On August 22, 1964, the Beatles arrived in Vancouver to perform their first-ever Canadian concert at Empire Stadium.
They almost didn’t make it. According to a press conference given upon their arrival, the Fab Four’s pilot nearly cost them the gig thanks to some paperwork. Paul McCartney explained “there was one little thing” missing on the pilot’s documents, and John Lennon added: “We got [to Vancouver] and… had to go back.”
George Harrison wraps up the tale with the addition of one other hurdle that made the band late: “We were almost here, and [the pilot] turned ’round… went back… got a little thing stamped on his passport, and then…And then we came again. And then the police took us for a forty minute tour of the… of the city.” The band was facing 89 members of the press, and what resulted was a pretty incredible–not to mention cheeky–interview session, which touched on everything from the band’s interest in dating local teenaged fans to their smoking habits to their burgeoning movie careers. (You can listen to the whole thing here.)
The famous British rock quartet were supposed to stay at the Hotel Georgia, where they’d booked out an entire floor. Security was heavy, and the Beatlemania was full-force, with throngs of people crowding the streets hoping to catch a glimpse of the music sensations. A red and white banner welcomed the band, and screaming fans were everywhere. Thanks to their pilot’s paperwork problem, the band never made it to the hotel.
Over at Empire Stadium, the boys didn’t get to the stage until 9:23 p.m., thanks to the rowdy crowd; there were 20,261 people in the audience. Those screaming, crazed fans were no laughing matter for local authorities, writes journalist Allan Fotheringham: “For law enforcement authorities it was also a deadly serious exercise in crowd control, civil defense, and the protection of several hundred youngsters who literally risked their lives trying to get close to their idols.”
Master of Ceremonies Red Robinson of C-FUN radio recently reminisced about the historic night in an interview with the CBC. Robinson said that about halfway into the show he was tasked with going onstage and interrupting the concert to tell the very riled up fans if they didn’t calm down, the band was going to have to leave. Robinson describes what ensued:
“I walked out on the stage at the end of a number, and said: ‘We’ve got to back some people up, there’s been two kids crushed already, they’ll have to cancel the show.'”
“John Lennon said, ‘Get the F… off our stage, nobody interrupts the Beatles!’ And I said, ‘John, Brian Epstein [the Beatles’ manager at the time] sent me up here. And he looked down, and Brian’s giving him the ‘Hi’ sign, meaning let him do it, and he goes ‘Okay, carry on mate’.”
They ended up only playing 11 songs. Right after the concert, Paul, John, George, and Ringo were whisked away and taken to the airport, and just like that, the Beatles left Vancouver.
The concert was broadcast on the radio, so audio of the show survives to this day. Fire up the speakers and enjoy.
Featured image: Screenshot/YouTube