Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Tomorrow Never Knows: The Beatles Last Concert

Tomorrow Never Knows: The Beatles Last Concert
Antonio G. Pereira © 2013 Antonio G. Pereira

        The year 1966 was a pinnacle year for the Beatles. They released a (U.S. only) compilation album, 'Yesterday and Today', with a controversial cover, and an album that became a historical landmark, 'Revolver'; ending the year with a (U.K. only) greatest hits album, 'A Collection of Beatles Oldies: But Goldies'. This was also the last year they performed live in concert (after having done a brief UK tour the previous Winter of 1965  ), starting with the NME Poll Winners Concert in London, followed by a world tour  ;and ending with their 1966 North American Tour. 1966 would see a slow deterioration set in on Beatles' manager Brian Epstein, due to his increasing dependence on pills and alcohol. For the unedited and quite explosive section from 'Lennon Remembers' referring to Brian Epstein, click on the link below for the essay, 'A Meditation On Hendrix, Lennon and The Counterculture'. In the Alfred G. Aronowitz section of 'A Meditation', you'll find a link to Alfred G. Aronowitz' articles from the Saturday Evening Post, The New York Post etc... referring to The Beatles (collectively and individually), The Ronettes, Murray The K, Bob Dylan, Phil Spector etc...  In March of 1966, John Lennon would give an interview to a friend and journalist, Maureen Cleave from the London Evening Standard. Besides what eventually exploded (after it was carefully taken out of context by some 'characters' in the U.S.), into the 'Jesus Christ Controversy', it's quite interesting to note that in the last two paragraphs near the end of Maureen Cleave's interview, John Lennon all but predicts what his future will be.  (Check out the archival footage in Part 14 "Mighty Good: The Beatles" {interestingly written by Derek Taylor} in Tony Palmer's ambitious "All You Need Is Love" multi-part documentary series. Having sung about 'The Word' on Rubber Soul, their groundbreaking album of the previous winter of 1965, The Beatles were now releasing their masterwork, 'Revolver'; as the American Tour got under way. And as they played their final concert at Candlestick Park, San Francisco was peaking in the throes of what they had sung about in 'The Word'. What history would remember as the birth of The Counterculture. The opening acts for the 1966 tour were Bobby Hebb (whose song 'Sunny' became a standard and one of the biggest records of the year.  He essentially {when it came to drawing power} co-headlined the tour with the Beatles), The Cyrkle (a group managed by Brian Epstein, that had two pretty good records on the charts, 'Red Rubber Ball' and 'Turn Down Day'. An interesting footnote to this is that after the tour with the Beatles was over, the Cyrkle released one more album, 'Neon' and composed a soundtrack for a film, 'The Minx'; after which the band broke up. One of the guitarists in the band, Don Dannemann, became a fairly successful jingle writer for television during the late '60s Pop Art explosion, and composed the first 7Up Uncola song; which if you remember, had snatches of Pop Art (remember 'What's a Kooladny?') and the subtle influence of that late 1800s southwestern Gold Prospector's sounding dirge, 'My Wild Love', that was on The Door's recent (at the time) album, 'Waiting For The Sun'.) The Ronettes -   (who had a couple of very good records with Phil Spector. Unfortunately Ronnie, their lead singer, was being kept away from the tour by Phil Spector; and her cousin substituted in the group - nobody seemed to notice.) and The Remains (a very professional band who backed both Bobby Hebb and The Ronettes during their sets, as well as doing their own set.)
The Beatles only did a handful of Press Conferences during this tour, which began in Chicago.
There are two Press Conferences done in Chicago. The first one is a complete fiasco. John Lennon continually apologizing for something that was never his original intention. One reporter in particular is obviously intent on fanning the flames by using the term "Godhood on earth" referring to the Beatles. (It's interesting that Paul McCartney mentions the public trying to hold them in a perpetual state of standing still, and not evolving; something he would break out of in 1966/67, by composing the soundtrack for a film, 'The Family Way', and in 1967, by his admission on ITV that he was using L.S.D.) And during this Press Conference, George Harrison completely agreeing with what John's original intention was in his statement about Christianity.
The second Chicago Press Conference seems to be attended mostly by a more intelligent group of reporters, and the Christianity questions are handled more professionally. It's also interesting that the subject of racism comes up in this second Press Conference. After all, this is Chicago.
The Press Conference in Toronto Canada stands out as the most open minded so far during the tour. Intelligent questions covering a lot of ground, and interestingly the first one where Paul's moped accident the previous December is mentioned. John, it should be noted (albeit jokingly) already smells trouble in Memphis.
Memphis Tennessee. To set this up, we have to remember the year. 1966. The old legally segregated South where only white people were allowed to vote, to in turn keep cracker segregationist politicians continually in power, thereby perpetuating racist policies that essentially kept anyone else from living like an American citizen within the United States (the old Catch 22 loophole that had been used by characters like these for decades, under the code words, 'States Rights'), was in the throes of having it's back broken by not only the Civil Rights Movement, but also the American Government. And like it or not, the old South's days were numbered. This was the Memphis that the Beatles flew into in 1966. What's interesting about this interview, is that it's being conducted by the ITV News, a British outfit that flew in from London. So what you're getting is a very British discussion and a European take on the whole situation. You can imagine what kind of Beatles Press Conference would have taken place in Memphis with the local American Press.
And now New York City, {For the clearest, most accurate, and detailed first hand account of what New York was like BEFORE the explosive and revoloutionary social changes that took place during the '60s era, read Sammy Davis Jr's autobiography, 'Yes I Can. The Story of Sammy Davis Jr.' by Sammy Davis Jr. and Jane and Burt Boyar. Published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux New York} where The Beatles first broke big on the Ed Sullivan Show, and afterwards Carnegie Hall; and in 1965 selling out Shea Stadium in Long Island. This year they are returning to Shea Stadium again.  During this Press Conference the subject of John beginning filming of, 'How I Won The War' after the tour is over is brought up, and so is the Vietnam War; which by now was escalating. The Beatles and Jesus Christ subject is brought up yet again, and as the tour is now nearing it's end, it's obvious from his answer now (particularly as this is post-Memphis) that John is fed up. It becomes very clear that George in the future will become a big advocate for Indian music. I've always wondered why the Beatles never appeared on Ed Sullivan in 1966 before doing Shea Stadium, as they had the year before. Hmmm...
The book, 'Tomorrow Never Knows: The Beatles Last Concert' by Eric Lefcowitz (who does a pretty good overview of the tour and digs up some very informative archival San Francisco newspaper clippings) with photographs by Jim Marshall {Published by Terra Firma - An Imprint of Retrofuture Products} covers the final concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. (The photographer Jim Marshall, who was incredibly gifted, appeared in Guitar Player's Oct. 1985 Issue, where he gave quite an eye opening interview; and included a portfolio of some of his greatest photographs.)
Jim Marshall in these pictures captures The Beatles backstage talking with Music Journalist Ralph J. Gleason, Folksinger Joan Baez (quite a ravishing beauty, who had traveled with the Beatles on their 1964 tour of America {she discussed this in her interview in the April 14th, 1983 Issue of Rolling Stone} and her gorgeous sister, Musician Mimi Farina (wife of legendary Musician and Songwriter Richard Farina, who had been killed in a motorcycle accident earlier in the year during a book party for his new novel, 'Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me'. And Dylan ironically, had had a motorcycle accident shortly before the Beatles began their concert tour. {It's quite interesting that Mimi Farina mentions in the interview she gave for this book, that Bob Dylan and Joan Baez had had their lives threatened in the South by the Ku Klux Klan during their National Tour together earlier in the decade, when they sang Dylan's song, 'The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll'; which makes you wonder about so-called British 'Dylan Expert' Clinton Heylin's motivations regarding this song, in his Dylan biography, 'Behind the Shades Revisited'.} Mimi Farina years later, would make a breathtakingly beautiful album with Musician Tom Jans named, 'Take Heart'.) who were specially invited guests. You can't help but notice how calm and reflective John looks in these pictures. As if he knows this is the ending of one phase of his life, leading into a new one; and a great burden had been lifted off his shoulders. You wonder if John was a fan and admirer of Richard and Mimi Farina's music, from the way he is gazing at Mimi Farina. Nobody got photographs like this, except Jim Marshall. I've often wondered if San Francisco FM Radio was playing 'Rain' during the Beatles last visit. This song seems the perfect backdrop to the mood captured by Jim Marshall in these photographs. A time and place that would never happen again. And so we leave it here. And as this is John's birthday, we'll end with a song from the movie, 'Celebration At Big Sur', which I think in turn is perfect for celebrating John Lennon's birthday and his immense contributions: There's A Place, I'll Get You, This Boy, If I Fell, I'll Be Back, Yes It Is, You've Got To Hide Your Love Away, In My Life, Julia, Good Night, Happy Xmas (war is over) etc...       

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