Live: Olympia Theatre, Paris

From this day until Thursday 4 February 1964, The Beatles performed 18 days of concerts at Paris' Olympia Theatre, on a nine-act bill, playing two and sometimes three sets each day.

The Beatles closed each performance, but shared top billing at various times with French singer Sylvie Vartan or America's Trini Lopez. They had just two days off in the run, on 21 and 28 January.

The songs in The Beatles' set were From Me To You, Roll Over Beethoven, She Loves You, This Boy, Boys, I Want To Hold Your Hand, Twist And Shout and Long Tall Sally, although for some shows, particularly the matinée performances, they played for less time.

On 16 January The Beatles firstly performed a matinee show at the Olympia in front of an enthusiastic sell-out crowd. In the evening they performed before an older audience. The Olympia was an impressive music hall, with a guaranteed audience in evening dress eager to experience the best entertainment Paris had to offer.

It was, however, somewhat ill-equipped for Beatlemania. Although the group's second performance was politely received, the venue's fuses blew three times due to its electricity system not being equipped for modern amplifiers.

On the first night, we had a bit of trouble because we suddenly found out that there was a radio programme just sort of plugging into everything. They had overloaded all the amps, and they all went 'Bomf!' They like the wilder stuff over there, so we stuck in a wilder number to finish off with.

Paul McCartney

Backstage there was a mob of French photographers eager for pictures of The Beatles. At one stage a fight broke out after one of them was disallowed from taking exclusive pictures. The trouble spilled onto the stage, and Paul McCartney was forced to stop singing to call for order. George Harrison narrowly avoided having his guitar damaged by the mob.

The police were called and the group resolved to allow no-one backstage for the remaining dates. Armed Parisian gendarmes ringed the theatre, and The Beatles left the stage amid an air of chaos.

Also on this day...

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14 responses on “Live: Olympia Theatre, Paris

  1. Vic Schmidt

    I was stationed aboard the USS Forrestal (CVA-59) in 1963 thru June 1965. On a ten month cruise thru the Med in 1964-1965 the Beatles came aboard the ship with a USO Show and performed for our crew of 5,000 sailors & marines. I am almost sure this took place in the harbor @ Cannes, France – though we also visited Naples, Italy and at least half a dozen other ports of call during that cruise. As I recall, this USO Show the Beatles were with was very much a rush-rush thing, we got VERY short notice of the show, and it may have been on a week-end. By everything I have so far been able to document about this cruise, this concert must have taken place while the Beatles were performing in France between Jan 16 and Feb 4 1964 – OR on one of the two day they did not perform in Paris on that trip.

    1. Joe Post author

      Vic – that’s really fascinating stuff. Thanks for sharing it on the site. I’ll see if I can dig out any more info, though would also welcome any details from other readers.

  2. Chris O'Shaunnessy

    Bernie Askem (my uncle), was a drummer with a band called The Initials and they also played The Olympia Paris on the bill in January 1964 (must have been one of the 9 acts). Other members of the Initials were Pete Fuller, Mick Law (Gene Bennett) and Tony Hobb-Ainley. All hailed from Brighton, on the southcoast of G.B. I’ve been searching for the press photos from these shows but to no avail – there was at least one with The Initials and Ringo and John Lennon just hangin’ out, presumably back stage at The Olympia. All that exists of these photos, to my knowledge, is a bad and distorted polaroid. There were others. They must have been taken before the “ruccus” mentioned in the post. God! I’d love to get my hands on them!

    1. Joe Post author

      Hey Chris – that’s really interesting. Many thanks for sharing with us. Hopefully one of our readers can help with the image. If I hear anything I’ll pass it on.

      1. Chris OShaunnessy

        Hey Vince,
        I only just saw these posts! Better late than never I guess, right? If you’re related to Bernie Askem, then you’re related to me! You can find me on Facebook.Cheers!

  3. Mick Law

    Hi Chris. I remember the picture well, it was taken by a press photographer, Bernie had the last copy and who knows what happened to it. By the way we were not on the bill at the Olympia, we were just pally with The Beatles and having drinks in the back stage bar. If you would like anymore gossip feel free to contact me, im on Facebook. Mick (GENE BENNETT)

  4. Rick Jones

    My dads name is Mickey Jones and he was Trini Lopez drummer and I have about 6 poloroids from their and my dad shot 8mm film footage which can be seen on the dvd world tour 1966 the home movies. its my dads home movies when he was bob dylans drummer but the beatles footage is on their.

  5. Jerry Anderson

    Jerry Anderson
    I was stationed at Camp Des Loges outside Paris and was at one of these performances..My best recollection is that
    the Beatles performance was very prim and proper in their black suits.They received polite applause for their work.
    Sylvie Vartan was a very sexy young ladie and good singer.Her boy friend at the time also performed but I do not recall his name.. However, Trinie Lopez with his song La Bamba was the hit of the show and brought down the crowd.

    1. Linda O'Bert Kidd

      My father was in the U.S. Air Force and was affiliated with NATO in Paris, France (1962-1964). My sister and I (at 15 years of age) also saw this show at the Olympia Theatre in 1964. Trini Lopez sang some of his hit songs including “If I Had a Hammer” to great applause. He was fabulous. Sylvie Vartan was exquisite in a sapphire blue dress with her short blonde hair. I believe she sang one of her hit songs, “La plus belle pour aller danser “. Yes, a group called the Beatles performed as well. We were familiar with their music and enjoyed the show immensely. Who knew they were on the edge of superstardom? What great memories!

      By the way, Sylvia Vartan’s boyfriend was Johnny Hallyday; he married her on 12 April 1965.

      1. Antonia Albany

        Linda O’Bert Kidd,

        My dad was too and we lived in Fontainebleau and went to Paris American H.S. in 63 and 64. I’m trying to gather information about the Beatles performance January 16, 1964. We went as part of some event sponsored by the dormitory, but I can’t remember much. If you have information about the show, please contact me. Thanks, Antonia (Toni) Albany

  6. Bryan

    Sorry Vic, but your recollection of the Beatles playing on the Forrestal can’t have been true, as their whereabouts and activities for every day from 1963 onwards are well documented, especially performances. The thousands of your shipmates would certainly have shared their memories as well, and the Beatles themselves would surely have fond memories of playing on a U.S. aircraft carrier just days before conquering the U.S. on the Sullivan show?
    Perhaps you saw a long haired band hired by the USO, and they played some Beatles song? (The Beatles were number 1 in the US in January 1964).

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