The Beatles live: Mid-South Coliseum, Memphis

The eighth date of The Beatles’ final tour took place at the Mid-South Coliseum, Memphis, Tennessee, where they performed two concerts.

The Beatles at Mid-South Coliseum, Memphis, 19 August 1966

The Coliseum was able to accommodate 13,300 people. For the first show, which began at 4pm, The Beatles were seen by 10,000 people; the second started at 8.30pm and was attended by 12,500.

The support acts were The Remains, Bobby Hebb, The Cyrkle and The Ronettes. The Beatles’ set for both shows consisted of 11 songs: ‘Rock And Roll Music’, ‘She’s A Woman’, ‘If I Needed Someone’, ‘Day Tripper’, ‘Baby’s In Black’, ‘I Feel Fine’, ‘Yesterday’, ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, ‘Nowhere Man’, ‘Paperback Writer’ and ‘Long Tall Sally’.

The Beatles’ final tour was mired in controversy arising from John Lennon’s comments that The Beatles’ were “more popular than Jesus. Although they had sought to downplay the statement in press conferences and interviews, there was much opposition to them, manifested in record-burning, radio boycotts and protests outside venues.

The anti-Beatles feelings were particularly strong in America’s Bible belt, and a local preacher, the Reverend Jimmy Stroad, staged a rally outside the Coliseum. Six members of the Ku Klux Klan also picketed outside the venue wearing full robes.

During their second Memphis concert an event which subsequently became known as the ‘Cherry Bomb’ incident took place. A cherry bomb firecracker was thrown onto the stage. The Beatles each looked at one another, thinking a shot had been fired and wondering who had been hit.

One night on a show in the South somewhere somebody let off a firecracker while we were on stage. There had been threats to shoot us, the Klan were burning Beatle records outside and a lot of the crew-cut kids were joining in with them. Somebody let off a firecracker and every one of us – I think it’s on film – look at each other, because each thought it was the other that had been shot. It was that bad.

The concert was recorded by two teenage girls; the tape reveals that the explosion took place during ‘If I Needed Someone’, and The Beatles finished the song with increased urgency. If there was a single catalyst that led them to the decision to quit touring, this may well have been it.

After the show various decoy cars were used to fool protestors, but The Beatles’ coach was still surrounded by demonstrators. They were driven to Memphis Metropolitan Airport, from where they flew to Cincinnati, Ohio. They arrived at 1.35 the following morning.

Last updated: 24 January 2024
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