The Beatles In 1966 – As It Happened

1966

1966 was a life-changing year for The Beatles. It was in 1966 that The Beatles completed their last scheduled live performance in the UK, as well as completing their final world tour. You could say that what happened to The Beatles in 1966 marked the beginning of the end for the band.

Read on to find out more about what happened to The Beatles in 1966.

It Started With Marriage

1966 began with the marriage of George Harrison to model Pattie Boyd. After getting engaged on 25 December 1965, they wed just 27 days later in a ceremony at Epsom register office, on 21 January 1966.

Soon after tying the knot, Harrison and Boyd jetted off to Barbados where they enjoyed their honeymoon in a private villa. Although they were followed through the airport by paparazzi, they managed to go relatively unnoticed on the island and enjoyed a relaxing holiday together.

They even saw the Queen during their honeymoon. In her autobiography, Wonderful Today, Pattie Boyd wrote:

“One day we were out in the garden and the maid said, ‘Oh, look, there’s the Queen of England!’ Sure enough, there she was, driving past in an open-topped car waving to everyone, with Prince Philip sitting beside her, head buried in a newspaper.”

The Beatles At Shea Stadium

Often referred to as one of the most exciting concerts in the history of music, a documentary showcasing The Beatles’ New York Shea Stadium concert was premiered on BBC 1 on 1 March 1966.

The concert had originally taken place on 15 August 1965 in front of 55,600 fans. The band were introduced onto the stage by TV legend Ed Sullivan, who declared: “Now, ladies and gentlemen, honored by their country, decorated by their Queen, and loved here in America, here are The Beatles!”

With 48 minutes of running time, the black and white documentary began with The Beatles’ journey from Manhattan in a helicopter, followed by their preparation in the dressing room before their performance.

The songs ‘She’s A Woman’ and ‘Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby’ were omitted from the film due to time constraints whilst some of the other songs were dubbed over due to recording issues on the day.

The film was later shown in colour in cinemas across the United States.

Set List
1Twist and Shout
2She’s A Woman (not included in film)
3I Feel Fine
4Dizzy Miss Lizzy
5Ticket To Ride
6Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby (not included in film)
7Can’t Buy Me Love
8Baby’s In Black
9Act Naturally
10A Hard Day’s Night
11Help!
12I’m Down

Disappointment At The Grammys

In February 1966, The Beatles were nominated for 10 different categories at the Grammy Awards, including album of the year and best performance by a vocal group. Six of these nominations were for ‘Yesterday’ whilst the other four were for the ‘Help!’ album.

The ceremony was held at Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles on 15 March 1966. Despite their 10 nominations, The Beatles didn’t come away with a single award.

The following day, a protest was launched by Capitol Records’ president Alan Livingston who was angry that ‘Yesterday’ hadn’t won the title of ‘Song Of The Year’. He was quoted as saying that “It makes a mockery of the whole event”.

More Popular Than Jesus

At the beginning of 1966, band manager Brian Epstein was approached by journalist Maureen Cleave of the Evening Standard. She proposed that each of The Beatles would be interviewed separately for a series of articles which would explore each of the band members’ individual personalities. The series would be titled ‘How Does A Beatle Live?’.

These articles would be published in weekly instalments throughout March 1966, bringing The Beatles back into the spotlight after months of inactivity. McCartney, Harrison and Starr’s interviews passed without drama, but when it came to Lennon’s turn, things went south.

When asked by reporter Maureen Cleave about his feelings towards Christianity, Lennon responded:

“Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I’m right and I’ll be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first – rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.”

The quote went by largely unmentioned in the UK. However, on 29 July 1966, Lennon’s words were published on the front cover of US teen magazine Datebook. This provoked outrage in the US, particularly amongst Christian fundamentalists.

Many radio stations banned The Beatles’ songs from being played, with some even organising bonfires for listeners to burn their Beatles records and merchandise.

Lennon later apologised at a press conference in Chicago on 11 August 1966, explaining that he was commenting on the decline in church attendance and “never meant it as a lousy anti-religious thing”. Lennon went on to say that he made a mistake in comparing it to The Beatles’ following. The press conference was broadcast on major US television networks, along with ITV in the UK.

World Tour Announced

On Thursday 3 March 1966, band manager Brian Epstein announced The Beatles’ plans to tour Germany, Japan, the Philippines and the United States. The tour would begin in June 1966 and continue until the end of August.

This would be the band’s third annual summer tour of the US, and also the last, before they retired from touring completely.

The Infamous ‘Butcher Cover’ Photos

The Beatles attended a photo shoot on 25 March 1966 which would produce what would later be known as their most controversial photos ever released. One of these photos became the cover for the US release of ‘Yesterday and Today’, before they were destroyed and replaced with a new image.

The ‘butcher’ photos were taken by photographer Robert Whitaker, who called the photos “A Somnambulant Adventure”. The photos featured white coats, slabs of meat and dismembered baby dolls.

The photographer claimed that the images were designed to be used as part of a wider piece of work, critiquing the excessive admiration that The Beatles received. However, The Beatles claimed that the images had been created to protest the Vietnam War.

The images were never intended to be used as an album cover, but The Beatles decided to submit some of the photos from the shoot to be used for their promotional materials. Capitol Records decided to use one of these images as an album cover for ‘Yesterday and Today’ in 1967.

After protests from record retailers in the US, the album was quickly withdrawn and a new cover created.

Revolver

The second quarter of 1966 was dominated largely with the recording of The Beatles’ seventh album, ‘Revolver’.

The band had hoped to record the album at Stax Studio in Memphis, the possibility of which band manager Brian Epstein investigated. However, as fans began to descend on the studio, the location had to be ruled out.

The band reluctantly opted for EMI’s London studios on Abbey Road and recording began on 6 April 1966 in studio 3, with George Martin as producer. Recording and mixing took a total of 11 weeks, with the album finally completed on 22 June 1966.

The band celebrated the album’s completion by attending the opening of Sibylla’s, a nightclub of which George Harrison was a shareholder.

Songs were slowly released to radio stations by EMI through July, building anticipation for the album’s full release. The full Revolver album was released in the UK on 5 August 1966, followed by its release in the US on 8 August 1966.

‘Eleanor Rigby’ was also released as a double sided single, along with ‘Yellow Submarine’.

Track List
1Taxman
2Eleanor Rigby
3I’m Only Sleeping
4Love You To
5Here, There And Everywhere
6Yellow Submarine
7She Said She Said
8Good Day Sunshine
9And Your Bird Can Sing
10For No One
11Doctor Robert
12I Want To Tell You
13Got To Get You Into My Life
14Tomorrow Never Knows

Final Live Scheduled UK Appearance

On 1 May 1966, The Beatles made what would be their final scheduled live appearance in the UK. This was at the New Music Express (NME) Annual Poll-Winners’ All-Star Concert at Wembley, London.

This was The Beatles’ fourth appearance at this event, where they performed in front of an audience of 10,000.

The Beatles Take On Top Of The Pops

By June 1966, Top Of The Pops had been running for over two years, but The Beatles had yet to make a live appearance on the show. Pre-recorded features had been shown, but until this point, The Beatles had refused a live appearance.

On 14 June 1966, Brian Epstein received a request for The Beatles to make a live appearance on Top Of The Pops by producer Johnny Stewart. Unexpectedly, The Beatles agreed to the request and appeared live on Top Of The Pops on 16 June 1966.

The Beatles were announced onto the stage by host Pete Murray as the last act of the show, where they mimed to ‘Paperback Writer’ and ‘Rain’.

Paul McCartney Buys A Farm

In June 1966, a financial advisor suggested to Paul McCartney that he invest in property to reduce his tax. In an attempt to protect his money from the taxman, McCartney decided to purchase a farm known as High Park Farm. This farm was situated in Campbeltown, near the Mull of Kintyre.

With a price of £35,000, the dilapidated three-bedroom farmhouse came with 183 acres of land. McCartney made an agreement with a neighbour that he could graze his sheep on the land in return for keeping an eye on the property whenever McCartney was away.

Despite the farmhouse being run down, McCartney saw it as a refuge from Beatlemania, enjoying the isolation and privacy that it afforded him.

The World Tour Commences In Germany

The Beatles began the first leg of their world tour in Germany, returning for the first time since 1962. It was presented by Karl Buchmann Productions and sponsored by Bravo magazine. The band insisted that each venue should be limited to only 8,000 seats, which meant that Bravo would be making a loss from the tour.

The tour commenced at Circus-Krone-Bau in Munich on 24 June 1966, which was filmed by the West German ZDF network and broadcast onto local television networks.

The band then travelled to Essen where they played two shows at Grugahalle on 25 June 1966. These shows marked a turning point for the band as fans were subdued by police using tear gas and guard dogs.  

The German leg of the tour ended with two shows at Ernst Merck Halle on 26 June 1966. It’s said that Lennon was overheard saying “Don’t listen to our music, we’re terrible these days” during one of the Hamburg shows.

It was in Hamburg that The Beatles began to grow tired of questions by the press. In response to Lennon’s impatience, a female reporter asked why the band had become “so horrid and snobby”.

The Tour Moves To Tokyo

On 27 June 1966, The Beatles flew to London Heathrow Airport to board a flight to Tokyo. However, the flight was diverted to Alaska due to a typhoon over Japan, and The Beatles remained stranded there for two days.

The band stayed at Anchorage’s Westward Hotel in Alaska, where they were serenaded by a crowd of local fans from the street below their window. They eventually reached Japan on 30 June 1966.

National opinion of The Beatles in Japan was divided. Whilst some parts of the population welcomed the progressive minds of The Beatles, the traditionalists in society were opposed to the band’s influence.

The Nippon Budokan Hall in Tokyo was chosen as the location of the tour, with tickets priced at double the price of any previous event at the hall. However, this venue was usually reserved for martial arts and was seen as a shrine to Japan’s war dead. This angered Japan’s handline nationalists who vowed to prevent the concerts.

In a bid to protect The Beatles, over 35,000 police and fire brigade staff were mobilised to the events. Aside from the concerts and a single press conference, the band were confined to their Presidential Suite at the Tokyo Hilton.

During their single press conference in Japan, John Lennon spoke out against the Vietnam War. This was the first time that the band had spoken out against the war publicly.

The band played at the Nippon Budokan Hall on 30 June, 1 July and 2 July 1966. The first two shows were filmed in colour by Nippon TV and broadcast to local television networks as ‘The Beatles Recital: From Nippon Budokan, Tokyo’ on 1 July 1966.

As The Beatles were forced to stay in their hotel suite for long periods of time, they decided to collaborate on a psychedelic-themed painting. They used brushes and paints which were given to them by a visiting tradesman and listened to a tape of their new album whilst painting.

The Philippines Tour

After the tour in Japan concluded, The Beatles travelled to the Philippines where they landed at Manila airport on 4 July 1966. The band were surprised by the high level of security as they arrived at the airport, especially with the number of firearms present.

The Beatles were expected to join President Marcos and First Lady Imelda Marcos on 4 July for a party, before going on to their first concert. However, Brian Epstein had declined the invitation, in keeping with his policy of declining official visits during tours.

Before leaving the hotel for their first concert, The Beatles saw on television the offence that they had caused. The palace had broadcast footage of four empty seats, along with crying children. The First Lady said that the musicians had let her down.

That evening, The Beatles performed to their largest ever audience of 80,000 fans across two shows. This concert was held at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila. However, the backlash from their nonappearance with the First Lady began immediately after their concert when their convoy of cars was trapped behind a gate and surrounded by an organised crowd of protesters.

When the band woke up for their flight to India on 5 July 1966, they realised that their security protection within the hotel had disappeared. Their police escort had been removed, leading Epstein to call the airline and plead with them to delay their flight.

As The Beatles arrived at the airport, they were repeatedly grabbed and harassed by angry citizens. Once inside the airport, they were beaten and kicked by uniformed men. They were eventually allowed to board the plane where they kissed their seats in gratitude.

The End Of Touring

After their tour in Germany, Japan and the Philippines, The Beatles concluded that their tours and security requirements had become too complex for Epstein to manage. They decided that they would complete their upcoming US tour before retiring from touring.

When George Harrison was asked what the band planned to do after their ordeal in Manila, he responded “We’re going to have a couple of weeks to recuperate before we go and get beaten up by the Americans.”

It is said that the decision to end touring was made without the agreement of Paul McCartney. However, McCartney changed his mind after their 21 August concert in St Louis and agreed with his band mates.

Ivor Novello Awards

On 12 July 1966, The Beatles were awarded three Ivor Novello awards. ‘Yesterday’ was awarded the most outstanding song of the year. Meanwhile, ‘We Can Work It Out’ was awarded best-selling single of 1965, whilst ‘Help!’ was the second-best selling.

The Final Tour

The Beatles’ final tour commenced in the United States on 12 August 1966. However, this tour was hindered by the ‘Jesus’ controversy that followed John Lennon’s comments earlier in the year.

The day before the tour began, Lennon attended a press conference at the Astor Tower Hotel in Chicago to address the controversy and explain himself. The apology resulted in a ‘Beatle Bonfire’ being cancelled and many of those offended being placated. However, the controversy continued to hang over the tour.

At Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium on 14 August, over 2,000 fans broke through the security barriers, leading The Beatles to stop their performance and return backstage. It took thirty minutes for security to resolve the issue and substantial damage was caused to the stadium.

On 19 August, The Beatles performed at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis. The Ku Klux Klan demonstrated outside the venue whilst around 8,000 protesters took part in an anti-Beatles rally. During the show, a lit firecracker was thrown onto the stage, but no band members were harmed.

When The Beatles played at the Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on 28 August, a crowd of 7,000 broke through security barriers, leaving the band trapped inside their dressing room. They were eventually helped to escape by local police.

The Beatles’ final concert was held on 29 August at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Knowing that this would be their last ever performance on stage, each band member brought a camera to take photos on the stage. After the performance, they were taken to the airport in an armoured car where they confirmed that their touring days were over.

John Lennon Meets Yoko Ono

On 7 November 1966, the day before her exhibition ‘Unfinished Paintings’ was due to open, John Lennon was introduced to Yoko Ono for the first time.

Lennon attended a preview of the exhibition which was being held at the Indica Gallery in Mayfair, London. Neither Lennon or Ono knew who the other was, but there was an immediate attraction. The pair would later marry and spend the rest of Lennon’s life together.

The Beatles Experiment With A Studio Approach

In late November, The Beatles began recording Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. This album took an experimental approach, with the band determined to take their music in a different direction.

This recording work would take over 700 hours, continuing into 1967 before it would finally be released in May 1967.

In Summary

1966 was a year of change for The Beatles. The pressures of security finally became too much for the band, leading to their 1966 world tour of Germany, Japan, the Philippines and the United States being their last.

However, the end of 1966 saw the band begin to record Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, marking a turning point for the band.

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