(below) An ad for the last Beatles concert, held in "beautiful" Candlestick Park in the 1960s. The place, soon to be torn down now, was a noted civic boondoggle. Seen today, it makes most modern city sewage treatment plants look like the Taj Mahal. And I'm a fan of the place!
Candlestick Park--built in 1960-- was the home of the San Francisco Baseball Giants and, later, the city's NFL franchise, The Forty-Niners. It was a cold, cavernous wind-swept arena located smack on the coldest end of the city.
I refer to Candlestick Park in San Francisco, where, on August 29, 1966, the Fab Four played a gig before 25,000 fans. This date was my sixth birthday but I was too young to have rock music much on my radar in those days and my parents, both pushing forty year of age, were into Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Herb Alpert, Tom Jones (my mother was, at least) and symphonic music to care about a modern rock act, no matter how many headlines they made.
I read later it was cold at Candlestick that night. That wouldn't surprise me at all. I've been to dozens of Giants games there and a couple rock and jazz concerts and, believe it or not, San Francisco can get really cold in August. Not Buffalo or Norway cold, but cold enough at night to feel like you're freezing even if technically you're not. To go to a night game, you had to dress like you were going skiing.
Here's some lowdown in the concert itself, from "The Beatles Bible" website:
"The Park's capacity was 42,500, but only 25,000 tickets were sold, leaving large sections of unsold seats. Fans paid between $4.50 and $6.50 for tickets, and The Beatles' fee was around $90,000. The show's promoter was local company Tempo Productions.
"Candlestick Park was the home of the baseball team the San Francisco Giants. The stage was located just behind second base on the field, and was five feet high and surrounded by a six-foot high wire fence.
"The compère was 'Emperor' Gene Nelson of 1260 KYA FM, and the support acts were, in order of appearance, The Remains, Bobby Hebb, The Cyrkle and The Ronettes. The show began at 8pm.
"I was the MC, and, as any Giants fans will know, Candlestick Park in August, at night, was cold, foggy and windy. The funniest thing this night was one of the warm-up acts, Bobby Hebb. He stood up on the stage at Candlestick Park, with the fog, and the wind blowing, and he was singing 'Sunny'! It was tough anyway to work a ballpark as an MC, especially as The Beatles were taking their time to get out. I was trying to entertain a crowd that was shouting, 'Beatles, Beatles, Beatles.'
"The dressing room was chaos. There were loads of people there. The press tried to get passes for their kids and the singer Joan Baez was in there. Any local celebrity, who was in town, was in the dressing room. They were having a party in there. They were having a perfectly wonderful time, while I was freezing my buns off on second base!
'The Beatles Off The Record", Keith Badman
Except for Paul, the Beatles apparently had seen enough of the touring grind. And American attitudes toward the group in some places had changed for the worse. John had made some comments in a British newspaper early in 1966 about the band "being "more popular than Jesus" and wondering if Christianity would evaporate first, or would rock and roll go away. Little was made of it in England; a lot was made of it months later when the American press got wind of the "we're more popular than Jesus" remarks. Radio stations, mostly in the South, banned Beatles records. Their records were burned by some church groups. The Klu Klux Klan thought themselves righteous enough to picket a couple of their stadium dates.
By the time the four superstars got to Los Angeles they were ready to go home, but the promoters threatened to sue manager Brian Epstein and the band so they went on up to the worst major open-air venue on the West Coast. In 1964 and '65 they had played in the Cow Palace to a huge crowd and it was a success. Why they didn't play just play there again seems strange to me.
Here's a bit from their last press conference on the tour in San Francisco. As you can see by now John and the group are tired of defending themselves and the whole controversy. I doubt California fans worried about what Lennon said months ago. They fans wanted to hear the music.
In those days, what I personally knew about the Beatles came from a silly cartoon series on Saturday mornings. It featured some guys with Brit accents pretending to be the voices of The Lads. The music was real Beatles music and I and my classmates could at least sing catches of the popular early music that had swept the nation, more or less, starting in 1964.
There was one person among the 25,000 I did know, and when I think of the Beatles in this period a guy in my old neighborhood comes to mind. Joey O'Leary was a teen-aged kid of about fifteen I think when Beatles came around. He was an older brother of a next-door playmate of mine, Tim. Joey (or Joe, Jr.) was a HUGE Beatles fan. He also dug Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix and that love of music turned onto his wanting to start his own band.
Joey, like hundreds or thousands of others guys, put together his first band about the time The Beatles broke up in 1970. Joey had a lot of Beatle posters and I remember hearing their later albums playing over and over when he and his friends would gather for band meetings. Tim and I got to play a couple of the albums when we got a little older. Truth is, it took me a few more years to get into the more mature Beatles albums. It wasn't that I didn't like them, but at 12-13 years old "Eleanor Rigby" and "Revolution #9" sounded a lot less accessible than "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "Ticket to Ride".
Joey and the guys--the next-oldest brother Danny was in the band, too, I think--played a bit professionally around the San Jose area. I remember hearing him playing that guitar over and over from across the wooden fence that separated us. He and the band would also rehearse in the family garage. Tim and I sat on the curb outside the garage in the late evening to hear the group. The music got loud. My parents put up with it--they were friends with the family. But one of the neighbors on the other side of the street called the cops one night around dusk on a Summer night.
At first, this was exciting stuff for Tim and myself. Cops on Latimer Avenue! I was both scared and excited to be on the periphery of it all. The cops left soon and the music stopped.
His band never got far, he tried going solo for a while but nothing worked. Nothing much seemed to work out for Joey, except girls dug him and from what I saw they were all looked impossibly pretty. Joey must have had some of the swagger of a John Lennon because they weren't after him for his money . If all you needed was "love", Joey was not unlike a Beatle. And he had a couple other things in common with John Lennon, none of them to do with limousines, professional offers, or music royalties.
Joey fell into hard drugs somewhere along the way, but, unlike a rock star, he had a harder time paying for his habits. Some crimes here and there got him before a judge. He got sent into the Marines to avoid real jail time--a popular option for young men at the time. Then he went into prison after the Marines couldn't mold him and let him loose. Then back into hard drugs and into crime. His parents disowned him after he beat up his dad one late night out in the front of their house. My parents forbid me to go near the O'Leary's house if Joey ever did show up at the house, which I never noticed he did.
Tim stopped talking about Joey very much.
We moved away in late 1974 when my dad got a job promotion in another state. Joey himself died a year later at Christmas 1975 when a high-speed chase with some cops up in Oregon ended with he and his new "band" in a robbery getaway car hitting a concrete median on a highway overpass. He robbed a store, or so his mom told my mom in a letter. His mom wrote about all these young, beautiful ladies who showed up for his funeral in long flowing dresses. "Joey's Gypsies" Mrs. O' Leary called them.
I hoped Joey didn't suffer at the end. When he was sober and not high on other things, Joey was a nice guy. The fact that he had all those Beatles records and played them on hot summer nights has become a part of the better memories of my youth.Some pics from the San Francisco part of the tour, featuring Joan Baez and Mimi Farmer as well. If you want to hear a bit of a recording of "Day Tripper" from the 35 minute Beatles set, it's featured on my main page this month.