The Beatles live: Cow Palace, San Francisco

Although they had performed shows in New York, Washington DC and Miami in February 1964, this was The Beatles’ first proper tour of America.

The Beatles live at Cow Palace, San Francisco, 19 August 1964

On tour that year, it was crazy. Not within the band. In the band we were normal, and the rest of the world was crazy.

Everywhere we went, the police were putting on their display. Everybody got into the mania. You could make a film, just showing how idiotic everybody else was whenever The Beatles came to town.

In America, the police would be directing the traffic. They’d drive ahead of the motorcade; they’d come to a crossroads, put both hands up and blow their whistles. Then another bike would pass and go to the next link, but they’d all try to be flash, going in and out and racing up the road. They loved the feeling of: ‘It’s the President coming!’ But they were all crashing, falling off. It was happening everywhere – even in Sweden! Wherever we went it was that kind of thing.

The tour began with a show at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, California. The Beatles performed 12 songs: ‘Twist And Shout’, ‘You Can’t Do That’, ‘All My Loving’, ‘She Loves You’, ‘Till There Was You’, ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, ‘If I Fell’, ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, ‘Boys’, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, and ‘Long Tall Sally’.

All 17,130 tickets sold out, and the venue was almost full by 7pm, an hour prior to The Beatles’ set. Gate receipts amounted to $91,670. Of this the group took away $47,600 gross.

The other acts on the bill, and throughout the tour, were, in order of appearance, The Bill Black Combo, The Exciters, The Righteous Brothers and Jackie DeShannon. Showtime was 8pm, and The Beatles took to the stage at 9.20pm wearing dark blue suits.

Their Cow Palace performance lasted just 29 minutes, and was stopped twice due to the numbers of jelly beans being thrown at The Beatles. Afterwards they were transported by ambulance (their limousine was besieged by Beatles’ fans) to the airport and on to their next concert in Las Vegas.

Nineteen girls required first aid during the concert, one boy dislocated his shoulder, 50 fans were hurt and two were arrested. A further fifty were prevented from invading the stage.

At the end of the show The Beatles dropped their instruments, ran for their car and disappeared for their hotel. Their limousine was surrounded by fans, so they were taken back to their hotel in an ambulance. They returned to their hotel, but left soon after to fly to Las Vegas for the next day’s show.

We just can’t get out on our own – but we had seventeen years of being able to walk to the shops. Occasionally, one of us slips out on his own and we take a chance there, because people think we travel in fours all the time. When they see us on our own, they often don’t recognise us.

People think fame and money bring freedom, but they don’t. We’re more conscious now of the limitations it places on us rather than the freedom. We still eat the same kind of food as we did before, and have the same friends. You don’t change things like that overnight. We can’t even spend the allowance we get, because there’s nothing to spend it on. What can you spend on in a room?

When you’re on tour, you exist in this kind of vacuum all the time. It’s work, sleep, eat and work again. We work mad hours, really, but none of us would have it any other way. When I look back, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t in the business – it seems years to me, now.

The Beatles returned to San Francisco’s Cow Palace on one other occasion, 31 August 1965.

Last updated: 24 January 2024
Travel: London to San Francisco
The Beatles live: Convention Center, Las Vegas
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