I have heard the audio footage of the Memphis show from 1966. Yes, they really were going out with a bang. I cannot imagine what it was like to be in he eye of a hurricane. To be putting out press conferences at each and every stop. No one, does press conferences any more for musicians (save, maybe The Rolling Stones). I cannot imagine having to go through the same questions time and time again. I do imagine that it would get a little boring.
It’s not like the musicians were even able to hone their craft and be sharp on the stage anymore. The Beatle touring machine was more about the hysteria and the circus than it was about rock and roll. I can see how the boys would have soured on that experience. It would be different if anyone could actually hear anything. I would have loved to have seen one of these shows, as much of us would have. I can relive them through various bootlegs and film footage, and feel like I am there. Somehow, I think that’s an easier experience. It’s more romantic that way, I’ll take it. In 1966, though, animosity was running high for the Fabs, especially as they crept their way through the Bible Belt, with John and his “bigger than Jesus” comments. We know, we know- it was all taken out of context. But, some people had a HUGE problem with that. I imagine a musician today making a comment like that. They’d probably fear that they’d get shot too, much in the same way our dear boys felt in Memphis as someone lit up a cherry bomb mid-concert.
If you haven’t hunted down the bootleg of this show, it’s intersting from a historical perspective if anything. The sound quality is so-so, but you can at least feel the hysteria boil over in this concert. The boot is worth checking out.
The Fab Four in Memphis, 1966.
Here’s what we’ve read.
Did someone throw a firework at the Beatles in Memphis – and did it end their touring career? Colin Fleming on the discovery of a remarkable lost tape of a seminal gig
In the summer of 1966, the Beatles had just recorded Revolver, rock’s first full-on foray into what a band could pull off in the studio. But they were still every bit a live, coming-to-your-town touring band when they trekked off for world tour number three. It was a tour that, in the wake of John Lennon’s claim that “we’re more popular than Jesus”, would lead to record burnings and death threats in America’s Bible belt.
Beatles obsessives have long talked about what happened on that tour, and in particular what happened at a gig in Memphis. Someone shot at the band, goes one theory. A car backfired, runs another. The general consensus, though, is that someone lobbed a cherry bomb, a powerful type of firework, at the stage, while the Beatles performed their second set. Depending on who you listen to, or which web chatroom you log on to, the Beatles stopped short – or carried on as though nothing had happened. Some people say the band were frightened by the explosion – they had mistaken it for a gunshot, each looking around to see if one of them had been shot down. Whatever the truth, collective decisions rarely come faster. As Lennon said, that was it. Last tour. We’re done here.
And then, late last year, word started going around: a tape that had long been hoped for, but no one really thought would ever turn up, would soon be up on the web. It turned out that two teenage girls had lugged a portable tape recorder to the Memphis show. There were already plenty of 1966 shows available as bootleg recordings, including a number from Tokyo in near-perfect fidelity for the era. But the Memphis gig was the stuff of fantasy.
If you collect bootlegs, as I do, you live for that moment when incredulity gives way to wonder. The tapes of the 1966 Tokyo gigs don’t inspire any wonder: they’re a good indication of how poor the band was throughout much of their final world tour. But when I first heard what has been dubbed the “Cherry Bomb Tapes”, after tracking it down online, I heard a group raring to go. These guys were up for it. However, once we get to If I Needed Someone, swagger turns to humility mighty fast. Someone does indeed set off a cherry bomb, or some kind of backyard explosive, and the men of the moment blast off into double-time, Lennon positively flogging his rhythm guitar.
With audible proof of the explosion comes debate. What, for instance, would have happened if that cherry bomb had never gone off? Touring was still a possibility for the Beatles, pre-cherry bomb. That firecracker is the sound of a decision, a ne plus ultra moment for a band that was already contemplating a seismic shift in how they were going to do business: in the studio, with rock’n’roll taking life as collage art, rather than the stuff of teenybopper caprices and the night out at the baseball stadium.
Source: UK Guardian