The day the Beatles decided to stop touring

Music 22/08/2017

On August 21, 1966 the Beatles decided to stop touring.

As Paul McCartney later reflected in the Beatles Anthology book, there had been talk among the band members about getting off the road for some time, especially from George Harrison and John Lennon but Paul McCartney thought it was best to continue.

“I’d been trying to say, ‘Ah, touring’s good and it keeps us sharp. We need touring, and musicians need to play. Keep music live,'”McCartney said.

But on August 20, the band’s performance at Crosley Field in Cincinnati was cancelled due to rain.

“Cincinnati was an open-air venue, and they had a bandstand in the center of the ballpark, with a canvas top on it. It was really bad weather, pouring with rain, and when [Beatles assistant Mal Evans] got there to set up the equipment, he said, ‘Where’s the electricity power feed?’ And the fella said, ‘What do you mean, electricity? I thought they played guitars.’ He didn’t even know we played electric guitars,” Harrison recalled later.

“It was so wet that we couldn’t play. They’d brought in the electricity, but the stage was soaking and we would have been electrocuted, so we canceled — the only gig we ever missed,” Harrison said.

The sho was technically postponed until 12pm the following, which came with a few problems. The schedule had to rearranged for the new time, the band started early the morning of the 21st, made the show, then had to travel nearly 350 miles to St. Louis, where they had a concert booked for 8:30 that evening.

“It was worse than those early days. And I don’t even think the house was full. After the gig, I remember us getting in a big, empty steel-lined wagon, like a removal van. There was no furniture in there — nothing. We were sliding around trying to hold on to something, and at that moment everyone said, ‘Oh, this bloody touring lark — I’ve had it up to here, man,'” he recalled. “I finally agreed.”

Instead of an official announcement, McCartney said the band members agreed to simply say nothing and finish their 1966 tour and put off the question of new dates with “not yet” until people finally figured out they had no intention of ever going back on the road. It was a decision that stuck and helped the group settle into the studio.

“That was the main point: we’d always tried to keep some fun in it for ourselves. In anything you do you have to do that, and we’d been pretty good at it,” said McCartney. “But now even America was beginning to pall because of the conditions of touring and because we’d done it so many times.”

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