The Beatles live: Forum, Montreal, Canada

The Beatles performed two concerts on this night at the Forum in Montreal, Canada, to a total of 21,000 fans. It was their only visit to the city.

Poster for The Beatles at the Montreal Forum, 8 September 1964

The group received death threats from French-Canadian separatists while in Montreal. Police sharpshooters were present at the Forum; The Beatles were nervous, but the concerts passed without incident.

We went to Key West from French Canada, where we’d thought Ringo was going to get shot. A Montreal newspaper reported that somebody was going to kill Ringo. Because they didn’t like his nose or something? Because he was probably the most British of The Beatles? I don’t know. Anyway, we decided, ‘Fuck this, let’s get out of town,’ and we flew a day early, instead of staying the night in Montreal.

Although by this time The Beatles were used to the chaos that came with their unprecedented level of fame, the incident nonetheless proved unnerving.

Some people decided to make an example of me, as an English Jew. The one major fault is I’m not Jewish. Threats we took in our stride. I mean, suddenly there would be a few more cops; but this was one of the few times I was really worried. We were playing the gig and, as always, I was on a high-riser. I had the cymbals up towards the audience to give me a bit of protection; usually I had them flat on. I also had a plain-clothes policeman sitting there with me. But I started to get hysterical, because I thought, ‘If someone in the audience has a pop at me, what is this guy going to do? Is he going to catch the bullet?’ I found this was getting funnier and funnier all the time, and the guy just sat there.

The other acts on the bill were Jackie DeShannon, The Righteous Brothers, The Bill Black Combo, The Exciters, Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry, and local group Les 4 Français. The Beatles took to the stage at 5.20pm.

The Beatles performed their standard 12-song set: ‘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’, and ‘Long Tall Sally’.

After the night’s second show the group were to have flown from Montreal to Jacksonville, Florida, but their Lockheed Electra aeroplane was diverted due to Hurricane Dora.

We got on the plane to Jacksonville, Florida. But we found that there was a hurricane hitting Jacksonville, so they diverted us to Key West, announcing, ‘Fasten your seat belts. The runaway isn’t big enough for this plane. We’re going to have to go in with full reverse thrust.’ This was on an Electra, a plane that we later discovered has a very high accident record. But we landed at Key West all right and had our day off there.
George Harrison

Despite being unannounced, The Beatles’ arrival at Key West at 3.30am on the morning of 9 September 1964 was seen by hundreds of fans.

During the journey Ringo Starr started a pillow fight in the first class cabin. The other Beatles and members of their entourage joined in, before a voice on the tannoy ordered them to stop. After each of them sheepishly returned to their seats, a grinning Paul McCartney appeared and admitted he had been behind the announcement.

Last updated: 24 January 2024
The Beatles live: Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Canada
Day off in Key West, Florida
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  1. Bongo Tuesday 12 March 2019

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