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.
John Lennon, 1974

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.

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8 responses on “Live: Mid-South Coliseum, Memphis

  1. Fletcher Terry

    I was at the evening show and witnessed the cherry bomb incident. Was watching Paul and noticed the his eyes darted towards JL as soon as the cherry bomb went off. To his credit, Paul was able to continue playing without a hitch. Scary! No wonder they quit touring!!

  2. Kat

    Does anyone know if they appeared on a radio program around this time? My dad used to say that he won a radio call in and was able to talk to Lennon and McCartney about the controversy.

  3. Joe

    I was at the night show on August 19 at the Mid-South Coliseum. Contrary to what many people say, the cherry bomb was not thrown on the stage. I had center seats near the stage, and when the cherry bomb exploded I looked to my left and the cops were hauling away some guy about 75 feet or so from the stage. All I remember is that the Beatles seemed to duck in time and did not miss a beat on If I Needed Someone. Great show.

  4. larry cornett

    I was at the evening show. The picture taken of them on stage shows me looking under the guard rail just above Pauls head. I was 16 years old then. I am 66 now. My brother was in the audience in front.

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