Beatles Live Chicago ’66: Rock & Roll Repast

Posted: June 25th, 2023 | Filed under: Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | 1 Comment »

I’m a rock & roll lifer. I’ve got stories, lots of stories. Here’s another.

Seeing the Beatles live in concert is in boldface on my resumé.

Which is frankly the best way to express the experience.

It’s more a gotcha of oneupsmanship when playing rock & roll smackdown than it was any sort of extraordinary musical experience.

Not quite like hearing Hendrix play the National Anthem live at midnight on the Fourth of July ’70 with fireworks at Atlanta Pop. Or hearing Van Morrison at the Hollywood Bowl sing the entirety of “Astral Weeks” in concert for the first time ever on its 40th anniversary.

Those are gotcha moments, but for the music and history.

My pal Moop and I were at the opening show of the group’s last tour on August 12, 1966 at Chicago’s International Amphitheater.

How without tickets we came to be sitting in a box on the stage is a quick story. One of the show’s MCs was his cousin DJ Ron Britain at WCFL AM, the sponsoring Top 40 station. His wife Peach met us at the stage door, and walked us in. Simple as that. Easy peasy.

The audience was mostly teen girls. Beatlemania.

The security was a somewhat over done it would seem. My memory is that there was an usher in the aisles at the end of every row, and every couple feet in front of the stage.

There were several opening acts. All of whom were on the bill at every stop of the 14 city tour.

The Remains, a garage outfit from Boston, Bobby Hebb, who had a hit with “Sunny,” Brian Epstein’s “American Beatles” the Cyrkle, and the Ronettes. Though, strange dude that he certainly was, Phil Spector sent a sub to sing lead, not his live in love and future bride, Ronnie (born Veronica Bennett) for whom the group was named. The lore is that Spector was paranoid his lady would have an affair with one of the Fab Four.

I have no independent recollection of what songs they played.

One source advises the Beatles did the same 11 tunes in their 30 minute set at every stop along the way. “Rock & Roll Music,” She’s a Woman,” “If I Needed Someone,” “Day Tripper,” “Baby’s In Black,” “I Feel Fine,” “Yesterday,” “I Wanna Be Your Man,” “Nowhere Man,” Paperback Writer,” and “Long Tall Sally.”

That’s not correct, because there are videos of them playing “Twist & Shout” at Shea Stadium, their last live concert ever except for that rooftop gig.

Anyhow, such was the shrieking of the assembled and the scene, the music was peripheral.

The Last of the Screaming Teenage Heartthrobs, it was a no brainer that the tour was their last. They were already moving on to more sophisticated, genre-changing recorded pop music.

The rest of the story is that they could have, should have and intended to play at the Fairgrounds in Louisville. Which I know for a fact because in an interview promoter Martin Cohn showed me the actual contract signed by Brian Epstein. But it was eventually rejected by the State Fair Board, because it would have been “too close to the State Fair, and impeded preparation.”

That no done deal might also have been due to John Lennon’s infamous “more popular than Jesus” comment earlier that year. Which was the cause of much concern in states along the Bible Belt.


— c d kaplan

One Comment on “Beatles Live Chicago ’66: Rock & Roll Repast”

  1. 1 Mark Stanton said at 3:58 pm on June 26th, 2023:

    I grew up listening to WLS and WCFL. I remember Britain from those days. He had some connection to Louisville and/or Kentucky because I saw his obituary in the CJ a few years ago. I have a friend who saw the Beatles at the Cow Palace in SF and she said she couldn’t even hear the music over the screaming. Still, your presence definitely gives you the top rank of any game of one-upmanship. I wanted to see the International Amphitheatre before it shut down so I attended the last sporting event they held, a 1983 Virginia Slims tennis tournament won by Martina.

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