by on the street below, was filmed for their documentary Let It Be, chronicling the creation of the album of the same title.
As for the site of the last Beatles concert in front of an actual, live, paying audience — 51 years ago — Candlestick Park stood for another 39 years before both pro sports teams that called it home had moved out and the 55-year-old stadium was demolished in 2015.
[Featured Image by AP Images, File]