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- Empire Pool
More from year 1966
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The Beatles paused their recording activities for the new LP (what would become “Revolver“) to appear on the annual New Musical Express Annual Poll-Winners’ All-Star Concert. This was their fourth appearance at the event. It was also The Beatles’ final live appearance in Britain if we exclude the performance on the rooftop of Apple on January 30, 1969.
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.
I was waiting for The Beatles at the back door of Wembley Stadium, where the kitchens are, when this big van drew up and four chefs got out, with the proper white hats and aprons, and trays of goodies in their hands. As they walked towards me, I realised that it was The Beatles. They frequently adopted disguises to avoid being mobbed by screaming girls. They got in without being spotted and were running across the kitchen when Ringo tripped and his tray of cakes went everywhere, followed by the other three landing in a heap on top of him like a Marx Brothers routine. It was an awful mess, but they were so pleased to have got in with no trouble that they all thought it was just hilariously funny.Derek Johnson – “New Musical Express” news editor – From “The Beatles: Off The Record” by Keith Badman, 2008
Halfway through The Stones’ set, the four Beatles arrived at the foot of the stairs to the stage, with their guitars in hand. I told them they were 25 minutes early, but Lennon insisted that they were going on. I said they couldn’t and John shouted, ‘Didn’t you hear me the first time? We’re going on now, or we’re not going on at all.’ In a rapidly convened huddle with Brian Epstein, I outlined my dilemma, that I had promised The Stones, in writing, that The Beatles should not follow them immediately onto the stage. I had arranged for the awards presentation to come between the two acts and explained to Brian that if The Beatles did not come on at the previously arranged time, I would be left with no option but to send MC Jimmy Savile on stage to explain to 10,000 NME readers that The Beatles were in the stadium but they weren’t going to play. I explained to him very clearly what would happen then. There would be a riot! Half of Wembley would be destroyed and Wembley and the NME would both sue Epstein.
Brian conveyed this to The Beatles and John exploded! He gave me abuse like you’ve never heard before in all of your life. You could hear him all over the backstage area. He said, ‘We’ll never play for you again!’ But he knew that he had no choice. Fifteen minutes later, The Beatles went on stage, collected their awards and played the show.Maurice Kinn, owner of the New Musical Express – From “The Beatles: Off The Record” by Keith Badman, 2008
Muff Winwood, of The Spencer Davis Group, and I stood on boxes and peered through slats to watch them. The screaming was like a blanket of white noise. The only music I remember actually hearing was the guitar intro to ‘Day Tripper’, then it all disappeared into the screaming. When their 20-minute set ended, The Beatles raced off stage with their NME awards in their hands, and ran down the ramps towards the limo which was already revving up, and they literally threw the awards to their assistants (Neil and Mal) who seemed to be waiting there for exactly that purpose. Then they were into the car and it moved off with the doors still flapping.Johnny Walters, trumpeter for The Alan Price Set – From “The Beatles: Off The Record” by Keith Badman, 2008 (From a Mojo magazine article by Johnny Black)
GREATEST POP STARS NME POLL CONCERT!
THE great 1966 NME Poll Winners Concert will be staged at Wembley’s Empire Pool on Sunday afternoon, May 1st! A tremendous galaxy of stars has been signed by Executive Director Maurice Kinn for the event now acknowledged as the greatest pop music show on earth. Several famous names have still to be added to the fantastic cast, but we are able to reveal the first list.
Booked are (in alphabetical order):
SPENCER DAVIS GROUP
Negotiations for their appearance are also taking place with Cliff Richard. the Shadows, P.J. Proby, Cilla Black. Sandie Shaw, the Walker Brothers, Chris Andrews, Donovan, Manfred Mann and Sounds Incorporated — but decisions regarding these and other top stars will be announced in future editions of the NME.
The May 1 concert commences at 2 pm and we are happy to announce there will be no increase in seat prices. These will be 30s., 25s., 20s., 15s., 10s., 6d. and 7s. 6d.
Tickets are obtainable only by completion of the coupon which appears at the foot of the first column on this page. Applicants must enclose a stamped addressed envelope with their remittance, stating an alternative price in the event of seats of their first choice not being available.
In order that readers from all parts of the country may enjoy the same advantage of getting best seats, envelopes will be placed in a huge drum at the end of next week and be distributed in strict rotation as each application is drawn out.
Successful applicants will receive their tickets during the middle of next month, but under no circumstances can orders be accepted by telephone or from personal callers — only from readers who complete and post the printed coupon in this issue.
Because every NME Poll concert since 1953 has been packed to capacity, readers wishing to see this spectacular May 1 event are urged to waste no time in rushing their applications.
Don’t be sorry afterwards – climb on the bandwagon now for the show of shows!From New Musical Express – January 28, 1966
Last updated on October 22, 2023
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