DC sportscaster marks 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ final US show

November 29, 2019 | WTOP's Dave Preston recalls the Beatles show with Johnny Holliday (Jason Fraley)

WASHINGTON — Aug. 29, 1966: For the Beatles, it was originally just another show date at a stadium with bad acoustics amid death threats; the final stop on yet another tour for a band that had seemingly been on the road forever.

The Fab Four played 10 songs at Candlestick Park in San Francisco before calling it a night with “Long Tall Sally.” John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr then took an armored car to the airport and flew home.

Nobody outside their circle knew then that they’d be leaving their touring days behind.

That night now stands as a line of demarcation in the simplified history of the Beatles. Everything before was moptops and matching suits; everything after was facial hair and glasses. When Capitol released a pair of double albums in 1973, the “Red” album stopped in 1966 and the “Blue” album started with the 1967 release of “Strawberry Fields Forever.”

But perhaps they had already moved beyond their 1964 image as fish-and-chip-eating, happy-go-lucky lads from Liverpool. In their final show, they played just one song from that year, “Paperback Writer,” and performed no songs from their newly released album “Revolver.”

It wasn’t by choice; they couldn’t reproduce studio-embellished songs like “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Yellow Submarine” in a live setting to their liking. If you listen to their 1966 output, songs like “Taxman” and “For No One” could’ve easily appeared on “The White Album” or “Abbey Road.”

What sort of world were the Beatles leaving? The Asian leg of their tour turned into disaster when they didn’t attend a party held by the first lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos. The Fab Four were spit on as they left the country.

Their final tour of the U.S. was in the aftermath of Lennon’s “Beatles are bigger than Jesus” quote that prompted bonfires of Beatles’ albums and threats from the KKK. They couldn’t hear themselves playing over the screams of their fans and were reduced to performing stadium gigs where the acoustics got worse by the city.

Fans would have to settle for the vinyl version of the Beatles from there on out. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” would turn the world on its ear 10 months later. And while their final few albums would start to resemble four solo acts more than a four-man band working together, their non-touring years provided more than a few gems.

The Beatles may not have been bigger than Jesus, but they were definitely bigger than the road.

Listen below to memories of the historic show by D.C. sportscaster Johnny Holliday, who MC’d the show:

November 29, 2019 | WTOP's Dave Preston recalls show with Johnny Holliday (Part 1) (Jason Fraley)
November 29, 2019 | WTOP's Dave Preston recalls show with Johnny Holliday (Part 2) (Jason Fraley)
November 29, 2019 | WTOP's Dave Preston recalls show with Johnny Holliday (Part 3) (Jason Fraley)

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