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The English rock group the Beatles toured Germany, Japan and the Philippines between 24 June and 4 July 1966. The thirteen concerts comprised the first stage of a world tour that ended with the band’s final tour of the United States, in August 1966. The shows in what was then West Germany represented a return to the country where the Beatles had developed as a group before achieving fame in 1963. Those in Japan and the Philippines marked the only live performances that the band ever gave in Asia. The return flight to England included a stopover in Delhi in India. There, the Beatles indulged in two days of sightseeing and shopping for musical instruments while still under the attention of the press and local fans.
The concerts were well attended yet provided the band with little in the way of artistic fulfilment. The program was in the package-tour format typical of the 1960s, with two shows per day, several support acts on the bill, and the Beatles’ set lasting around 30 minutes. The band’s set list included their new single, “Paperback Writer“, but no songs from their recently completed album, Revolver. Often marked by poor playing, the shows highlighted the division between what the group could achieve when performing live as a four-piece with inadequate amplification, and the more complex music they were able to create in the recording studio. Concerts at the Circus-Krone-Bau in Munich and the Nippon Budokan hall in Tokyo were filmed and broadcast on local television networks. […]
… when London was the best place on earth and they were the best people to be, they had to do the one thing they wanted to do the least; they had to leave. It was summer and it was written in the gospel according to Brian that in summer they went out on tour. – Former Beatles assistant Peter Brown, 1983
Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager, had intended that 1966 would follow the format of the previous two years, in which the Beatles had made a feature film with an accompanying soundtrack album, toured in North America and select countries during the summer months, and then recorded a second album for a pre-Christmas release. Following the group’s UK tour in December 1965, however, the band members decided to reject the planned film project, an adaptation of Richard Condon’s novel A Talent for Loving, for which Epstein had purchased the film rights. The band therefore had an unprecedented three months free of professional engagements. The group resumed work in early April, when they began recording Revolver, an album that reflected a more experimental approach as well as the increasing division between the music they made as live performers. The band briefly interrupted the sessions to perform at the NME Poll-Winners Concert on 1 May.
During the early months of 1966, Epstein arranged bookings for the Beatles to play a series of concerts beginning in late June, in West Germany, Japan and the Philippines. These locations comprised the first leg of a world tour that would resume on 11 August, when the group embarked on their third US tour. When discussing a possible itinerary in New York on 3 March, Epstein had said that the Beatles were likely to play in Britain also but made no mention of the Philippines. Concerts in what was then Soviet Russia were also under consideration.
The band completed work on Revolver on 22 June and flew to Munich the following day to begin the tour. According to author Jonathan Gould, the Beatles would gladly have stayed in Britain rather than continue to perform in halls filled with screaming fans. The band’s dedication to completing Revolver, together with their lack of touring experience since December 1965, ensured that they were under-rehearsed for the concerts. Author Philip Norman writes that the knowledge that they would not be heard above the hysteria of their fans was another factor behind the group’s failure to rehearse adequately for the tour.
Repertoire, tour personnel, and equipment
Given the complexity of their new recordings, the band did not include any of the songs from Revolver in their 1966 set list. Author and critic Richie Unterberger writes that this omission has been interpreted as laziness by some commentators, yet it was in keeping with the Beatles’ policy not to perform any unreleased material. Their current single, “Paperback Writer“, was included, but as with the few selections from Rubber Soul they performed live – “Nowhere Man” and “If I Needed Someone” – the Beatles were unable to capture the intricacies of the multi-track recording in concert. The set comprised eleven songs and lasted just over 30 minutes. Aside from the introduction of “Paperback Writer” (in place of “We Can Work It Out“), it was relatively unchanged from the 1965 UK tour. “Rock and Roll Music” became the opening song, while Ringo Starr’s moment as the featured singer, “Act Naturally“, was replaced by “I Wanna Be Your Man“. The Beatles played “Yesterday” – which had previously been a Paul McCartney solo performance, on acoustic guitar – with electric group backing for the first time.
The Beatles’ entourage consisted of Epstein, press officer Tony Barrow, road managers Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans, and Peter Brown, Epstein’s assistant. Robert Whitaker, a photographer who regularly worked with the Beatles during this period, documented their time in Germany and Japan. In addition, Vic Lewis, Epstein and Brown’s colleague at the management company NEMS, joined the tour party in Japan, having helped arrange the Far East concerts. The band’s chauffeur, Alf Bicknell, was also present in Tokyo and Manila.
The Beatles’ main instruments were Epiphone Casino guitars for John Lennon and George Harrison, McCartney’s Höfner “violin” bass, and Starr’s Ludwig drum kit. After adopting the Epiphone as his stage guitar for 1966, beginning with the NME Poll-Winners Concert, Lennon continued to use it throughout the Beatles’ career. The band used new 100-watt Vox amplifiers throughout the tour. Harrison played his Rickenbacker 360/12 guitar on “If I Needed Someone“, while a photo taken by Whitaker shows that Harrison’s Gibson SG and McCartney’s Rickenbacker 4001 were also among the guitars they took to Japan.
Munich and Essen
The concerts in Germany were the Beatles’ first in that country since December 1962, when they played a New Year’s Eve show as their final engagement at the Star-Club in Hamburg. The principal reason that they had not returned in the past four years was the threat of a paternity claim by a young Hamburg woman. The 1966 visit was presented by Karl Buchmann Productions and sponsored by Bravo magazine. At the Beatles’ insistence, the venues were restricted to a maximum capacity of 8000 seats, which meant that Bravo was making a loss on the outlay for the tour. The band arrived in Munich on 23 June, exhausted from their recent work in the studio, and booked into the Hotel Bayerischer Hof, where they gave a short press conference. The support acts for the German concerts were Peter and Gordon, Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers and the Rattles. The latter were a German group who had performed on the same circuit in Hamburg as the Beatles in 1962.
The first shows were held at Munich’s 3500-seat Circus-Krone-Bau at 5.15 and 9 pm on 24 June. The Beatles wore matching dark green suits with silk lapels, designed by the new Chelsea boutique Hung On You. The 9 pm show was filmed by the West German ZDF network and first broadcast locally, in edited form, on 5 July. The Beatles held a rare backstage rehearsal in advance of the concert. According to musicologist Walter Everett, the Munich concert film shows the Beatles generally playing poorly amid the noise created by their fans, and humorously attempting to remember the lyrics to the final song, “I’m Down“. Author Steve Turner writes that the tour was marked by average-quality performances masked by riotous screaming, and that for the first time, the hysterical crowds were subjected to violent treatment and beatings by the host nation’s police force.
The Beatles travelled between destinations by train, accommodated in luxury coaches that were normally used for visits by international heads of state, including Queen Elizabeth II’s the previous year. After arriving in Essen on 25 June, they played two shows at the city’s Grugahalle. A correspondent from Beatles Monthly magazine described the concerts as “frightening” due to the police’s subjugation of the group’s fans using tear gas and guard dogs. The band then travelled overnight to Hamburg, where they stayed at the Hotel Schloss, a former palace located well north of the city centre.
Return to Hamburg
Their arrival in Hamburg was highly anticipated. It was the German audiences in Hamburg who’d spotted the group’s potential and had nurtured their development from callow adolescent hobbyists to battle-hardened professionals.
The Beatles’ return to Hamburg was viewed as a homecoming due to their past connections with the city. On 26 June, the band played two shows at the 5600-seat Ernst-Merck-Halle and reunited with old friends such as Astrid Kirchherr and with Bert Kaempfert, a German arranger and composer who had briefly worked as the Beatles’ producer. Lennon was heard to say during one of the Ernst-Merck-Halle concerts: “Don’t listen to our music. We’re terrible these days.” A scheduled group outing to St Pauli, the area of Hamburg where the Beatles had been based in the early 1960s, was cancelled due to the potential security risk. Lennon and McCartney nevertheless made a late-night visit to familiar sites along the Reeperbahn in St Pauli.
The band members had a mixed experience in Hamburg. Harrison later said that “a lot of ghosts materialised out of the woodwork – people you didn’t necessarily want to see again, who had been your best friend one drunken Preludin night back in 1960.” McCartney commented: “It was as if we’d mutated into something different and yet we were still just the boys. But we knew and they knew that we’d got famous in the meantime …” The Beatles had also tired of the generally inane questions put to them at press conferences throughout the German tour, with only McCartney attempting to humour the local reporters. At the between-shows press conference in Hamburg, Lennon’s impatience was palpable, leading a female reporter to ask why the band had become “so horrid and snobby“. On 27 June, the Beatles and their entourage flew from Hamburg to London’s Heathrow Airport, where they boarded a Japan Airlines (JAL) flight over the North Pole to Tokyo. […]
Last updated on April 22, 2019