The Paul McCartney Project

NME Annual Poll-Winners' All-Star Concert • Sunday, May 1, 1966

ConcertBy The Beatles
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United Kingdom
Empire Pool

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From Beatles Bible:

Although they famously performed on the rooftop of Apple in January 1969, 1 May 1966 was The Beatles’ final scheduled live appearance in Britain.

It was their fourth appearance at the New Musical Express Annual Poll-Winners’ All-Star Concert, which took place at the Empire Pool in Wembley, London. The Beatles performed before an audience of 10,000. […]

From The Independent, January 6, 2006:

[…] 1966 is also the year in which, before 10,000 of Britain’s wildest screamagers, quite possibly the greatest gig ever took place at the Empire Pool, Wembley .That gig was the New Musical Express Poll-winners concert and it boasted a line-up never matched before or since.

Headlined by the Beatles, it featured the Rolling Stones, The Who, Dusty Springfield, the Yardbirds, the Walker Brothers, Roy Orbison, the Spencer Davis Group with Stevie Winwood, Cliff Richard, the Shadows, Herman’s Hermits and the Small Faces, all playing short sets of their current hits.

The reason this concert is not enshrined in mythology alongside other famous live events such as Woodstock or Live Aid is probably down to the fact that, thanks to a row at the previous year’s gig, neither the Beatles nor the Stones would allow their performances to be filmed. It had become a tradition that the show was televised nationally by ABC-TV on the weekend following the event, usually under the title Big Beat, and such was the case in 1965.

However, there had been a backstage row between Mick Jagger and John Lennon over who should headline. The Stones were performing off the back of three number ones in a row and Jagger had insolently declared that that made his band the biggest. Lennon had turned the air blue, enraged at Jagger’s ingratitude after all the help the Beatles had given the nascent Stones (even penning “I Wanna Be Your Man” to help them get into the charts). Jagger insisted he would pull the Stones out of the show if they didn’t headline and was crestfallen when NME proprietor Maurice Kinn reminded him he would be in breach of contract with ABC if he did so.

The upshot was that the Beatles won the day, though, characteristically, Lennon then decided it would be far too dangerous for his band to finish the show as the audience would gather outside the venue and tear them apart. So it was that the Kinks closed the ’65 show and, when it came to 1 May 1966, neither the Beatles nor the Stones would allow the cameras to capture their performances. […]

NME’s Alan Smith reported [the Beatles performance] this way: “John stood astride in the familiar Lennon style, shoved on a pair of brown sunglasses with familiar Lennon panache, and belted straight into the vocal of ‘I Feel Fine’. The screaming seemed to reach the kind of level that only dogs and A&R men could hear.

“George’s composition ‘If I Needed Someone’… then Paul charged at the microphone and screamed out the opening lines of his raver ‘I’m Down’. This one belted along with the express train rhythm of a Euston to Liverpool express with Ringo the engineer – until finally it screeched to a halt and the Beatles were disappearing down a hatch and away, not to be seen again.”

We should add one word to that. “Ever.” The Beatles never played live before a British audience again.

Photo of BEATLES, L-R. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison (with Gibson SG guitar), Ringo Starr performing live onstage at NME Poll Winners concert - Credits: Cummings Archives
Photo of BEATLES, L-R. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison (with Gibson SG guitar), Ringo Starr performing live onstage at NME Poll Winners concert – Credits: Cummings Archives

Last updated on April 22, 2019

Empire Pool

This was the 4th concert played at Empire Pool.

A total of 7 concerts have been played there • 1963Apr 21st1964Apr 26th1965Apr 11th1966May 1st1976Oct 19thOct 20thOct 21st

Setlist for the concert





I'm Down

Written by Lennon - McCartney


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