Music Article

The Last Hard Day's Night

The Beatles final concert -- The fab four took the stage for the last time 25 years ago this week

The Beatles' decision early in 1966 to make their current world tour their last challenged a time-honored article of rock & roll faith: All Bands Always Tour. The public explanation for the heresy was that their music had become too complex to reproduce onstage; their just-released Revolver album incorporated tape loops and string octets. That was really only half the story. In fact, Beatles performances had grown offhand and ragged because they couldn't hear themselves over the screams of their fans. Even more to the point, the pressures of fame had become unbearable. The Fab Four were exhausted. They were also bored with playing the same music every night. Said John Lennon: ''It was just a sort of a freak show.''

The show closed at San Francisco's Candlestick Park on Aug. 29, 1966, 2 1/2 years after the group's U.S. debut. They finished their set with ''Long Tall Sally.'' About three months later, they started recording the Sgt. Pepper album, and a revolution-ary new chapter had begun. The Beatles were more than ready for the change. On the plane after that last show, George Harrison announced with relief, ''Well, that's it. I'm not a Beatle anymore.'' And Lennon had a flip suggestion for their promoter, Arthur Howes: ''Tell him to send out four wax dummies of the Beatles that shake their heads at the right time. The kids won't know the difference.''

But at least one person is sentimental about that vanished era. Paul McCartney keeps the final-concert song list taped to his Hofner bass to this day.



TIME CAPSULE
Aug. 29, 1966

The Lovin' Spoonful were having a hot time with their No. 1 song, ''Summer in the City.'' At the movies, Michael Caine was living the mixed-up life in Alfie. Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls topped the fiction best-seller list, and peppy pig Arnold Ziffel was entertaining TV viewers in the new hit Green Acres.

Originally posted Aug 23, 1991 Published in issue #80 Aug 23, 1991 Order article reprints