50th anniversary of one of the Beatles last tour show!
Today marks the day that the Beatles played their last show in Toronto Canada! It has been 50 years since, but that performance will never be forgotten. Chuck Gunderson, author of Some Fun Tonight! The Backstage Story of How the Beatles Rocked America: The Historic Tours 1964-1966, talks all about the Toronto performance in his book take a sneak peak of it in the excerpt below!
One year to the day after the Beatles last played Toronto, Canada, they returned to the city for two shows at the famed Maple Leaf Gardens—the only venue that hosted them for all three North American tours. The concerts would essentially be a repeat of their 1964 and 1965 shows, except for a change in their set list and stage clothes. It would also be the last time the group would rock the Gardens.
Harold Ballard once again succeeded in his negotiations with Beatles manager Brian Epstein and General Artists Corporation (GAC) to secure the concerts. Epstein was loyal to the promoters who’d gambled on the large guarantees required to present his “boys” during the first tour in 1964.
The Gardens owner had had an enormous influence on the venue’s financial standing, tripling profits by hosting conventions and entertainment acts. He was also innovative. Ballard was one of the first stadium executives to bring advertising inside the arena and was always seeking ways to expand the seating capacity. In one bold—and controversial—move to fit in more seats, he instructed workers to remove a large portrait of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. When confronted about his decision, he defended himself, saying, “She doesn’t pay me; I pay her. Besides, what the hell position can a queen play?” When the Beatles played the Gardens the previous year, Ballard had smelled an opportunity for profit, cranked up the heat, and shut off the water fountains, forcing the crowd to buy oversized soft drinks.
He was a master at promotion and knew from prior years that the Beatles would sell tickets. But this time, when seats were still available in the days leading up to the two concerts (and even on the day of the shows), Ballard had to scramble, printing up posters and putting them around Toronto in an effort to fill the venue. “See John, Paul, George & Ringo,” the posters touted. “Beatle tickets on sale here!” Ballard found himself fighting an uphill battle, as several Canadian radio stations banned the playing of Beatles records after John’s statement about the group being “more popular than Jesus” became public.
A few weeks before the concert, GAC’s Bob Bonis sent a letter to Maple Leaf Gardens executive Henry Bolton containing a detailed list of instructions that were to be strictly followed. Although a similar letter was sent to the promoters and venue management in every tour city, some specific requests were made by Bonis for Toronto. “If you have press coverage for the Beatles at the airport,” he wrote, “please keep it as much a secret as possible.” He added that, upon landing, a suitable place needed to be secured in order to “to avoid the crowds.” Limousines, a bus, and two trucks had to be present to meet the plane—and the trucks needed to hold all the equipment and be “locked at all times.” Finally, it was mandated that there were to be “absolutely no interviews at all at the airport … that means no tapes, etc.”
Read more by purchasing the book here.