The Atlanta Concert
by Tony Barrow
Daylight is fading and an illuminated digital clock on a
billboard high above the stands shows the time to be 6:21pm. This might be any one of a
dozen vast outdoor venues this tour is scheduled to visit. It happens to be Atlanta
Stadium, the first American concert outside New York, on Wednesday August 18, Day Six in
Floodlighting has just been switched on. There are three
tiers of stand seating around the sides of the field, one at ground level and others
raised quite high. At present most of the seats are empty but Beatle people are starting
to trickle in through at least twenty entrances.
The stage area is deserted save for a pair of lonely
figures, those of Ira and Mal, making a final equipment check. It is a make-shift stage,
set up just for tonight in the middle of the field. It consists of scaffolding, boards,
white canvas and an unusually high rostrum for Ringo. It is uncovered so that rain, if
any, will fall directly upon the musical and electrical gear making it all deadly
dangerous. It is also unlit. There will be no special effects in that department, just a
few powerful spotlights.
The Sounds Incorporated drum kit is in position where Ringo
will sit for the second half. A large sign lights up at one end of the field: WELCOME!
HAVE A GOOD TIME, MAKE AS MUCH NOISE AS YOU WISH BUT FOR SAFETY'S SAKE STAY IN YOUR SEATS.
The sound system consists of a cluster of large speakers in
wooden boxes out on the field, pointing at different stands. Another sign reads: BASEBALL
HERE THURSDAY 8:00, ATLANTA-TOLEDO. Now the clock reads 6:17 pm and it is amazing how
swiftly the stand seats are filling up.
John appears in a dug-out to inspect the pre-show situation
from ground level. Only his black cap is visible above ground so he remains unobserved by
the fans. Neil points out the positions of the speakers, indicates the tunnel the Beatles
will emerge from and makes sure John realizes the distance the group must run between
there and the stage. At the end of the concert, instead of running back and risking a
mobbing, the boys will pile into a limousine or maybe an ambulance or even a catering
company truck which will be kept just behind the stage with it's engine running from the
moment Neil gives a cue that the Beatles are beginning their last number. There is never
an encore, never an unscheduled extra song, never a second's delay in the departure.
Three lines of police barriers have been set up between the
stands and the field. Cops and stadium security guards pace up and down in the areas
between the yellow wooden barriers which carry POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS signs. Other,
drawn in from an entirely different department for the occasion say: BUREAU OF SANITATION.
George joins John in the dugout, and spots a lot of
advertising. There is a Coca-Cola sign by the stage and an enormous billboard for Midas
Mufflers to the rear. Ira explains that these are fixtures aimed at baseball fans as much
as concertgoers. No the local concert promoter won't be getting any extra revenue from
those signs tonight, George.
Now several deejays find their way into the same dugout as
the two Beatles. It's getting a bit crowded. It's the cue for Jon and George to retreat
promptly to their dressing room until showtime.
The backstage accommodation for the Beatles is not like any
traditional theatrical dressing room. Like most of the rooms we're to encounter on the
tour, it's basically a baseball team's changing room and looks exactly what it is. Tables
have been put in and piles of cellophane covered food lie on then, dehydrating quickly in
the hot and humid atmosphere. It's a terrible environment to test instruments and George
has to give up any hope of tuning in his guitars properly.
There are half a dozen 'cots' in the room. These are what
we call 'camp beds', not the type of thing we have in a baby's nursery! Ringo loves the
use of the word 'cot' when he hears it for the first time, leaps onto one, curls up and
sucks his thumb noisily. Because of the clammy greenhouse atmosphere, the boys
change for the stage at the very last minute. Mal hands a set of gleaming white shirts to
Ira for distribution. He returns from some ironing room he's either discovered or created
for himself with pressed suits, the dark material contrasting well with the brilliantly
white cuffs and collars which will show from beneath.
Otherwise, everyone else is in shirt sleeves or t-shirts
throughout the gig. All but Eppy, immaculate as ever in a superbly cut suit, but sweating
more that slightly in his efforts to maintain his pristine visual image. His G.A.C.
colleagues know the American summer climate and baseball park changing rooms too well to
soak their best suits in sweat. There's no air-conditioning here and the giant fan Paul
called for earlier is useless unless you stand directly in front of it.
"These suits are much more comfortable than the military jackets, Bri" comments
John joins in quickly: "The military jackets are last.
They come much too high up at the collar, they get all 'round your neck."
Paul explains: "The trouble is they ruffle up behind
our guitar straps and don't look very nice by the end of the act."
Brian Epstein makes mental notes and reminds everyone in
the room that it's another quick getaway tonight. From the venue to the airfield, back
onto the American Flyers Elektra and off to the next city.
This is by far the best time to move on, straight after a
show. The group relaxes in the aircraft, changes clothing, winds down, waits for the rest
of the show people in the bus to catch up. When everyone is on board, it's a midnight
flight and a two or three o'clock arrival at our next hotel. This reduces crowd problems
at airports to a minimum.
Tonight, coming out of Atlanta and flying directly to
Houston, the plan to avoid the fans misfires. Even in the middle of the night, a
number of particularly keen Beatle people are swarming all over our aircraft as we taxi
towards the terminal building at Houston. It is quite frightening because some of those
kids are smoking and our engines are still running. One of the lads suggests we take off
again and give a prize to the last fans left clinging to each wing as the plane gains
height. Yes, it was only a joke.....
The Beatles In Germany
by Tony Barrow
"Let's face it, we're all a little rusty"
admitted George Harrison as he fingered his guitar for the first time in quite a while.
The Beatles were on the brink of their 1966 concert tour,
beginning in Germany in June, continuing with brief visits to Japan, the Philippines, and
concluding with the band's biggest-ever series of concerts across the United States in
Apart from appearing at Wembley's Empire Pool as NME
Pollwinner's for the fourth consecutive year on May 1, they had not given a single public
performance since the end of their U.K. tour six months earlier.
The Beatles had spent most of the first half on 1966
putting together their next album, "Revolver", due out in August. It was the
audio evidence of the brief five number set they did at the NME pollwinner's concert which
convinced the four boys they needed to polish up their act before undertaking the Summer's
heavy schedule of "live" shows.
By 1966, the Beatles arranged few formal practice sessions
for themselves. Even on the recording side, they'd got into the habit of leaving all the
work until they went into Abbey Road. The cost of studio time no longer played a part in
their thinking. It seemed most convenient to wait until everyone arrived at EMI before
tackling each new number. For recording sessions, it was quite adequate to rehearse and
then start putting stuff straight onto tape. Unlike a concert situation, there was no
embarrassment over failing to get everything just right on the first 'take'.
" 'Paperback Writer' is the only one I'm happy about,
so why don't we do some of the other tour songs, the older ones we've all forgotten",
suggested George. But Paul disagreed and wanted "Paperback Writer" again...
"Paperback Writer", the new single, was one title
the Beatles had worked on a fair bit recently, making promotional film clips to be shown
in Germany, Japan, America and elsewhere in the weeks leading up to the concert tour and,
naturally, taping the usual pre-release performance for BBC-TV's "Top Of The
It was strange to see the Beatles getting down to a bit of
solid rehearsal again after so long. Strange and quite stimulating, and indication that
despite the superficial displays of indifference over the standard of stage shows, they
DID care about how things sounded at their concerts. Much of the time, to hear George
talk, you'd reckon the lads had given up on quality control so far as live performances
were concerned, because they all knew most of they playing and singing was drowned out by
screams from the crowd.
Actually, the general opinion of the Beatles about their
impending visit to Germany was that this could be an occasion worth looking forward to.
Even George was willing to admit the Beatles had made a lot of good friends over there in
the early days. If, by 1966, the four were becoming jaded over the prospect of yet
another world tour, it was the idea of returning to Germany and the anticipation of
visiting the Far East for the first time which tended to keep group morale at a high
Other groups, contemplating such a grand series of Summer
gigs, might have had dollar and pound signs in front of their eyes. Not the Beatles.
By 1966, their wealth was such that cash problems lay in the past. Family homes had been
purchased, material treasures stored safely for the future, and neither John, Paul, George
nor Ringo saw financial reward as the sole spur to undertake new projects. If something
appealed from an artistic viewpoint, if a fresh venture seemed to attract them creatively,
the Beatles were ready to do it. But not just for the bread.
Brian Epstein, on the other hand, took a fair amount of his
personal job satisfaction from setting up tours, planning itineraries, sorting out each
new territory's least crooked show promoters, linking up each series of concerts with
suitable TV exposure and local record releases. when he brought his lists of venues and
travel data to the Beatles for them to study, he was proud of the way everything slotted
in so perfectly, albeit only on paper. He could never accept the Beatles increasing lack
of interest in such mundane administrative details. "Never mind all that stuff",
John would tell him. "As long as YOU'VE got all the information, that's o.k.. Just
get us there and back in one piece, Brian, and make sure their are nice and naughty ladies
for us to play with after work!" Brian would always blush deeply at such cracks.
Given other circumstances, Brian would have had the Beatles
back in Germany long before 1966. It was a strong record-selling territory and the lads
enjoyed huge popularity there. The Beatles had played far less significant places across
Europe in the first few years of their international fame. So why had Germany been given a
miss? This is a point which has puzzled more than a few observers and left the biographers
without an answer. Insiders always knew the undisclosed reason why the Beatles dare not
undertake dates in Germany.
The constant threat throughout the early part of the
sixties was that one or more Beatles might be thrown into prison the moment the Four Mop
Tops set Cuban-heeled boot on German soil. The truth was that a number of serious and less
serious legal matters remained unresolved. The Beatles' lawyers had to untangle the
group's affairs before they could advise Brian Epstein that a new visit to Germany was
It has to be remembered that a variety of claims had been
made against individual members of the band during the old Hamburg days and after.
There had been questions over damage done at clubs where
the Beatles were playing and over illegal entry by at least one under-age musician working
in the Hamburg clubs contrary to regulations. On top of all the, the Beatles faced several
serious allegations from German girls and their parents on paternity matters. Claims that
a Beatle was the father of a Hamburg baby could have led not only to temporary
imprisonment but to severe damage of the overall image of the group, remembering that this
was the (swinging?) Sixties and not 1986!
We know now that fresh paternity problems for Paul would
crop up from German sources long after 1966, but at the time, it seemed safe for the legal
experts to give their g0-ahead signal and allow Eppy to plan his June visit for the
An unusual aspect of the dates in Germany was that they
were sponsored by a local music magazine, the immensely popular rock and pop publication
called Bravo. The stage shows by the Beatles were made to coincide with the presentation
1966 Otto Awards to the Fab Four by the magazine's lady editor at a press conference we
held prior to the opening of the 'Blitztournee'.
Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans had never been with the Beatles to Germany before. As
Liverpudlians, they'd heard much about the old Hamburg rave-ups from many of the other
Merseyside musicians. They looked forward to sampling some of Hamburg's more erotic
entertainment but they knew there'd be little or no time for such pleasures on a Beatles
The Beatles and their entourage left London for Munich
aboard BEA's Comet flight BE 502 on the morning of Thursday June 23. I had flown to
Germany ahead of the group. Because a magazine was involved in the promotion of the
concert dates, I was far more closely concerned than usual with tour arrangements and
It was a thrilling experience for me to witness the arrival
of the Beatles at an international airport from a new angle. As a rule, I'd be up there at
the doorway of the aircraft beside the four boys. This time I watched them from the
doorway of a gleaming white Mercedes, one of a convoy, the engine of each elegant vehicle
purring gently in readiness to carry us all off to Munich's city center and the plush
Bayerischer Hof, the hotel where we were to stay and where the press conference would be
On the journey, Paul was concerned about the set of new
suits which 'Nel' had carried on to the Comet at Heathrow. "I haven't seen them
since. Did he hand them up or what? Is he in the second Merc? It won't take much to crease
those suits, you know, Brian!"
The rest of the day went smoothly enough. Those stage
outfits turned up, unharmed - but Mal took them off to be pressed again anyway. The group
was trapped in an overcrowded hotel lift for some minutes when the thing stalled between
floors and delayed the press conference.
John, Paul, and George had been threatening to test the
strength of their German on the press interviewers, but everyone spoke English and I never
did find out how much the boys had remembered from Hamburg days. One sign inside the hotel
which caught Paul's eye at once pointed the way to the Bayerischer Hof's indoor swimming
pool which the obliging management arranged to keep open after hours that evening in order
that the VIP guests could strip for a swim without causing younger female hotel guests to
On Friday there were two evening shows at Munich's
impressive Circus Krone. Aware that the later one was being shown by ZDF Television, Brian
made a special plea to the boys, requesting that they should give a good performance. They
needed no urging. There would be old friends in the audience, people who would compare the
Beatles' 1966 appearance with the best shows the boys had given during their last visits
"Sod the telly!" said John. "What the
Beatles have to do tonight is blow the Rattles and Cliff Bennett's Rebel Rousers off the
bloody stage or we're in trouble!" In the silence which greeted this remark, he added
loudly: "OK, lads?" Their response was to settle down to an unusual afternoon's
serious rehearsal at the Circus Krone. It took me back to the group's earliest touring
days. Seldom since 1963 had I seen the Fab Four spend so long at a concert venue before a
show getting everything as good as it would to. I can't speak for Germany's own Rattles,
but our own Cliff Bennett was mightily impressed!
More than a dozen numbers, including new material destined
for the "Revolver" album, were rehearsed that afternoon, although only eleven
were performed for the concert audiences in the end. This was a decision based upon timing
factors rather than any worries over the potential quality of the items left out.
Afterwards, Brian Epstein gave a little speech in private,
almost like a satisfied headmaster addressing his pupils: "Boys, you were magnificent
tonight. Everyone out there is saying this was the best show the Beatles have ever done.
Keep it up! You see the difference a bit of rehearsal makes after six months off? I think
we're going to have a marvelous Summer!" I could see the Beatles appreciated his
praise, but John was not going to show it: "Six months off, Brian? You must be
joking! We've worked our arses off so far this year!"
On Saturday morning those immaculate Mercedes limousines
lined up for us in the Bayerischer Hof's basement garage and our party drove in great
style not to Munich airport, but to the city's railway station! But we were not to travel
to Essen by any ordinary commuter service! Our transport was a Royal Train - as used to
carry the Queen of Great Britain 'round Germany on a formal visit the previous year.
Several Beatles agreed they couldn't remember traveling anywhere by train since the
group's historic New York-Washington trip in 1964.
On this remarkable train, we took full English breakfast in
our own luxurious mobile suite which boasted not only the dining area, but a superbly
furnished lounge with panoramic scenery viewing facilities plus bedrooms and bathrooms.
Although the day's schedule had been pre-timed with maximum
precision, we arrived in Essen earlier than anticipated. "The same cars are here for
us!", exclaimed Ringo. "They grow them locally, you know," said John. We
cruised around Essen, supposedly on a short sightseeing trip, but in reality to wait until
the Essen Grugehalle filled up for the first of the two shows. This halved the
number of fans outside the stately auditorium and eased our entry.
The shows were hugely successful although the Beatles
themselves were being hyper-critical of their own performances, particularly regarding new
material. Paul still worried that their harmonies for "Paperback Writer" needed
further work. Very clearly the boys' nervousness was building up to a climax in
preparation for the mini-tour's final gig - Hamburg! John's throat was giving him trouble.
I remember he would always blame this on over-singing, but I put it down to nerves,
noticing that the voice would go just when he was required to cope with some sort of
Instead of staying the night in Essen, we returned to our
supertrain and sat down to a midnight feast on the way to Hamburg. Although we did
not pull into the platform at Hamburg's Central Station until well after dawn, old mates
had waited through the night to greet John, Paul, George, and Ringo. I didn't recognize
the faces, but the boys were so chuffed to see them, I knew these had to be very special
friends from the first years of the sixties.
As a rule on tours with the Beatles, security men looked to
me for on-the-spot advice over who should be let through a backstage barrier and who
should be kept away from the dressing rooms. In Hamburg, I could be of little help -
although I did know what a few of the invited visitors looked like, including the late Stu
Sutcliffe's photographer girlfriend, Astrid Kirchherr, and "Gibby" of Paddy,
Klaus, and Gibson. Veteran music man Bert Kaempfert also turned up at Hamburg's Ernst
Merck Halle and the Beatles began to hum "Strangers In The Night" as the
composer walked into the room.
The hall was packed for the pair of Hamburg concerts.
Consciously aware of so many friends and old fans amongst their audience, the Beatles gave
the finest stage performances of their final touring season. Over the years between 1963
and 1966, a range of relatively inferior concerts by the Beatles were recorded, either
officially by EMI/Capitol for proper commercial release purposes or by professional and
amateur pirates. In my opinion, all of those fall far short of the exceptionally high
musical standard the Beatles achieved that last night in Hamburg.
This makes it all the more sad that the Summer of '66 was
to see the permanent end of all live appearances by the Beatles. Certainly, at the
end of June that year, the Fab Four were totally capable of giving a great stage show,
provided the atmosphere was right.