1965 was a seminal year for the Beatles, taking the band from the Beatlemania period through to the second half of the decade, where the group delivered their most critically acclaimed music. Several key events happened this year, from the last ever UK tour through to the moment Lennon and McCartney began to lose control over their own song rights.
It was a year that brought us a legendary concert from Shea Stadium, the increasing influence of drugs on their creative process as well as the band receiving their MBEs, but it all began with a Christmas show.
A Jolly Old Christmas Party
The year started with the continuation of the show that the Beatles were putting on at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, which had started on 24th December the previous year, called ‘Another Beatles Christmas Show’.
The show was a combination of sketches and music, with the Beatles normally appearing a couple of times in the middle of the show on sketches, traditionally with Freddy Garrity of Freddie and the Dreamers. They then returned at the end of the show to perform an 11-track set.
|1||‘Twist And Shout’|
|2||‘I’m A Loser’|
|3||‘Baby’s In Black’|
|4||‘Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby’|
|5||‘Can’t Buy Me Love’|
|7||‘I Feel Fine’|
|8||‘She’s A Woman’|
|9||‘A Hard Day’s Night’|
|10||‘Rock And Roll Music’|
|11||‘Long Tall Sally’|
The show was put on for 14 of the first 16 days on the year, with two performances each night. The acts playing across the shows were – Freddie And The Dreamers, Sounds Incorporated, Elkie Brooks, The Yardbirds, Michael Haslam, The Mike Cotton Sound and Ray Fell.
Listen to a Beatles Christmas message from December 1964….
1965 was an important year of touring for the Beatles, with multiple tours all concentrated on the second half of the year, but they were significantly smaller in scale compared to the massive tours that the Beatles went on during 1963 and 1964.
In fact, over the previous 4 years, the Beatles had barely gone through a month without performing live but after the completion of the Christmas shows in London, the Beatles only performed live once over a 5-month period. The band had become tired with all the constant touring and ultimately, we were only a year away from the Beatles ending all tours.
The Beatles first significant tour of 1965 began on 20th June, when they began a European tour that would run through to the 3rd July, covering 15 concerts across nine individual dates. Because of the decision not to tour again after August 1966, this tour was the final European tour that the Beatles would ever complete.
The tour began in Paris, where they played to 6,000 fans at the Palais des Sports. They stayed in France for the next date, performing in Lyon a couple of days later, before moving on to the Italian part of the tour. This was the first and only time they toured Italy, performing 8 concerts in three different venues, ending with two straight days in Rome’s Teatro Adriano.
One trend from the Italian part of the tour is that the day concert (the Beatles performed a day show and an evening show) was never a sell-out. This is partly explained by the Beatles management because the fan base was likely at school or work, although the hot weather was also listed as a potential reason.
The Beatles headed back to France for a final concert in Nice, before going to Spain for their final couple of days of the tour, in Madrid and then Barcelona, for what would be their final ever European tour date, performed inside a bull ring!
The Beatles maintained the same 12 track set throughout their European tour – ‘Twist And Shout’, ‘She’s A Woman’, ‘I’m A Loser’, ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, ‘Baby’s In Black’, ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, ‘Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby’, ‘Rock And Roll Music’, ‘I Feel Fine’, ‘Ticket To Ride’ and ‘Long Tall Sally’.
Bring on America
Six weeks after the European tour concluded, the Beatles started a two-week tour of America, that would take up the second half of August, including a stop in Canada. The tour itself began with a fourth appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, which would end up being their final ever performance on the show.
The tour itself could not have begun with a more memorable first night, the famous concert at Shea Stadium, home to the New York Mets. At the time it was a world record for revenue generated and attendance, but its most significant influence on history is that it was the first major stadium gig played by a pop band.
Footage of the concert (which was made into a 50-minute documentary) is the example of Beatles concerts that people always use when they talk about Beatlemania, which was at its height by this point. There were 55,000 screaming fans surrounding the band, who played on a rickety stage on the infield of the baseball field.
The band was introduced by Ed Sullivan, famously mentioning they were honoured by the queen and loved in America. In attendance, you had such musical greats as the Rolling Stones and Marvin Gaye. It’s even described by Rolling Stone magazine as the most famous concert by a band in Rock n Roll history, potentially even infamous.
Infamous because it is often used to illustrate the point that by this stage in the live shows, the crowd was so loud and maniacal that you could barely hear the band, who didn’t really have to put the effort into their live performances in the way that had in 1963 and 1964.
It is also the footage of screaming, crying and even fainting fans that highlight the hysteria that surrounded the group by this point.
After completing the gig, the band flew to Toronto for the only Canadian gig of this tour, before coming back to the US for nine more dates and 13 shows, starting in Atlanta. The tour takes in some of the most famous venues in America, including Comiskey Park in Chicago, Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto and Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, where they played back to back gigs.
Indeed, it is at the Hollywood Bowl that they put on the best performance of the whole tour after Brian Epstein arranged for this gig to be recorded so that it could be produced into a film. It is arguably one of the last great, live Beatles performances.
It was also during the short break they took in LA on the tour that the band experimented with LSD, Ringo for the first time, whilst for George and John it was a second experience. Paul declined and his first experience of LSD was either later in 1965 or 1966, depending on whose story is accurate.
The band have extensively talked about their experiences and the influence it had on their later musical work. The tour itself and the time they had in America were influences for many of the songs on the Rubber Soul album.
One interesting side note is that during this tour, the band were able to visit the home of their musical hero, Elvis Presley, at his home in Bel Air. Lennon talks about the meeting extensively in an interview he does with the NME upon his return from America. It was the first-ever meeting between potentially the two most influential artists in music history.
The Beatles themselves were in awe of Elvis and had wanted to meet him for years. The meeting was arranged by Elvis’ manager Colonel Tom Parker, whilst Tony Barrow and Brian Epstein accompanied the band on the visit. Tony talks about a moment when Elvis asked for guitars to be bought out and a small jam session occurred, including a Cilla Black record ‘You’re My World’.
Unfortunately, the rules for the meeting were no press or any photography or video of any kind, so the occasion, iconic as it would be in music history, is not recorded for anyone to see.
In this video, Priscilla Presley recalls the meeting between Elvis and The Beatles.
The final big tour of the year was back home, as the Beatles embarked on a tour of the UK throughout the first half of December, covering England, Scotland and Wales, although it didn’t start well.
On the drive up to Glasgow, one of the guitars fell off the back of the car. It was George Harrison’s Gretsch guitar and when they finally found it, it was in pieces all over the motorway!
It was ultimately to be there final UK tour, because in 1966 their two tours were in the Far East and the US, before stopping all touring. When the tour finally started, things kicked off in Glasgow at the Odeon cinema, which they had played several times previously, including on the Roy Orbison tour in 1963.
After Glasgow, they moved south to Newcastle before Liverpool for their last ever gigs in their home city. They played the Empire Theatre, with a capacity of just 2,550, which they could have sold out multiple times as they had over 40,000 applications for tickets.
One can only imagine how many would have applied if they had known it was to be the Beatles last ever gig in Liverpool.
The band gradually moved south to London, stopping in Manchester, Sheffield and Birmingham on the way. Once reaching the capital, they played both the Hammersmith Odeon and Astoria Cinema in Finsbury Park, which George described as an incredible show. Previously the Beatles had found London gigs lacked the enthusiasm of Northern venues but the Astoria reminded him of peak Beatlemania.
The tour ended in Wales, the band doing two shows at the Capitol Theatre in Cardiff, a venue they had played in both 1963 and 1964.
The band generally stuck to the same 11 song set throughout the tour – I Feel Fine’, ‘She’s A Woman’, ‘If I Needed Someone’, ‘Act Naturally’, ‘Nowhere Man’, ‘Baby’s In Black’, ‘Help!’, ‘We Can Work It Out’, ‘Yesterday’, ‘Day Tripper’ and ‘I’m Down’.
Other Notable Live Performances
The Beatles appeared at the NME Poll-Winners All-Star concert for the third consecutive year, held at the Empire Pool in Wembley. They performed 5 songs at the event, including their latest single ‘Ticket to Ride’ of the yet to be released ‘Help!’ album.
The other live performance of 1965 was for a live TV show, performed at ABC Theatre in Blackpool for ABC TV. The show was called ‘Blackpool Night Out’ and was designed to promote the launch of the ‘Help!’.
It was the only television appearance for the band and was part of cutting back on doing promotional work, which was not well received by the press, but Brian Epstein was steadfast in his decision.
Other guests on the show were Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson, Lionel Blair and Johnny Hart. Mike and Bernie Winters acted as comperes for the evening. The Beatles initially played 4 tracks – ‘I Feel Fine’, I’m Down’, ‘Ticket to Ride’ and ‘Act Naturally’ before Paul McCartney performed ‘Yesterday’ on his own, which was the first time that the track had been sung on UK TV.
As the group returned to close with ‘Help!’, John Lennon was heard uttering one of his classic one-liners, saying “Thank you Ringo, that was wonderful!”
In May of this year, the Beatles also made their 52nd and final appearance on BBC radio, recording seven songs for the BBC Light Programme, ‘The Beatles (Invite you to Take a Ticket to Ride)’.
In February of 1965, the Beatles began work on what would become their fifth album, ‘Help!’
The album’s recording process was a clear departure from how the Beatles had previously worked. Up until this album, the Beatles had essentially recorded all their albums ‘live’ in the studio, but on ‘Help!’ they choose to overdub a lot more, starting with the rhythm section, then overdubbing the vocals and finally any other instruments to produce the best final track.
Having completed the recording of the album at the end of February, the band flew off to the Bahamas to start working on a film of the same name, which they also filmed in Austria, Twickenham and Salisbury Plain. Filming went on, with the occasional break, until the summer, before its release at the end of July, with the premiere at London Pavilion Theatre.
The album itself followed a similar pattern to the previous soundtrack album ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, with the songs from the film on one side and other original and cover songs on the other side, which included ‘Yesterday’, still rated as the most covered track of all time.
The album was released in August 1965 and reached number one in both the UK and US charts, with a nine-week run at the top of the UK charts.
The title track and ‘Ticket To Ride’ were the key singles from the album, both number one hits, whilst of course ‘Yesterday’ went on to become a big hit, it wasn’t originally seen as a candidate for release.
In many ways, ‘Help!’ is the bridge album, taking the Beatles from the Beatlemania era through to the more creative songs they produced in the second half of the decade. On the album, they included elements of country and western, folk, classical and rock.
After returning from their US tour, the band began recording their sixth studio album, Rubber Soul. The album itself had a better critical reception than their previous ‘Help!’ album and was heavily influenced by their US tour.
It was clearly the most mature album the band had produced so far and arguably showed Lennon at his songwriting peak with tracks like ‘Girl’, ‘Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)’ and ‘In My Life’.
It was also George Harrison’s most involvement in an album so far, contributing not just two songs but having a heavy influence on some of the arrangements and introducing the sitar for the first time, as he was becoming increasingly influenced by Indian music and culture in general.
The album was released in the UK and US in December, going to number one in the US in January 1966 and staying there for six weeks. Meanwhile, in the UK the album reached the top spot on Christmas day, knocking off their own album, ‘Help!’, from the number one position.
In many ways, Rubber Soul changed the way pop music was considered. After its release, the focus became about producing a quality album and not about delivering individual hit singles. It is many Beatles fans favourite album and was rated by Rolling Stone magazine as the 5th greatest album of all time.
Beatles for Sales EP
Beatles for Sale EP was a four-track EP released in April on 1965 and was the eighth EP released by the band, containing tracks from the LP of the same name. Overall, it spent 6 weeks at the top of the EP charts, with three of the tracks being Lennon-McCartney originals and one from Chuck Berry, his classic ‘Rock and Roll Music’ song.
Their Personal Lives
It was a good year for Ringo Starr, who proposed to Maureen Cox in January of 1965, before marrying her on 11th February at Caxton Hall in Westminster. Ringo proposed in the Ad Lib club, which was the nightclub of choice for the band at the time, where they had their own private table.
Not all members of the band were able to attend the wedding, as Paul was holidaying in Portugal at the time. John and George were in attendance and Brian Epstein was Ringo’s best man.
Although a long honeymoon was out of the question with the Beatles commitments at the time, the couple did manage a short honeymoon in Hove, Sussex, at the home of the Beatles solicitor David Jacobs.
In what was a busy year for Ringo personally, Maureen gave birth to their son, Zak Starkey, in Hammersmith. Ringo partly picked the name because he felt it was a strong name that couldn’t be shortened. Whilst never reaching even close to the fame of his father, Zak did follow in his footsteps to become a drummer, playing sessions with acts like The Who and Oasis.
Ringo Starr also purchased a first house with his new wife Maureen Starkey. Sunny Heights was a mock Tudor house in Weybridge. Less than one mile from John Lennon’s house, it was a large building with extensive gardens and even its own bar, The Flying Cow.
Paul McCartney bought a new house in St Jones Wood in April, which was just a short walk to EMI studios on Abbey Road where the Beatles did their recording at the time. It became a popular meeting place for the band outside of recording sessions.
Long after the rest of the band had passed driving tests, John Lennon finally got his drivers license in February of this year. John was renowned as a poor driver, not the greatest at concentrating on the roads.
He rarely drove after passing his test and unfortunately had a relatively serious crash with Yoko Ono, her daughter Kyoko and his son Julian in the car, with Yoko sustaining the worse injuries and also being pregnant at the time. After the crash, John was even more hesitant to drive and generally was found arriving at the recording studios thanks to his driver Les Anthony.
Losing Your Rights
One of the most significant events of 1965 wasn’t something that the Beatles and in particular John Lennon and Paul McCartney, considered to be as important at the time.
On 18th February, Northern Songs, the Beatles song publishing company, was floated on the stock exchange. The company had been owned between Paul, John, Brian Epstein and Dick James. As part of the process, just over a fifth of the companies’ shares were made available to the public, although the buying price would have put it out of the reach of most fans.
The reason behind the flotation was to ease the tax burden on Lennon and McCartney, who had achieved great success in the previous two years and were paying tax at 83 per cent. As part of the process, Lennon and McCartney were able to recoup a tax-free windfall of £94,270 each.
However, it is as a direct consequence of floating the business and making themselves vulnerable to takeovers, that the Beatles ultimately lost the rights to their own songs.
Having fallen out with the Beatles towards the end of the decade, Dick James sold his stake in the company to ATV, setting off a chain of events that would eventually see Paul McCartney’s former friend Michael Jackson own the rights to the Beatles back catalogue!
Having failed to counter the ATV offer to Dick James, Lennon and McCartney sold their own stakes in the company and as a result, lost control of the company.
Michael Jackson purchased the catalogue (along with a lot of other artists back catalogues), before eventually selling half his stake to Sony when he was struggling for money. Upon his death, Sony bought the remainder of the shares in the business and owned the whole back catalogue until Paul McCartney and Sony agreed an out of court settlement in 2017.
Members of the British Empire
On the 11th June 1965, it was announced that the Beatles were to be awarded the MBE (Member of the British Empire). Brian Epstein had asked Paul McCartney to come back early from his holiday with girlfriend Jane Asher to be around for the announcement.
The Beatles were nominated for the award by the prime minister at the time, Harold Wilson, who also happened to be the member of parliament for Huyton, Merseyside. The band went to Buckingham Palace on 26th October 1965 to receive their medals from Queen Elizabeth II.
However, back in the 60s, Rock n Roll was still not universally loved and still came associated with negativity by many in society. As a result, the Beatles being awarded the MBE kicked off a storm, especially with some previously decorated people, many of whom returned their medals in disgust.
Of course, the irony of these protests is that four years later, John Lennon returned his MBE to the queen. As he said in a letter to the Queen, he was returning the decoration as a protest to Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra war, Britain’s support of the Vietnam war and as he jokes, the single ‘Cold Turkey’ slipping down the charts!
Their medals made one famous and public appearance after they received them. If you look very carefully at the album cover of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, you will see their MBEs, except for John Lennon’s, who refused to wear his and instead is wearing medals loaned from Mona Best.
Lennon and McCartney received another set of awards in July of 1965 when they won five Ivor Novello songwriting awards.
After the fuss award the MBEs, John Lennon decided not to attend the awards and Paul himself was late and after accepting one of the awards, quipped that he hoped no one was going to send theirs back. Over their careers, Lennon and McCartney won 15 Ivor Novello’s.
Outside of the Music
John Lennon published his second book ‘A Spaniard in the Works’ in June, it was a 96-page book full of stories and illustrations by Lennon, selling 100,000 copies.
In another creative departure for the band, their first cartoon series appeared in the US this year, although the band themselves were not responsible for the voices in the series. What is interesting for later Beatles work is that the series producer, Al Brodax, would go on to produce and co-write Yellow Submarine for the band.