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The 1964 North American Tour
Part 5





Part 5


 
September 11: Gator Bowl, Jacksonville, Florida, USA
Mother Nature, clearly not a Beatles' fan, showed up on the tour in the worst possible way.


Set List
  • Twist and Shout
  • You Can't Do That
  • All My Loving
  • She Loves You
  • Things We Said Today
  • Roll Over Beethoven
  • Can't Buy Me Love
  • If I Fell
  • I Want To Hold Your Hand
  • Boys
  • A Hard Day's Night
  • Long Tall Sally

Odd Fact
"The American Guild of Variety Artists, a union that represents entertainers, threatened to picket the Gator Bowl unless the Beatles paid union dues. 'I have a directive from my headquarters in New York to get them into AGVA or they won't sing,' the Sarasota Herald-Tribune quoted union representative Al Fast of Tampa as saying. 'They can play their guitars but they can't sing unless they get right with AGVA. I can put a picket line around the Gator Bowl and the musicians' union will back me.' The band paid $1,800 in dues and initiation fees and avoided the pickets."


Hurricane Dora, a Category 2 storm, was heading towards Jacksonville. The powerful storm made landfall September 9th, and ended up causing terrible damage to the city. In fact, Dora killed five people and left over $200 million in damage.

In order to avoid the worst of the storm, The Beatles' plane was diverted to Key West, Florida, until Hurricane Dora left the Jacksonville area.

The four boys from Liverpool did finally perform in the Gator Bowl, but only after some political wrangling as well. In 1964, the Gator Bowl was segregated — blacks and whites had to be separated from one another — and The Beatles refused to perform unless that restriction was dropped. It was, and the show went on.

On the morning of September 11, The Beatles flew from Key West to Imeson Airport, where 150 fans were awaiting their arrival. Their aeroplane taxied to a private hangar, from where they were taken to the George Washington Hotel, accompanied by a police motorcade.

A press conference was held at the hotel, after which the band attempted to depart for the Gator Bowl. Around 25 police officers tried for 15 minutes to hold back around 500 fans, to allow the group to leave the hotel's parking garage.

Once in their car, it took 15 minutes for The Beatles to move just 25 feet, from the elevator into the car and onto the street. The police eventually formed a moving wedge of motorcycle outriders and managed to safely escort the group to the Gator Bowl by 7:15 p.m.

The Mighty 690 WAPE radio station sponsored the event, which was a part of the Beatles' first U.S. tour. Openers were Reparata & The Delrons, an all-girl group from Brooklyn; Jackie DeShannon; and The Bill Black (former bassist for Elvis Presley) Combo.

Other than the wild mobs of young girls, there was only one glitch. Before the "shaggy quartet" of Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lennon and Ringo Starr would go on stage, they required that newsreel cameramen leave the area. Because of an issue over royalties from the sale of the film, the Beatles refused to play until the cameramen left. Only then did they walk out on stage.

Despite all the heartache that follows a hurricane like Dora, the concert still boasted 23,000 attendees. Tickets were priced at $4 and $5.

San Marco resident Hal Kelly, now 59 and owner of Indoor Comfort Inc., still has his ticket stubs. Of the concert, he says, "It was Fab!"

"I was lucky enough to be on the 30-yard line. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to bring my glasses, so things were not all that clear. I could tell, however, that Ringo's cymbals and hair were blowing in the wind."

In fact, the wind gusts were so strong that Ringo Starr's drum set had to be anchored down to the stage.

Hal says, "They played a 30-minute set, but I don't think they did even 12 songs. Besides, I couldn't hear them for all the girls screaming."

Southside resident Kathy (Boyd) Quinn, now 56 and a retired English teacher in the Duval County School System, was just 12 and one of the screamers. Her progressive mother and older brother escorted her to the concert of a lifetime, and Kathy was beside herself with joy.

"At the time of the concert, the weather was still pretty bad and windy. We got to sit on the field, and everything was fine until everyone rushed the stage. I went right along with the crowd — a huge sea of people. My poor mother and brother were afraid I would be lost forever, but after a while I wandered back as if it were no big deal."

The concert went well but the Beatles whisked away to Boston, never to return to Florida. The next stadium show by a former Beatles member in Florida would not occur until April, 1990, when Paul McCartney and Wings played Joe Robbie Stadium.

Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band is scheduled to play at the Moran Theatre on October 18, 2014, presumably with Mother Nature's kind permission.

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September 12: Boston Gardens, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
John, Paul, George and Ringo landed in the Hub on September 12, 1964 to do a show at the old Boston Garden.


Set List
  • Twist and Shout
  • You Can't Do That
  • All My Loving
  • She Loves You
  • Things We Said Today
  • Roll Over Beethoven
  • Can't Buy Me Love
  • If I Fell
  • I Want To Hold Your Hand
  • Boys
  • A Hard Day's Night
  • Long Tall Sally

Odd Fact
"The Boston show was possibly the most violent. Fistfights broke out. Gates were overturned, plate glass windows shattered."


They were greeted at the airport by a swarm of screaming fans and a horde of photographers. Armies of swooning girls camped out at the old Hotel Madison hoping to catch a glimpse of their idols. Press from all over New England descended on the hotel that afternoon to interview the Fab Four, and when the Beatles took the stage that night, you could barely hear the "yeah, yeah, yeahs" over the earsplitting screams.

"They really captured everyone's imagination both in the U.K. And the U.S,." said Susie Kitchens, Britain's Consul General in Boston. "They came along at a time when the culture was changing so quickly, they were riding the tide of the '60s. And there was so much chemistry between the four of them. They were genuine friends who grew up together and shared that Liverpudlian culture. They were a natural boy band compared to many of the manufactured ones now who don't necessarily have that bond."

The Beatles stayed at Boston's Hotel Madison, adjacent to North Station and connected to the Garden. Prior to the sold-out concert on September 12, the group held a press conference at The Madison, an event which was infamously "crashed" by three college-age friends. Steve Small, Rich Hershenson and Charlie Kimball successfully finagled their way in, snapped photos, asked questions and even shook hands with John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Steve Small remembers, "I took a photo of Ringo and just before I took it I said. 'Ringo!' He turned, looked at me and said, 'Now, what newspaper could you be from ... with a Polaroid!?'"

Rich Hershenson remembers meeting the group, "Just being in the same room with the Beatles was beyond words. The icing on the cake was the fact that we realized that we could ask them questions!"

Charlie Kimball recalls, "We just had an intense drive to get in there to see them in person. They were the most famous people in our world, and perhaps among the most important in terms of how they influenced a generation, and more. But at the press conference, they were just real people."

The Beatles performed their usual set before 13,909 fans. Instead of throwing jelly beans at the stage (a no-no since their first concerts), fans threw confetti at the suggestion of WBZ-Radio. In addition to the confetti craziness, the fans were too loud for the Beatles to even hear themselves — another common occurrence at Beatles' shows at the height of Beatlemania. But as one announcer put it, the screaming girls were there just to see the Fab Four, not necessarily to hear them!

After the concert, the Beatles would depart for Maryland where the group was scheduled to perform two shows the next day at Baltimore's Civic Center.

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September 13: Baltimore Civic Center, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Two Beatles' concerts were held here in Baltimore, with each drawing more than 13,000 fans.


Set List
  • Twist and Shout
  • You Can't Do That
  • All My Loving
  • She Loves You
  • Things We Said Today
  • Roll Over Beethoven
  • Can't Buy Me Love
  • If I Fell
  • I Want To Hold Your Hand
  • Boys
  • A Hard Day's Night
  • Long Tall Sally

Odd Fact
from The Beatles and Me by Ivor Davis
"A large carboard gift box was hauled up to the Beatles' floor — containing two teenage girls."


It was important to look your best. After all, The Beatles were in town.

Today, it's hard to believe such things were important. But for four 15-year-old girls from Highlandtown, preparing to head into downtown Baltimore for a rock concert, such matters were vital. Who knew what could happen?

"In my mind, I thought for sure that Paul's gonna love me, he's gonna see me — in my little-girl fantasies — he'll know that eventually he'll marry me," explains Judy Comotto, now 65 and recently retired from running the continuing education program at Roland Park Country School. Just 15 at the time of the concert, she was a star-struck teen totally in love with The Beatles. "We were all dressed to the nines. Little girls dressed up for occasions back then, with the patent leather shoes and a skirt with crinoline and your best ironed dress, your hair was perfect."

Comotto laughs heartily at her memories, and at her teeny-bopper naivete. As do the "we" she refers to — four grade-school friends, tight as could be back in '64, and still close decades later. How close? Close enough that they'll be coming back to Baltimore from all over the Northeast later this week, to mark what they all agree was among the most pivotal events of their young lives.

"It probably changed our lives, liking The Beatles," says Luisa Girlando, also 65, who lives in Annapolis and works for an airlines telecommunications company, when she isn't arranging reunions with her thick-as-thieves girlfriends. "It opened my eyes — The Beatles were a whole new, different sound. We were four good girls, and this is the only way that we could rebel — to like music that everybody else thought was awful."

Comotto and Girlando have remained in Maryland, but their friends have migrated north. Nancy Quade, a retired research librarian who spent 16 years with ABC News in New York and turns 65 this week, lives in Brooklyn. Chris Quigley (then Chris Nizer), 65, spent 39 years teaching elementary school in the Baltimore County public schools. She's now retired and living in Newport, Maine. Although the friends have remained in contact (of late, Facebook has helped keep them connected), they rarely get together. The last time was 10 years ago, to mark 40 years since they and The Beatles breathed the same air for an afternoon.

For this weekend, Quade is taking the train down from Brooklyn, while Quigley will be driving down from Maine with her daughter (but only after watching the Orioles take on the Red Sox at Fenway Park). Their plan is to meet outside the Arena, on a street corner near the Holiday Inn where The Beatles stayed. They'll hug and reminisce, probably share — and take — a few photographs. Then they'll get back in their cars and revisit the old neighborhood — the point of departure for that glorious Sunday 50 years ago, when John, Paul, George and Ringo brought rock 'n' roll history to Baltimore.

Over the course of five decades, some details have become a little vague. Were the tickets $3.50 or $3.75? ($3.75, according to period ads.) Who else was playing? (Jackie DeShannon, Clarence "Frogman" Henry, The Exciters and the Bill Black Combo, according to most sources, although Quade is pretty sure there were six opening acts, including a local group called The Lafayettes). Was it raining that day? (The consensus is that it was overcast, but not raining.)

But most of the memories of the girls' Beatles Day in Baltimore remain as vivid as ever. It all started with Quade and a letter from across the pond.

"I got a letter from my pen pal in England with four postcards of these four guys, this was in November-October of '63," Quade remembers. "They were of The Beatles. She had always been saying Elvis Elvis Elvis Elvis, and then bang, she stopped and said, 'We love these guys, The Beatles. They're so wonderful.'"

Not that Quade was similarly impressed, at least not immediately. "At first, I thought they were totally weird-looking, with that hair. I thought they were awful. But I kept looking at the pictures. And the minute we heard the music — it was unlike anything else we'd ever heard — we were immediately hooked."

She introduced her three friends to the group, and they were soon hooked just as firmly. All four remember seeing The Beatles when they had their U.S. debut on the Sullivan show. When word got out that they'd be touring America in the fall, the girls decided it was their job to will the group into playing Baltimore.

Girlando, for one, wasn't above invoking a little divine intervention. "I used to drag Nancy — she was Lutheran — I used to drag her to my Catholic church, St. Elizabeth's, and I used to light candles that The Beatles would come."

Must have worked. In the spring, it was announced that The Beatles would, in fact, be playing Baltimore, at the Civic Center, which had opened only two years earlier. Ticket prices ranged from $2 to $3.75. The girls went for the best.

"It was a king's ransom for me, it might as well have been $350," remembers Comotto. "I did chores, I did whatever I had to do to come up with the money — including petty larceny out of my cousin's penny loafers."

The tickets soon arrived, and the girls were crestfallen. They got row Z, which sounded like a million miles from the stage. Copious tears began flowing.

"My mother called this guy, Doug something-or-other, who was the commissioner of the Civic Center, and raised holy hell," Quade remembers. "She said, 'These girls are such Beatles fans, and they sent in the very first day.' And he said, 'Put it into perspective. It's a giant arena, they're in row 26. It's not that bad.'

"We were inconsolable, because of those tickets," she says, able to laugh about it now. "I think she talked to the poor man twice. But we never did get any closer."

Eventually, of course, that didn't matter. They were going, and for weeks leading up to the concert, the four girls' little corner of Highlandtown was a full-fledged center of Beatlemania. When they heard the group would be heading by train to Washington, they went and stood by the tracks, hoping to catch a fleeting glimpse (sadly, nothing). They listened to their records and debated who was the best Beatle — Comotto and Quigley were Paul partisans, while Quade favored George ("I thought he was having deep thoughts") and Girlando was firmly in John's camp ("He looked rebellious, and I liked that").

Come the day of the show, Girlando's father, Mr. Joe ("a saint," Comotto remembers) drove Comotto, Quade and his daughter to the Civic Center, getting them there early enough that they could wait outside the Holiday Inn and stand guard.

Mr. Joe even experienced his own moment of Beatlemania, when a pack of over-adrenalized girls mistook him for a Beatle and gave chase. "They just about carried him away down the street," his daughter remembers with a laugh.

(Quigley went to the show with another group of friends, and paid for her separation from the group – their seats were a section farther removed from the stage. Then again, she got tickets for both the afternoon and evening shows, so there was compensation.)

As for the show itself? Well, here's the thing: the screaming was so loud, most of the predominantly female audience so hyped-up, that it was hard to actually hear anything coming from the stage. The Beatles performed for no more than half an hour. The four women are pretty sure the group played their staples, songs like "Please Please Me," "She Loves You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand," but aren't going to swear to it.

"Oh, it was noisy," Quigley remembers. "You really couldn't hear the music that well. As soon as The Beatles came on, everybody stood on their chairs. They were folding chairs, so your feet kept slipping through the back, and the chairs kept folding up."

Girlando, who would go on to attend hundreds of rock shows and even spend a couple of years working for a concert promoter, remembers being a little disappointed. "It sounded terrible," she says. "Everybody was screaming. And they really didn't sound that great. …I remember being a little let down by the concert itself."

Soon it was all over. The girls went back to school – Comotto, whose family had just moved to Bowleys Quarters in Baltimore County, started at Middle River Middle, while her three friends stayed in Highlandtown and continued on to Western High.

As the years passed, tastes would change. Comotto would remain a Beatles girl (although she politely declined a ticket offer from her son a couple years ago to see McCartney in D.C., offering to babysit instead). Girlando would turn maybe a little bit to the dark side, admitting "I think the Rolling Stones took over in my heart, because they were even more rebellious." Quigley would hold onto her Beatles ticket stub well into the next millennium, finally selling it on eBay a few years back for $350 (not a bad return on investment). And Quade…well, she'd enter her first year at Western a confirmed Beatles fan (which she still is), but experience a bit of culture shock.

"Luisa and I showed up at Western," she remembers, "with buttons on our bags saying, 'We Love The Beatles.' And the other girls had buttons that said, 'I like Jean-Luc Godard,' or 'I Love Francois Truffaut.' We were like, 'Oh my God, who are these people? We have entered another world.'

"They kind of ragged us about it. They all thought The Beatles were fine, but thought that we were ridiculously crazy over their music. The predominant form of music our friends liked was folk music; they kind of smiled at us in a tolerant way.

"Of course, now I'm sure they're bragging, 'Oh, we loved The Beatles.' But hey, we were there."

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September 14: Civic Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
The 21st show of the tour was held at the Pittsburgh's Civic Arena. For the city of Pittsburgh and thousands of local Beatlemaniacs, it was a day that would never be forgotten.


Set List
  • Twist and Shout
  • You Can't Do That
  • All My Loving
  • She Loves You
  • Things We Said Today
  • Roll Over Beethoven
  • Can't Buy Me Love
  • If I Fell
  • I Want To Hold Your Hand
  • Boys
  • A Hard Day's Night
  • Long Tall Sally

Odd Fact
from The Beatles and Me by Ivor Davis
"Ringo quizzed by the media about the condition of his tonsils."


Tickets went on sale in the spring at a cost of $5.90, and were available by mail-order only. This was almost double the going rate at the time, but the concert still sold out in a day and a half. The total take was $75,000, of which the Beatles were guaranteed $25,000 and a share of the gate. This was the first time that an act demanded and received a percentage of the gate as well as a guarantee. In the end, the Beatles were paid $37,000 for the show.

One problem encountered by the promoters was finding a place for the band to stay. Because of the fear of Beatlemania, no Pittsburgh hotels would take the band for the night, so they were forced to commute to Pittsburgh out of Cleveland.

By the morning of September 14, local radio stations KQV and KDKA had Beatle fans primed and ready for the happening. They spent the entire day of the show playing Beatle songs, along with updates on the band's anticipated arrival.

The plane carrying John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr touched down at the Greater Pittsburgh Airport at 4:36 p.m. They were met by a crowd of some 4,000 fans, many of whom had been waiting since morning. There were 120 police officers providing security at the airport, including fifteen on horseback.

Sadly, some "anti-longhairs" decided to protest The Beatles' arrival by throwing tomatoes at the band. Some people in the waiting crowd were unceremoniously given a tomato basting, but none of The Beatles were hit.

The Beatles were escorted from the plane into a waiting limousine. Accompanied by six police cars and two motorcycles, they drove off towards Pittsburgh. Over 5,000 teenage fans lined the Parkway West to see the motorcade.

Another 5,000 screaming fans were waiting outside the Civic Arena when the motorcade arrived at Gate 5. After settling in, the four Beatles attended a press conference, then enjoyed a meal before the concert. The Beatles used the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team locker room, which was finely decorated with items donated by Kaufmanns. The band members later commented that it was the nicest dressing room they encountered on their U.S. tour.

A paid crowd of 12,603 fans packed the arena for the show. The opening acts included The Bill Black Combo, The Exciters, Clarence 'Frogman' Henry, and Jackie DeShannon.

When the preliminary acts were over, the crowd was in a feverish frenzy, chanting "We want the Beatles." After a short break, KQV's Chuck Brinkman stepped up to the mike and proudly said, "KQV presents the Beatles." It was history in the making.

The crowd noise pretty much drowned out the music, but it didn't matter. They Beatles played their set to the delight of everyone in attendance. The show lasted a little over an hour. When it was over, the Fab Four were quickly packed into their limousine and rushed back to the airport for the flight to Cleveland.

This was the only time that the Beatles played in Pittsburgh, although forty-six years later, on August 18, 2010, Paul McCartney returned to play the Opening Night at Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center.

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Next stop ... Cleveland and The Beatles play The Public Auditorium ...



The Tour Continues







© The Beatles On Abbey Road — Posted here on September 24, 2014.











  








    






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