From Beatles In Memphis 1966 (Misterclaudel mccd-075)
Mid-South Coliseum, Memphis, TN – August 19th, 1966
Afternoon show: Introduction, Rock And 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, Long Tall Sally. Evening show: Tuning, Rock And 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, Long Tall Sally
One of the most anticipated releases of the year, Misterclaudel presents the famous Memphis shows from The Beatles’ final tour. Both the afternoon and evening concerts were taped on reel-t0-reel by a young woman in the audience and have never circulated. In the seventies the Beatles’ sets were transferred to cassette, and in the nineties all six reels were copied onto studio reels. None of these circulated until the original reels went up for auction on It’s Only Rock And Roll last year. Misterclaudel negotiated with the winner of the auction to obtain a transfer from the original reels and were successful. The result is a one CD release which contains both Beatles sets totaling just over fifty-eight minutes.
The stop in Memphis was wrought with tension because it was the one date in the Bible belt, the region who reacted most strongly to Lennon’s comments about “Jesus” and saw many boycotts and bonfires burning Beatles albums and other memorabilia. The KKK made threats on Memphis television to stop the show “by any means necessary” and organized a protest outside the Mid-South Coliseum on the day of the shows. The setting off of the cherry bomb during the evening show stoked their already frayed nerves and was one of the deciding factors in their decision to quit touring after this one. EMI have confirmed that this show was not professionally recorded and this tape is the only extant recording made of the entire show, making this all the more valuable and one of the most important releases in many years.
Aside from the historic significance of these shows, these are rare, virtually complete sets from a tour that has mainly fragments and one amateur recording in circulation. The sound quality of both concerts is poor to maybe somewhat fair. The girl making the recording was far from the stage and the screams are loud, as to be expected on a Beatles live tape. The music sounds very distant, muffled and at times distorted. The afternoon show, which wasn’t a sell-out, begins with a local disc jockey whipping the audience into a frenzy by cheering: “Give me a B…give me an E…give me a T…give me an L…give me an E…give me a S!” (He left out an “A” somewhere). The Beatles take the stage and have a short tune up before playing “Rock And Roll Music.”
After “She’s A Woman” Paul says, “Thank you very much. Good evening…er, good afternoon. We’ll do a song by George, from the last album, called ‘If I Needed Someone.'” There are some speed problems with the tape during this track, but it stabilizes by the end. Lennon introduces the following song by saying, “We’d like to carry on with a number…with a song called ‘Day Tripper.'” Despite their difficulties in singing harmonies live onstage, this is one number they didn’t have problems with and they deliver a tight version. There is a cut while McCartney is introducing “Yesterday,” saying, “this is a song from Yesterday And Today…” The tape comes back in while McCartney is singing the first verse. Lennon’s introduction to “Nowhere Man” is difficult to hear but the audience reacts very loudly. The tape for the first show runs out thirty-eight seconds into “Long Tall Sally.”
The tape for the evening show has the same sound quality as the first. It begins with a tune up and the band saying hello before starting with “Rock And Roll Music.” After the second song of the evening McCartney says, “How you doing?…we’d like to carry on with a song off our last LP before this one…it’s called ‘If I Needed Someone.'” There is a small cut in the tape eliminating the introduction, and the cut comes in when George starts singing. The cherry bomb detonates at 1:20 in the track, and it is interesting that the audience react to it, but Harrison nor the band do not. They keep on playing and no mention is made of it on the tape. Lennon gives a dramatic introduction to the next song, calling it “Day…Trip-Per.” There are severe tape speed problems during the first minute of “Yesterday” making the song impossible to enjoy. After the tape stabilizes, the sound quality actually improves slightly through the end of the show.
The show continues with the normal songs in the set list, “I Wanna Be Your Man,” a great version of “Nowhere Man,” and “Paperback Writer.” Unlike the afternoon show, this tape has a complete version of “Long Tall Sally.” The tape ends with the band leaving the stage to the screaming of the audience of the sold out audience. Misterclaudel package From Beatles In Memphis 1966 in a single jewel case with thick cardboard inserts printed on only one sides as is standard for their releases. The front cover has a rare photo from the afternoon concert and the back has two photos of the band walking to the stage before the first show of the day. A grinning Lennon is very prominent in the lower photo as the band are surrounded by the Memphis police force keeping security. The CD is a picture disc with a reproduction of a news article reviewing the show. Overall this is, despite the sound quality, an important release which is worth having.
About a year after Misterclaudel released this, an article appeared in The Guardian in the UK by Colin Fleming:
They went out with a bang
Did someone throw a firework at the Beatles in Memphis – and did it end their touring career? Colin Fleming on the discovery of a remarkable lost tape of a seminal gig
In the summer of 1966, the Beatles had just recorded Revolver, rock’s first full-on foray into what a band could pull off in the studio. But they were still every bit a live, coming-to-your-town touring band when they trekked off for world tour number three. It was a tour that, in the wake of John Lennon’s claim that “we’re more popular than Jesus”, would lead to record burnings and death threats in America’s Bible belt.
Beatles obsessives have long talked about what happened on that tour, and in particular what happened at a gig in Memphis. Someone shot at the band, goes one theory. A car backfired, runs another. The general consensus, though, is that someone lobbed a cherry bomb, a powerful type of firework, at the stage, while the Beatles performed their second set. Depending on who you listen to, or which web chatroom you log on to, the Beatles stopped short – or carried on as though nothing had happened. Some people say the band were frightened by the explosion – they had mistaken it for a gunshot, each looking around to see if one of them had been shot down. Whatever the truth, collective decisions rarely come faster. As Lennon said, that was it. Last tour. We’re done here.
And then, late last year, word started going around: a tape that had long been hoped for, but no one really thought would ever turn up, would soon be up on the web. It turned out that two teenage girls had lugged a portable tape recorder to the Memphis show. There were already plenty of 1966 shows available as bootleg recordings, including a number from Tokyo in near-perfect fidelity for the era. But the Memphis gig was the stuff of fantasy.
If you collect bootlegs, as I do, you live for that moment when incredulity gives way to wonder. The tapes of the 1966 Tokyo gigs don’t inspire any wonder: they’re a good indication of how poor the band was throughout much of their final world tour. But when I first heard what has been dubbed the “Cherry Bomb Tapes”, after tracking it down online, I heard a group raring to go. These guys were up for it. However, once we get to If I Needed Someone, swagger turns to humility mighty fast. Someone does indeed set off a cherry bomb, or some kind of backyard explosive, and the men of the moment blast off into double-time, Lennon positively flogging his rhythm guitar.
With audible proof of the explosion comes debate. What, for instance, would have happened if that cherry bomb had never gone off? Touring was still a possibility for the Beatles, pre-cherry bomb. That firecracker is the sound of a decision, a ne plus ultra moment for a band that was already contemplating a seismic shift in how they were going to do business: in the studio, with rock’n’roll taking life as collage art, rather than the stuff of teenybopper caprices and the night out at the baseball stadium.
The Beatles’ alleged telepathy gets a lot of play in the assorted versions of their story – like George Harrison’s oft-cited remark that he wasn’t sure what “we” thought about God yet, as though thoughts passed from Beatle to Beatle without need for articulation. But to have the life all but scared out of you – to share that experience with three other people, and arrive at the same conclusion – isn’t so much telepathy as basic humanity coming to the fore. The band who get terrified together tend to retreat together, especially when their art is better served in doing so.
Let’s consider Pepperland, and how the distance from the band’s final tour to the experimentation of Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane was bridged by what went down in Memphis. Once that cherry bomb went off, with no need to worry about recreating their studio work on stage, the Beatles were free to tear loose. Before long, the rest of the heavy hitters would follow suit. The Stones ended up with the jumbled Their Satanic Majesties Request, while Brian Wilson, forever in heated competition with Lennon and McCartney, soon found himself going mad. Studio fever, almost. But the demarcation had been established. Touring was no longer at the heart of what it meant to be a rock’n’roll band. If what you did in the studio was big enough, you didn’t have to worry about whose town you weren’t going to next. It was all about the vinyl now.
The best bootlegs function as great lost masterpieces: the 1966 Bob Dylan show in Manchester was the classic live recording of his career, but languished in the vaults for 40 years before getting an official release; check out the Stone Roses live at Glasgow Green in the summer of 1990, when even their staunchest followers were wondering if they could still cut it. Most bands, if they’re lucky, have one great live album. If you want to know what those bands were really like at their best, you have to go underground.
The Beatles didn’t even really get their one classic live album, unless you count the patched-together Live at the Hollywood Bowl, from 1977. But the Cherry Bomb Tapes are much more than just a live recording. It’s not especially uplifting to hear a band playing as though they have just been shot at, and a lot of listeners will find their pleasure quotient ratcheted down by the sound quality. But what you’re really listening for is history, the sound of a collective, immediate decision. And while the historical cachet of bootlegs typically centres on their artistry, the Cherry Bomb Tapes are different. They’re about history itself, a distillation of a tall tale into the here and now, folklore becoming tangible. (Colin Fleming, The Guardian, Tuesday July 1 2008).