Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"The Candlestick Park Affair": The Beatles Last Public Concert

(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! 

One of the oddities for Beatles geeks like me is that their last group concert for regular fans was held at what was probably one of the worst public venues for watching any public thing in North America. 

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!

'Emperor' Gene Nelson
'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.


  1. This is great Doug I remember some of these events but I was too young and lived on the east coast so was never able to attend any of them. Not sure the Beatles ever really had a fall they are still loved by millions and their music will be with us forever. Strange how both the Beatles and Elvis were able to prosper along side each other.

  2. "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!"

    I find that marvelously funny! Does it really? Do you have any idea what will replace it?

    That being said, I think the Beatles will go on forever. I take every opportunity to listen when someone posts them online, & I've posted a few of my own. (If they've not been snatched away.)

    Thanks, Doug.

  3. As you know Doug my brother Blaine is a big collector of the Beatles and I remember seeing this last performance and it was not like the first time which they played within America. Who knows what they were thinking but I always believed that even while all four were alive - the best thing was they never did a reunion as they are etched within music history which no other band has been able to surpass.

    Note - John decided to split from the Beatles. Paul convinced him to stay which then John decided to not make an annoucement and within a few weeks Paul had his own album called, Ram On ready for the stores, and beat John to the chase and announced that he was leaving the Beatles.

    But ironically we never wish to hear about those areas as the Beatles literally touched the world. Who would have thought that four lads would have been to be legends and within the societies of so many countries and yet they started of as four young men from Liverpool.

    I just found this link Doug which may be of interest:

  4. You're no doubt familiar with the famous observation about the City often attributed to Mark Twain:
    "the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."

  5. That must have been before we started using the term "groupies."

  6. Isn't it amazing, Mike, that there wasa time you could see a top rock act for $4.50 or $6.50. I know people got paid less and the audiences were usually young but that is one of the most surprising things.
    It's interesting that you bring up Elvis. Presley, of course, had stopped touring I believe after he got out of the Army around 1960 and mostly made movies during the Beatles years. But they both prospered. I think they all met once at Elvis' pad in Beverly Hills around '64 or '65. Shame no one took a photgraph of that (that i know about.)

  7. Thaks Lucija. My memories of some cold nights at the old ballpark (Candlestick) have appearently been of some small inspiration.
    I will have to look that one up for certain, but the last time I checked most San Franciscans would like to see the place demolished (the 49ers are moving to a new stadium south of the city) and some low and middle cost housing and shopping areas put in. No doubt the powers-that-be will try and mess thoses sensible plan up. But still no one I know will miss that place.

    Yes, there was no group like the Beatles. May they indeed go on and on. :-)

  8. First off, thanks for that interesting link Jack, and the McCartney angle to the break-up which may be as good as anything else I've read on this much -debated matter .

    It has a lot of good perespective on the timeline of the whole bad business end of things (i.e., Apple) , which I think really doomed the Bealtes as much as Yoko or Linda could have. What Yoko did was make it impossible for them to have solo careers and for John and Paul to work together again. Bands like the Rolling Stones and the Eagles have had individual projects.

    I kind of think the death of Brian Epstein speeded things up as well. As long as they had Brian, whether they needed him or not as much asthey did in 1963, they had a common link.

    I can't say they wouldn't have broken up--likely there was too much talent and ego there. But I think they would have broken up not so badly, with none of this break and forth about what to do (or not do) next.

    Of course John resented Paul trying to be a new leader. It was his band.

    I'm sure deep down they respected what Epstein had done for them and suddenly he dies mysteriously and they are adrift.

  9. Yes, Twain was totally right there. he was a young reporter in San Francisco in the 1860's, and I'm guessing that's probably where the joke grew out from.

  10. I'm not sure when the word "groupie" came into vouge, Chuck, but suffice to say you need the big paying gigs first before the groupies or gypsies or whatever to do it properly.

  11. Probably so Doug, I was trying to zoom up on this as the fonts where small and I am on my laptop but I never considered much of Epstein - he did start them off and then I never even thought of that. I always thought of George Martin as keeping them in line but who knows. This is a great blog of a great band and the second link with Paul's Announcement I remember that very well in the Post Standard in Syracuse. It is a mystery as to why they never came back together as you mentioned here other bands have - yet my brother felt the same as you and when we talked about them, I would always tell Blaine that it's the best thing if they don't have that one last concert which millions would have love.

    When John passed then it was a for sure that they would never be able to regroup, I remember reading one of my own books an autobiography by John and it would be something if Ringo would write one now as he really was the odd one but probably the one that saw things from both sides.

    Love this blog and especially this one of recent. As most forget that last concert and where it took place.

  12. Did you happen to see the Beatles on this 1966 tour Jack? Just curious about your impressions.

    George Martin was another major factor in their success. They hit a lot of brick walls in London with other labels. Epstein I think was key to their changing their style a bit and getting connections to the major music industry. Likely they would have become a success anyway, but you never know.

    I don't remember how they ended up with Phil Spector on the later albums. I know McCartney worked with Martin again on the "Live and Let Die" album and perhaps other work.

    Sometimes things are better left over with and done. I remembere seeing Sean Connery in that last Bond movie "Never Say Never again" and feeling like he should have just said "never" and kept his word--unless he was willing to work with the original producers.

    A Ringo autobiography would be of great interest, that's for sure. I imagine he's turned down his share of offers to do one.

    Thanks Jack--and thanks for your additions to his little appreciation.

  13. I never saw the Beatles, my older brother saw Paul while visiting New York and as well he has been to three or four McCartney concerts Doug. If he ever does come to Saskatoon I would not hesitate for one second. The manner I remember the Beatles was in listening to them as a younger brother and Blaine always has collected things on them and he doesnt blog but he would have enjoyed this blog very much. I thought I would pop back in here as in later years I then came to read on them but I do recall this video as I remember it well - via my brother Blaine.

    Your most welcome Doug as I just dropped in here tonight.

  14. I hope you get that chance Jack. Thanks.

  15. Right now Saskatoon is moving at a pace which I was going to write on as there always was the A list of tours and Saskatchewan was passed by within the 80's and 90's. As of the last week there are a group of investors which are bringing an NHL team to the city and many other things. He has been to the 500,000 thousand plus cities in Canada but I would wager when he is back in the US and Canada that he does come to Saskatoon. To hear a Beatle within
    ones life time would be tremendous Doug. Thanks again.

  16. I would have been about 9. I didn't know I was older than you before.

    But back in those days I was still too young to be that into Beatles although some older cousins did take me to a Beatles movie in nearby Greymouth and we had just got TV and there was a Beatles cartoon on. Back in those days we were still living a a small coal mining town and I can remember some older girls at school wearing dresses made from Beatles material!

  17. Me too, it seems... and by quite a few years more than I would have expected.

    I was aleady in Junior High by that time... and was one of the first in my school to let my hair grow out "mop head"-style. Everybody else was doing a Fonzie/Elvis thing.

  18. I was (and am) a big Beatles fan. I was 16 years old the year they played at Candlestick park. The following year I enlisted in the Army. I went from being a idealistic teen to being a soldier over night.

  19. I remember hearing Beatles music first from a cartoon series, then when the movie "Help" was shown a couple times on television. I remember some kids at school having those all-metal lunchboxes one took to school with The Beatles pictures on them.

    Funny about the dresses---I imagine some of them would be worth money today. There's a story that when thebeatles frist came to New York in 1964 they stayed at some hotel and after they left some huckster was selling square pieces of bed sheeting, supposedly from the beds at the Plaza Hotel where they slept.

  20. Hair was a big deal back then. I remember sitting at a barber shop with my dad around 1970 I guess. And a teenager with long hair came in.

    The head barber, this old guy with thinning hair, got all incensed, told him to go to a beauty salon!

    Hard to relate to as to what the fuss was all about.

  21. Talk about an adjustment!

    That next year in San Francisco (1967) was the "Summer of Love", although from what I've read and seen in documentaries many of the kids who trekked out West to experience this alternative life were often just cold, hungry and unwelcome.

    Things changed in parts of America very fast in those days.

    Thanks for your service, by the way.

  22. i came in much too late when it comes to 'Beatles' things.
    I only came to know John Lennon well because of Jack's blog, and i became an instant fan of him. Thanks for putting this up.

    i came here through Jack link. thanks and hugs.

  23. My pleasure, Maritess. Thanks for dropping by. :-)

  24. Hi Doug- I'm a friend of Jack's and came over on his recommendation :) Great blog, brings back memories. Like you I was young when the Beatles hit the scene, but their music has always been a part of my life. thank you!

  25. Thanks for stopping by grnmtgirl. I too can't remember a time when a Beatles song wasn't part of my life.

    You're always welcome.