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The Beatles live: Candlestick Park, San Francisco: their final concert

Although they made an unannounced live appearance in January 1969 on the rooftop of the Apple building, The Beatles’ final live concert took place on 29 August 1966 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California.

There was a big talk at Candlestick Park that this had got to end. At that San Francisco gig it seemed that this could possibly be the last time, but I never felt 100% certain till we got back to London.

John wanted to give up more than the others. He said that he’d had enough.

The Park’s capacity was 42,500, but only 25,000 tickets were sold, leaving large sections of unsold seats. Fans paid between $4.50 and $6.50 for tickets, and The Beatles’ fee was around $90,000. The show’s promoter was local company Tempo Productions.

The Beatles took 65% of the gross, the city of San Francisco took 15% of paid admissions and were given 50 free tickets. This arrangement, coupled with low ticket sales and other unexpected expenses resulted in a financial loss for Tempo Productions.

The Beatles at Candlestick Park, San Francisco, 29 August 1966

Candlestick Park was the home of the baseball team the San Francisco Giants. The stage was located just behind second base on the field, and was five feet high and surrounded by a six-foot high wire fence.

The compère was ‘Emperor’ Gene Nelson of KYA 1260 AM, and the support acts were, in order of appearance, The Remains, Bobby Hebb, The Cyrkle and The Ronettes. The show began at 8pm.

I was the MC, and, as any Giants fans will know, Candlestick Park in August, at night, was cold, foggy and windy. The funniest thing this night was one of the warm-up acts, Bobby Hebb. He stood up on the stage at Candlestick Park, with the fog, and the wind blowing, and he was singing ‘Sunny’! It was tough anyway to work a ballpark as an MC, especially as The Beatles were taking their time to get out. I was trying to entertain a crowd that was shouting, ‘Beatles, Beatles, Beatles.’

The dressing room was chaos. There were loads of people there. The press tried to get passes for their kids and the singer Joan Baez was in there. Any local celebrity, who was in town, was in the dressing room. They were having a party in there. They were having a perfectly wonderful time, while I was freezing my buns off on second base!

’Emperor’ Gene Nelson
The Beatles Off The Record, Keith Badman

The Beatles took to the stage at 9.27pm, and performed 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 group knew it was to be their final concert. Recognising its significance, John Lennon and Paul McCartney took a camera onto the stage, with which they took pictures of the crowd, the rest of the group, and themselves at arm’s length.

Before one of the last numbers, we actually set up this camera, I think it had a fisheye, a wide-angle lens. We set it up on the amplifier and Ringo came off the drums, and we stood with our backs to the audience and posed for a photograph, because we knew that was the last show.

John Lennon at Candlestick Park, San Francisco, 29 August 1966

As The Beatles made their way to Candlestick Park, Paul McCartney asked their press officer Tony Barrow to make a recording of the concert on audio cassette, using a hand-held recorder. The cassette lasted 30 minutes on each side, and, as Barrow didn’t flip it during the show, the recording cut off during final song ‘Long Tall Sally’.

There was a sort of end of term spirit thing going on, and there was also this kind of feeling amongst all of us around The Beatles, that this might just be the last concert that they will ever do. I remember Paul, casually, at the very last minute, saying, ‘Have you got your cassette recorder with you?’ and I said, ‘Yes, of course.’ Paul then said, ‘Tape it will you? Tape the show,’ which I did, literally just holding the microphone up in the middle of the field. As a personal souvenir of the occasion, it was a very nice thing to have and the only difference was that it wasn’t a spectacular occasion. It was nothing like Shea Stadium, there was nothing special about it at all, except that The Beatles did put in extra ad-libs and link material which they hadn’t put in before on any other occasion.
Tony Barrow
The Beatles Off The Record, Keith Badman

Barrow gave the original tape of the Candlestick Park concert to McCartney. He also made a single copy, which was kept in a locked drawer in Barrow’s office desk. The recording has since become widely circulated on bootlegs, although quite how is not known.

At San Francisco airport, as our plane prepared to take off, Paul’s head came over the top of my seat from the row behind: ‘Did you get anything on tape?’ I passed the cassette recorder back to him: ‘I got the lot, except that the tape ran out in the middle of Long Tall Sally.’ He asked if I had left the machine running between numbers to get all the announcements and the boys’ ad lib remarks. I said: ‘It’s all there from the guitar feedback before the first number.’ Paul was clearly chuffed to have such a unique souvenir of what would prove to be an historic evening – the farewell stage show from the Fab Four.

Back in London I kept the concert cassette under lock and key in a drawer of my office desk, making a single copy for my personal collection and passing the original to Paul for him to keep. Years later my Candlestick Park recording re-appeared in public as a bootleg album. If you hear a bootleg version of the final concert that finishes during Long Tall Sally it must have come either from Paul’s copy or mine, but we never did identify the music thief!

Tony Barrow
John, Paul, George, Ringo & Me
Last updated: 24 January 2024
The Beatles live: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles
Travel: Los Angeles to London
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