50 years ago today, the Beatles took to the Chicago stage. This was no ordinary concert; in fact it was one of the most bizarre shows that Beatles reporter Larry Kane had ever seen! How many time have YOU seen cuts of beef thrown at a concert? Larry recounts his experience in his book, Ticket to Ride:
Chicago: What a city! Clean, organized, another great American melting pot, glistening on the shores of Lake Michigan and, with its great Midwestern flair, absolutely ready for the Beatles.
The flight from Milwaukee was the shortest on both tours, but we didn’t land where we expected. Scheduled to land at O’Hare Airport, the American Flyer’s turboprop touched down instead at Midway Airport. But the airport switch didn’t fool several thousand fans who had been alerted by a local radio station. The Beatles, all nursing sore throats and looking wan and exhausted, moved quickly down the steps to the waiting limousines. Our motorcade moved swiftly to the Stockyard Inn, a restaurant famous for its steaks. The inn was an old building with a variety of rooms. Four of us from the press corps enjoyed a meal down the hall from the Beatles’ private dining room. For once, we got to avoid the hot dogs and French fries of the concert halls.
It was looking like a pretty good day in Beatle-land until we arrived at the stage entrance to the Chicago International Amphitheater, which was adjacent to the restaurant. By September 5, it was obvious that jelly- beans, stuffed animals, flowers and stick pins were the most likely objects to fly in the direction of the Beatles. But how often do you get struck in the chest by a slice of raw filet mignon thrown by a young hurler in the tenth row? At least Paul McCartney saw the beef missile coming at him and avoided the surprise, if not the impact.
Correspondent Art Schreiber remembers the beef incident: “McCartney was just standing there, doing his thing, when the meat hit the left side of his jacket, splattering a bit of beef juice but falling to the floor, where George sort of kicked it out of the way. The most dumbfounded of all was Ringo, who stretched his neck out over the microphones on the drums to see what the hell it was. It was funny, and it was weird.”
The kids in the crowd were too occupied shrieking and crying and pulling their hair out to see the UFO (unusual flying object). In the crowd, people like Barbara Singer were swooning with delight:
“I had just turned fourteen. Miraculously, my father managed to snare a pair of tenth-row tickets to that concert for my sixteen-year-old sister and me. My sister and I were ecstatic when we took our seats on the night of the show. We were so close to the stage that we could almost touch the microphones that had been set out in front for John, Paul and George. The air was thick with anticipation as we waited impatiently for the music to begin. Finally, the Beatles took the stage to a chorus of screams thirteen thousand strong. My sister joined the frenetic crowd and began to shriek loudly into my right ear. I realized with dismay that the pandemonium around me was drowning out the sounds coming from the stage. Frantically, I begged my sister to stop screaming so that I could hear the Beatles. My pleas fell on deaf ears. My sister continued to squeal with the crowd throughout the set. Fortunately, somewhere between ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and ‘Twist and Shout,’ my sister overcame her frenzy just long enough to take a photo of the Fab Four with her Instamatic camera. We still have treasured copies of that singular snapshot, reminding us of the great- est concert that we never heard!”
Barbara’s sister and the thousands around her provided us with the loudest reaction yet to the Beatles. The amphitheater was small, and the screaming seemed to resonate as if it were projected into a canyon. I heard not a word of lyrics. I did get an eyeful of Beatles— though I had to venture into the crowd to get it. But soon I found myself pinned between the crowd and the stage. The situation was so very tight that I had no choice but to stand in place and watch. It actually turned out to be a wonderful opportunity to take in the scene. Here are my notes, which I scribbled on the plane later that night:
“Ringo. Beating the drums so hard. Wonder how he can hear what’s going on with the crowd noise. He keeps on putting the stick to the drums. Looks around. Smiling. George kicks the slab of meat off the stage. McCartney and Lennon face-to-face, cheek-to-cheek, almost in perfect harmony on “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” Girl behind me puts arms over my shoulders, reaching out to try and grab Paul’s shoes. Her face is pressed against the strap of the tape recorder. Cop has arms spread out to prevent movement toward stage. Paul looks down at me with an expression that reads, “What are YOU doing down there?” He smiles. Wonder if I’ll make the motorcade or get squeezed to death here. Breathing difficult. Sweating loads. Girl in rear crying. Is it pain or pleasure? “Hard Days Night” playing. This was a hard night. Being in the middle, between Beatles and fans, makes me feel closer to it—what- ever “it” is. Clarence Frogman Henry is standing near the stage, taking it in. When “Hard Days Night” is over, I start pushing and shoving to get out, but some private guard holds me back. I move to the other side and reach rear entrance. No chances here. I get to the cars before the Beatles. Neil brings boys to limo. Ringo jokes about flying meat. Derek looks pissed. Hope I never see this place again. It’s too hot and sticky.”