Sunday, 21 December 2008
The Beatles' final UK Concert
May 1st 1966: The Beatles performed their last-ever concert in the UK (not including the roof-top show in 1969), at the NME Poll Winner’s Party at Empire Pool, Wembley. Other groups on the bill included The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Yardbirds, The Small Faces, The Walker Brothers, Dusty Springfield and Roy Orbison.
Although the NME Poll Winners Show was filmed, the cameras were apparantly switched off during The Beatles' performance. Here's what Beatles biographer Barry Miles has to say about the matter: The Beatles played a 15-minute set, for which they had staged a brief rehearsal the previous day, but Brian Epstein would not allow ABC TV to film it because they had not reached an agreement over the terms. They were permitted to film them receiving their Poll Winners Awards. This was The Beatles' last live appearance in the UK. They played I Feel Fine, Nowhere Man, Day Tripper, If I Needed Someone and I’m Down.
A different take on the story is presented in another book:
One of the reporters, Derek Johnson, remembered: "I was waiting for The Beatles at the back door of Wembley Stadium, where the kitchens were, when this big van drew up and four chefs got out, with the proper white hats and aprons, carrying trays of goodies in their hands. As they walked towards me, I realised that it was The Beatles. They frequently adopted disguises to avoid being mobbed by screaming girls. They got in without being spotted and were running across the kitchen when Ringo tripped and his tray of cakes went everywhere, followed by the other three landing in a heap on top of him like a Marx Brothers routine. It was an awful mess, but they were so pleased to have got in with no trouble that they all thought it was hilariously funny."
Derek also recalled an amusing little bust-up backstage between the two biggest bands in the world: "There was a lot of argy-bargy between Andrew Loog Oldham [The Rolling Stones’ manager] and Brian Epstein. It all seemed to be about who closed the show. There was some sort of contractual dispute with ABC-TV who were filming the event – to the effect that the last band to play would not be filmed, and thus would not appear in the TV broadcast."
This meant that the last band on stage would miss out on a stack-load of promotion, which was worth a fortune in record revenues. But the last act on stage would also bag all of the glory – as the best band in Britain. So faced with the choice of either making money or getting the glory… they naturally chose the money! So the two managers were literally fighting over who should come second! Unfortunately for Brian, The Beatles won (or lost), and had to close the show.
But that wasn’t the end of it, because Maurice Kinn recalled: "Halfway through The Stones’ set, the four Beatles arrived at the foot of the stage, with their guitars in hand, and I told them they were 25 minutes early, but Lennon insisted that they were going on. I said they couldn’t and John shouted, ‘Didn’t you hear me the first time? We’re going on now, or we’re not going on at all.’ In a rapidly convened huddle with Brian Epstein, I outlined my dilemma, that I had promised The Stones, in writing, that The Beatles would not follow them immediately onto the stage. I had arranged for the awards presentation to come between the two acts and explained to Brian that if The Beatles did not come on at the previously arranged time, then I would be left with no option but to send MC Jimmy Saville on stage to explain to 10,000 NME readers that The Beatles were in the stadium but they weren’t going to play. I explained to him very clearly what would happen then. There would be a riot! Half of Wembley would be destroyed and Wembley and the NME would both sue Epstein. Brian conveyed this to The Beatles and John absolutely exploded! He gave me abuse like you’ve never heard before in all your life. You could hear him all over the backstage area. He said, ‘We’ll never play for you again!’ But he knew he had no choice. Fifteen minutes later, The Beatles went on stage, collected their awards and played the show."
Johnny Walters said: "We stood on boxes and peered through slats to watch them. The screaming was like a blanket of white noise. The only music I actually remember hearing was the guitar intro to Day Tripper, then it all disappeared into the screaming. When their 20-minute set ended, The Beatles raced off stage with their NME awards in their hands, and ran down the ramps towards the limo that was already revving up, and they literally threw the awards to their assistants (Neil and Mal) who seemed to be waiting there for exactly that purpose. Then they were into the car and it moved off with the doors still flapping."
The text was taken from this book.
Three of the photos presented here recently showed up, courtesy of american fan Nancy Wilkins. Visit this website to see her story and also bigger versions of the photos.