How Cincinnati forced the Beatles to give up touring for good


Fifty years ago this week, the Beatles were scheduled to play a show in Cincinnati on Aug. 20, 1966. Bad weather forced the band to postpone the show one day. That meant they’d have to perform an afternoon show in Cincinnati, then fly to St. Louis for an evening show.

The evening show was excruciating, and by the time it was over, the band was done.

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It rained quite heavily, and they put bits of corrugated iron over the stage, so it felt like the worst little gig we’d ever played at even before we’d started as a band. We were having to worry about the rain getting in the amps and this took us right back to the Cavern days – 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.’

I finally agreed. 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.’ I had held on that attitude when there were doubts, but finally I agreed with them.

George and John were the ones most against touring; they got particularly fed up. So we agreed to say nothing, but never to tour again. We thought we’d get into recording, and say nothing until some journalist asked, ‘Are you going out on tour?’ – ‘Not yet.’ We wouldn’t make The Big Announcement that we’d finished touring forever, but it would gradually dawn on people: ‘They don’t appear to be going on tour, do they? How long was that? Ten years? Maybe they’ve given it up.’

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. But now even America was beginning to pall because of the conditions of touring and because we’d done it so many times. (via The Beatles Anthology)

The touring process was a lot less organized than it is today – even for a band as famous as The Beatles. “Cincinnati was an open-air venue, and they had a bandstand in the centre of the ballpark, with a canvas top on it,” George Harrison said in Anthology. “It was really bad weather, pouring with rain, and when Mal 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.”

As the rain worsened, the Cincy show was eventually called off and rescheduled for the following day. That one decision was the final nail in the coffin. Damn you, Cincy! The Beatles decided they’d never tour again. And that’s a shame as the idea of seeing some of their later works live is enough to get any Beatles fan salivating.

Photo credit: MyNewsDesk.

One comment to “How Cincinnati forced the Beatles to give up touring for good”
  1. It’s hard to believe that as late as 1966, when everyone knew the Beatles were the biggest entertainment act in the world, that someone thought it was OK to transport them in a work van. A deliberate decision or ignorance?

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