Beatles’ Last Series: It Was 50 Years Ago Now

You say you want a revolution? Musically, The Beatles sparked one 50 decades ago — Aug. 29, 1966 — when they played their last official concert.

The set was brief — only 11 songs — and the audience was surprisingly sparse — in 25,000 tickets sold, San Francisco’s Candlestick Park was about half full. However, what makes this a landmark event in history is the Beatles, the most popular band on the planet at the moment, were creating the unheard-of choice to  focus   all efforts on studio recording and also retire in live performing.

In 1966, The Beatles had released an album expertly crafted with guest musicians, Revolver structures and studio effects that were pioneering. None of the songs from that record were played with this tour. The next few years would bring the masterpiece Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Magical Mystery Tour, the White Album and Abbey Road.   No longer burdened with having to try to replicate their songs on stages with sound systems, the Beatles were free to experiment, to push the bounds of what pop music might be. Additionally, it helped they had more time and the audio revolution had been born.

But what about The Beatles as a live Action?

For all of the reverence we continue to place on the songs’ legacy and the band, it’s telling that they aren’t remembered as live performers. Certainly, they had the chops — they honed their skills playing hours and hours of displays at Liverpool’s Cavern Club and in Hamburg. Along with their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 goes down in history as the most impactful rock performance.

But it became apparent very quickly that there was small The Beatles could perform. Travel from city to town and perform the three-chord singles for lovers crying so hard that they could not even hear the series — who needs it anymore? Not when there are strange new sounds to create back in Abbey Road studio.

The nit-pickers will say that the Candlestick Park show technically wasn’t their final. The Fabs did play on a rooftop in London in 1969 (again, revolutionary), but that’s more of a postscript on an amazing career. San Francisco in 1966 was the turning point that paved the way for the second half of that profession to even happen.

At a particular Dad Rock Minute video (above), Patrick Foster and Jim Lenahan, hosts of USA TODAY’s Dad Rock podcast, talk about this important Beatles anniversary.

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