Beatles concert was a magical mystery tour



From the March 5, 1999, Deseret News

As a teenager growing up in the 1960s in Long Beach, Calif., my live entertainment tastes were quite eclectic. I was as likely to buy tickets for a Harry Belafonte performance at the Greek Theatre as I was to seek out The Lovin' Spoonful at the Hollywood Bowl.

How eclectic was I? Those I saw in concert during my high school years included Donovan, The Association, Donald O'Connor, the Smothers Brothers, Jimmy Durante, Bill Cosby and Simon & Garfunkel, among others. Yeah, I know. I was a weird kid.

But when I heard that The Beatles were coming to Dodger Stadium, it was a no-brainer.

The Fab Four's album "Revolver" was at the top of the charts, I was fresh out of high school and my girlfriend — like everyone else I knew — was a Beatles freak.

And going to a concert back then wasn't the chore it is today. This was back in the olden days, before wristbands and lotteries and standing in several different lines on several different days.

It was a pretty simple process to show up at the box office, get in line and reserve a pair of seats down front.

All that was left was to wait for the concert date — Aug. 28, 1966 — to roll around.

Beatlemania came a bit late for me, compared to my friends. It was the group's appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show" — and the first movie, "A Hard Day's Night" — that made me a fan.

I was impressed that these four guys were as amusing and effortlessly charming as they were musically talented. And, to paraphrase one of their own tunes, I had to admit they were getting better.

The Beatles were rapidly evolving, and the new material appealed to me much more than the early songs.

Summer sailed by and Aug. 28 was quickly upon us. And though we couldn't know it at the time, that Dodger Stadium gig would prove to be the penultimate live-in-concert performance for John, Paul, George and Ringo. The last live Beatles show came the very next day, Aug. 29, in San Francisco's Candlestick Park.

My memories of the overall concert are a bit hazy, but a few things stand out.

We had pretty good seats, but it was hard to see the foursome's faces. (Should have brought opera glasses.)

The boys were in the middle of a baseball field, standing on a platform, and the surrounding stadium was filled with screaming fans — mostly girls. A circle of security guards stood in front of the fences and went to work whenever an overenthusiastic fan would jump onto the lawn and make a run for the band.

But the Beatles didn't even pause, apparently used to the reaction. And the result was that order . . . er, controlled chaos . . . was quickly restored.

The first song, kicking things off quite nicely, was "Rock and Roll Music," and the playlist included "She's a Woman," "If I Needed Someone," "Day Tripper," "Nowhere Man" and "Paperback Writer," among others.

The most peculiar arrangement was "Yesterday" — Paul McCartney singing his famous romantic ballad to the strains of an electric guitar. He had to. An acoustic guitar could not have been heard over the din.

These days, when you attend a concert, earplugs are recommended because the music is so loud. But at this 1966 Beatles concert, screaming fans were much louder. (Should have brought cotton balls.)

When the show was over, I complained to my girlfiend that I felt like I had paid for tickets to a scream-a-thon instead of a concert.

And yet, there was something rather magical about it.

It could be just the warm bath of nostalgia that naturally tends to make a fond memory seem more significant after more than 30 years. But that concert also marked the finale of my first summer as a high school graduate.

Soon I was in a full-time aircraft-assembly job while attending college. And a year and a half later I'd be drafted and sent off to Vietnam. (Should have kept up those grades.)

Real life was creeping up on me.

But on Aug. 28, 1966, the Beatles were still singing about "Yesterday," the fans were still screaming uncontrollably and all seemed right enough in my little world.