Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be ► The Beatles’ Last Concert

Dateline – August 29, 1966 – Candlestick Park, San Francisco – After an estimated 1,400 live shows and 9 years as a Band on the Run, John, Paul, George and Ringo, collectively known as The Beatles, perform their last concert for paying customers.

The Beatles arriving in San Francisco for the last concert

It had been a Long and Winding Road. From Hamburg to Liverpool. Then all around England, at first. Then the entire world. It seemed Beatlemania would never end. It got crazier and uglier and more dangerous as time went on. By the time The Beatles reached Candlestick Park in 1966, they knew it would be their last show. Even Paul was ready to throw in the towel and he was the Beatle who always wanted to tour and record.

“On our last tour people kept bringing blind, crippled and deformed children into our dressing room and this boy’s mother would say, ‘Go on, kiss him, maybe you’ll bring back his sight.’ We’re not cruel. We’ve seen enough tragedy in Merseyside, but when a mother shrieks, ‘Just touch him and maybe he’ll walk again,’ we want to run, cry, empty our pockets. We’re going to remain normal if it kills us.”

~~~~~John Lennon

“There was a big talk at Candlestick Park that this had got to end. At
that San Francisco gig it seemed that this could possibly be the last
time, but I never felt 100% certain till we got back to London.

John wanted to give up more than the others. He said that he’d had enough.”

~~~~~Ringo Starr

“Thank you very much everybody. Everybody, wonderful. Frisco, butchered.
We’d like to say that, erm, it’s been wonderful being here, in this
wonderful sea air. Sorry about the weather. And we’d like to ask you to
join in and, er, clap, sing, talk, do anything. Anyway, the song is…
good night.”

~~~~~Paul McCartney, introducing the last song at Candlestick Park

“That’s it, then. I’m not a Beatle anymore.”

~~~~~George Harrison, on the plane after the show
The Beatles taking the stage at Candlestick Park

According to Mitch McGeary’s Beatles website:

  • The Beatles took 65% of the gross, the city of San Francisco took 15% of paid admissions and 50 free tickets. This, along with lukewarm ticket sales and other unexpected expenses resulted in a financial loss for Tempo Productions;
  • The oversize tickets were to [sic] large to fit the counting machines at Candlestick and had to be counted by hand;
  • The performance was taped by Tony Barrow at Paul McCartney’s request and is available in bootleg format. The last song was truncated because the recorder ran out of tape;
  • Just before leaving the stage, John teasingly strummed the opening guitar notes of “In My Life”;
  • Wes Wilson designed the concert poster for the show. Wes later on to become one of the most influential artists of the psychedelic movement and designed many important posters for Bill Graham.

Although Candlestick Park had 42,500 seats, unbelievably the ticket sales were sluggish and just over half were sold. Only 25,000 people were on hand to witness the final official concert by the greatest Rock and Roll band to ever come down the pike.

Knowing it could be their last show The Beatles took some commemorative pictures:

“Before one of the last numbers, we actually set up this camera, I think it had a fisheye, a wide-angle lens. We set it up on the amplifier and Ringo came off the drums, and we stood with our backs to the audience and posed for a photograph, because we knew that was the last show.”

~~~~~George Harrison

The 33 minute show had a slightly altered setlist from the other shows on the tour:

  1. Rock and Roll Music (Chuck Berry cover)
  2. She’s a Woman
  3. If I Needed Someone
  4. Day Tripper
  5. Baby’s in Black
  6. I Feel Fine
  7. Yesterday
  8. I Wanna Be Your Man
  9. Nowhere Man
  10. Paperback Writer
  11. Long Tall Sally (Little Richard cover) (with ‘In My Life’ snippet at the end)

One other thing The Beatles did to commemorate the occasion was to ask press officer Tony Barrow to record the show: According to The Beatles Bible:

“At San Francisco airport, as our plane prepared to take off, Paul’s head came over the top of my seat from the row behind: ‘Did you get anything on tape?’ I passed the cassette recorder back to him: ‘I got the lot, except that the tape ran out in the middle of Long Tall Sally.’ He asked if I had left the machine running between numbers to get all the announcements and the boys’ ad lib remarks. I said: ‘It’s all there from the guitar feedback before the first number.’ Paul was clearly chuffed to have such a unique souvenir of what would prove to be an historic evening – the farewell stage show from the Fab Four.

Back in London I kept the concert cassette under lock and key in a drawer of my office desk, making a single copy for my personal collection and passing the original to Paul for him to keep. Years later my Candlestick Park recording re-appeared in public as a bootleg album. If you hear a bootleg version of the final concert that finishes during Long Tall Sally it must have come either from Paul’s copy or mine, but we never did identify the music thief!”

~~~~~Tony Barrow; “John, Paul, George, Ringo & Me”

Beatles fans (and completists like myself) are lucky there was a music thief. That’s why 46 years later we can still listen to the last concert The Beatles ever performed for a ticketed audience. Sadly the tape ran out part way through the last song. However, we still have this record of The Beatles at the height of their live performances.

From this moment through to Abbey Road, The Beatles were a recording band, save for their one brief appearance on the roof of Apple for the Let It Be film (which has still not been released on DVD. Get on that, Sir Paul.)



About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.