It was 51 years ago that The Fab Four came to play Hollywood (again)
What was your first concert? Was it so seminal that 50 years later rock writers seek you out to pick through your memories? Personally, I know that will never happen to me: mine was Grand Funk Railroad with opening act Suzi Quatro at Madison Square Garden in 1974. But for a very lucky batch of teenage girls – and a smattering of boys, parents and celebrities – it was The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl in August 1965.
[Apple Corps Ltd. and Universal Music Group released The Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl on September 9, 2016, the 17-track set serving as a companion piece to The Beatles: Eight Days A Week—The Touring Years, director Ron Howard’s feature documentary. The new package is culled from The Beatles’ 1964 and ’65 shows at the Bowl. (Order it here).]
Related: Review of the 2016 album release
Following up on their groundbreaking 1964 sold-out concert at the Bowl, The Beatles returned for two performances the following year, August 29th and 30th. Tickets were $3, $4, $5, $6 and $7. Naturally, both shows sold out and with a capacity of just over 17,600, the band grossed $156,000 (almost $1.2 million in today’s dollars).
Back then, kids learned about and bought tickets through what today we call “traditional media.” AM radio station KRLA presented the concerts and promoters placed full-page ads in the Los Angeles Times, with a coupon that fans had to mail in on a specific date to order tickets.
And mail in they did. Fan and Beatles at the Bowl concertgoer Sharon Weisz remembers, “My parents didn’t subscribe to the Times so I had to go out and buy a copy, get my mother to write a check and take it to the mailbox. It couldn’t be mailed before a certain date so I had to wait for that. I asked for $7 tickets but got $5 and they sent back a refund check to cover the difference.”
Teri Brown, who worked with the shows’ promoter Bob Eubanks during this time, describes the ticketing situation. “There were no ‘real’ ticket outlets, and we were not set up for credit cards…. At the office we were being besieged with VIP ticket requests. Everyone from Frank Sinatra to the Mayor of Los Angeles wanted to be there!”
Finally, August 29th arrived. Teen girls showed up by the thousands in the fashions of the time, such as plaid dresses with white collars and cuffs, mod shifts, button-down shirts with skirts and mohair sweaters. Many wore hats and party shoes.
Steve Resnik, a music industry collector/historian and president of Radio and Music Pros (RAMP), explains that in 1964, KRLA had the Beatles to themselves. But in 1965, KHJ, an upstart competing station launched in April, was doing whatever it could to glom onto the hottest concerts of the year. Resnik relates, “KHJ promotion man Clancy Imislund sent every KHJ employee out to buy copies of the Times and mail in for tickets. They mailed in 1,500 coupons and were able to purchase 1,100 tickets. They were giving away more tickets than KRLA.”
KHJ didn’t stop there. Just as promoter Bob Eubanks was about to introduce the band on August 29th, Resnik says, “KHJ sent out a plane with a banner that said ‘Boss Radio KHJ Brings You the Beatles.’ Eubanks ad libbed, ‘Can you believe that’s coming from a radio station that can’t even afford a fourth call letter?’”
“Hullabalooer” Dave Hull, a DJ with sponsoring station KRLA, remembers, “KRLA was a conservative radio station. I know it’s hard to believe, but we did not promote any parties involving the Beatles. We tried to stay hands off because we didn’t want involvement with anything related to girls trying to get to them.”
Pity the poor opening acts: The footnotes-to-history King Curtis Band (led by the R&B saxophonist who played on a number of classic Atlantic Records tracks), Sounds Incorporated (who provided the brass accompaniment to the Sgt. Pepper’s track “Good Morning Good Morning”) and the Discotheque Dancers, Brenda Holloway and Cannibal & the Headhunters. Most of those who attended the shows have no memory of them, most likely because they spent their entire performances yelling, “We want the Beatles! We want the Beatles!”
The band appeared at 9:22 PM and, according to Los Angeles Times Entertainment Editor Charles Champlin, “Exactly at 9:55 the Beatles dashed off stage and a flying wedge of 10 policemen with nightsticks drawn escorted them to their armored car and cleared a path through screaming fans as it pulled away.”
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The set list was the same 12 songs both nights, a 33-minute combination of original material and covers:
Twist And Shout
She’s A Woman
I Feel Fine
Dizzy Miss Lizzy
Ticket To Ride
Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby
Can’t Buy Me Love
Baby’s In Black
I Wanna Be Your Man
A Hard Day’s Night
But those fortunate enough to be there didn’t hear much musical nuance. The sound was so drowned out by screaming that it took until 1977 for some of the material to make it out on the LP The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl. The release was delayed by primitive recording technology – three-track, half-inch tape recording, the inability of the band to hear its own performance and multiple recording glitches – plus of course all that screaming.
In the album’s liner notes, George Martin, describes “the eternal shriek of 17,000 healthy young lungs [that] made even a jet plane inaudible.” (Los Angeles Times reviewer Champlin called it “an absolute avalanche of shrill sound [that] penetrated everybody’s deepest molecules.”) Martin and an engineer were finally able to transfer the three-tracks to 16-track tape and get to work. It turned out that the August 29, 1965 show was virtually unusable, so the live album consists of performances from 1964 and August 30, 1965. The LP captures plenty of raw energy but has never been made available on another format, likely due to the undeniable quality issues.
Sharon Weisz, whose first concert was the Beatles 1964 Hollywood Bowl show, held during the week of her 14th birthday, also attended the August 29, 1965 show. In 1964 she had attended the concert with a friend’s father and his two children. In 1965, “We went with the same friends, except that my sister Robin, who was 13, replaced Michael’s father. By then, our parents had gotten used to taking us to rock concerts and dropping us off.”
That’s right: Between the two Beatles shows, Sharon and her sister had seen numerous other concerts, including two starring The Rolling Stones. “So we were seasoned concertgoers by 1965.” She adds, “In those days, it was rare for parents to be involved in their kids’ lives the way they are today.”
Weisz, like many 1965 Beatles at the Bowl concertgoers, doesn’t have detailed memories about the show itself, and absolutely none of any opening acts. “The tradition was to scream, so I don’t even remember any song differentiation or anything that was said.” She did, however keep a song list.
Because of the Beatles, Weisz began paying more attention to other bands and wanting to go see them. Besides the concerts, she went to tapings of Shindig and 9th Street West, a short-lived local music show on KHJ-TV. “They’d have bands from England and we’d try to get on the show to see them in person.”
The Beatles were also her introduction to the music business, which she has worked in for most of her life. Her W3 Public Relations has been in business for almost 40 years; in addition she currently manages musician Bobby Long.
For another attendee, then-13-year-old Theresa Dulcich, the 1965 Bowl show was a first-time concert experience. “I was a huge Beatles fan,” she says. “They inspired me to learn to play the guitar. I told my parents I wanted an acoustic guitar. I really wanted an electric guitar but I knew they would never go for it. Come to think of it, I would still like an electric guitar.”
Dulcich clearly remembers “seeing the Beatles climb up a ramp or stairs to get to the stage entrance, characters in beige Nehru jackets moving stealthily towards the stage. Most of the girls in the audience were screaming and I wondered if I was going to scream like that when the Beatles came on stage. I recall very clearly the moment I realized I was not going to be driven to that same state of hysteria. At some point during the concert, I tried to force a scream but it just wasn’t in me.”
Famed clothing designer and author Tere Tereba was a teenager who got a last-minute ticket and went by herself to the Bowl. She remembers, “I was all dressed up, going to my cheap seat, and I saw some people I knew who were in the expensive seats. They passed me one of their tickets and I sat in an empty box. Then these people came who were in their late 20s or 30s, of course they seemed ancient to me. They were probably lawyers in the music business, with their wives and dates. I was in their box and they came really late.” They were kind enough to let her stay in the box with them, where she remained for the duration of the show.
Did she scream? “Of course not!” she says. “It’s not dignified. Plus I was not motivated by the moptops at that time. I preferred The Rolling Stones.”
She adds, “For me it was a fun experience because of my seating. It was cute but it wasn’t incredible because they weren’t yet the Beatles that they grew to be, as their music became more complex. I was more entranced by people looking at me alone in my box. It just went on and on and nobody came. It was a crazy lucky thing that happened to me, the very beginning of many things like that.”
At the end of the show, Harry Tessel and Howard Adelstein wrote in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, “[Many in] the sell-out audience… refused to leave after the brief performance, in disbelief of the announcement: ‘The Beatles have left. Please go home.’”
Michael Keir was in college in 1965 and working at Disneyland that summer, but had a second job ushering at the Bowl. He worked the August 29th show and remembers, “They brought in a lot of extra people for that event,” primarily for crowd control. “Our main objective was to keep people from migrating within the Bowl. Usually when the program starts the ushers fade away because their job is done. Not that night: We couldn’t leave our posts,” although he notes that the crowd was well-behaved. “On other nights, ushers could go backstage but not that night. The whole production was just a different level.”
He describes the scene: “I’m sure there was an opening act, but nobody was paying much attention. I do remember that the Beatles were late coming on. It had we ushers up in the Bowl a bit anxious as the crowd got more and more restless and vocal, demanding to see the Fab Four. It was pretty much pandemonium the entire time. Everyone was screaming and on their feet. You could hear the music a little, but it was not a listening experience, it was a happening. It was kind of the same from start to end. There was a little chatter but it was mostly playing and this constant roar. People didn’t sit down at all. Then they went off and came back several times and then that was it.”
He adds, “My most vivid memory of working the Beatles concert was the contrast to an experience I had less than three weeks before of another night working the Bowl, when the Watts riots broke out in LA. What a contrast: one night of sketchy reports coming in about fires breaking out over the city, people rioting in the streets, shots being fired from freeway overpasses, wondering about the chances of being shot driving home [to Orange County]; and the joyous, raucous celebration of a night with the Beatles a few short weeks later.”
Beatles fan and 1965 Bowl show attendee Sherry Lutz Venegas kept a scrapbook (view here), a fantastic time capsule with meticulous descriptions of the day’s event, from her trips to and from the venue to the show itself. In it she noted, “Our first disappointment come when we did not get $7 seats like we sent in for, but $6 seats… Our seats were really far away, but after they came on we forgot about that; it really was worth the $6.”
She adds, “On the way home we heard ‘Yesterday,’ the new Beatles song. Paul sings and there’s no guitars or drums but a string quartet. It’s one of the most beautiful songs they have ever done. I do not think we will ever forget this night for as long as we live.”
During their brief time in Los Angeles the Beatles stayed in a private home in tony/rustic Benedict Canyon, attended parties and met with Elvis Presley. They held a press conference at the Capitol Records tower (read transcript here), where they were awarded a gold record for their then most-recent album, Help!, which had sold more than a million units in less than two weeks.
The 1965 Bowl shows were just two out of the hundreds of performances from the band’s grueling tour schedule. They toured relentlessly from 1961 through ‘66, finally giving up due in part to frustration – all that screaming! – and in part to get more serious about recording. (That sure worked: their next album was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.) By the time they quit the road, they’d performed approximately 365 concerts in 20 countries. That’s an average of more than one show a week, every week for more than five years, although more typically it was day after day of shows for months, with a day off here and there, and then a longer break before it all started up again. Take their 1963 tour with Roy Orbison, for example: for 23 days, they performed every day except two. Their 1964 U.S./Canada tour had 26 days on, seven off. In August 1965, they played 16 dates in 17 days, including five double-headers.
For those whose lives were touched by even one of those dates, the experience was unforgettable.
More recently, after a move from New York to Los Angeles and a long stint in interactive multimedia, Laura moved into internet/social media marketing for music and other clients. In 2012 she wrote The Cusp of Everything, a novel incorporating a full soundtrack. In 2014 she wrote and performed a one-woman show about online dating, All the Wrong Men. Currently she is working on a new show, My Life as a Shiksa, and workshopping her play, Worldly Possessions.