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The Beatles’ only San Diego concert was 55 years ago this week: Here’s what happened, on stage and off

8/28/1965: Beatles press conference in San Diego at Balboa Stadium.
Three of the four Beatles are shown at the band’s Aug. 28, 1965, press conference at San Diego’s Balboa Stadium. From left, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. George Harrison, not shown, was seated next to McCartney.
(File photo by Chuck Boy / San Diego Historical Society/The San Diego Union Tribune Collection)

How much did The Beatles get paid for their San Diego concert? How much Kentucky Fried Chicken did they have backstage? Here are the answers

What happened when The Beatles performed at Balboa Stadium on Aug. 28, 1965?

What transpired before, during and after the world’s most famous and influential rock band took the stage for the only time in San Diego?

And exactly how many buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken did their contract stipulate be provided backstage?

Your mother (or grandmother) should know.

If not, here are the answers to these and other questions about The Beatles’ sole San Diego concert. (If you attended and want to share your fab memories of the show for possible publication, email george.varga@sduniontribune.com. Please include your age at the time of the concert and the area you currently live in.)

Last-minute addition: The band’s San Diego concert was added so belatedly to the Fab Four’s tour that it did not appear on the band’s original 16-show, nine-city itinerary. The performance here was squeezed in just after The Beatles took some vacation days in Los Angeles and just before their Aug. 29 and 30 shows at the Hollywood Bowl.

Had all gone as originally planned a year earlier, The Beatles would have opened their 1964 tour at Balboa Stadium. Instead the band’s 1965 concert here was the first — and last — time the band performed in San Diego.

The venue: Balboa Stadium, located adjacent to San Diego High School and San Diego City College, was built in 1914 for the Panama-California Exposition. It was the home of the San Diego Chargers from 1961 until 1967. Much of the stadium was torn down in 1979.

The Beatles were the first rock band to headline there in 1965. Many more followed, including The Doors, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Elton John, Yes and Fleetwood Mac.

Attendance: 17,013 fans were at The Beatles’ concert here.

Unsold tickets: 10,001.

Ticket prices: $3.50, $4.50 and $5.50 each.

Payment: The Beatles were guaranteed a minimum of $50,000, plus a percentage of ticket sales. Because attendance was so low, the band’s total payment was $50,135.17.

The promoters: The concert was produced by Richard Knoth and Dick Meads, in conjunction with Lou Robbins. “It was our first and last production,” Knoth told the San Diego Union in 1984.

“Our share (of the profits) was $750 each. We put up the $50,000 guarantee against the gate revenue, whichever was greater. At the last minute, it was suddenly made clear the check had to be presented to them in advance, or they would not go on. That was not in our planning.”

Opening acts: Cannibal and The Headhunters, Brenda Holloway, Sounds Incorporated and King Curtis, with the Discotheque Dancers.

Pre-concert news conference: About 100 or so media members were in attendance, including then-local TV talk show host Regis Philbin and radio/TV personality Wink Martindale.

Best line at press conference: “We are agnostics,” said Paul McCartney, in response to a question, “so there is no point in being irreverent.” (See below for the San Diego Union’s complete article on the press conference).

The Beatles’ Balboa Stadium set list: “Twist and Shout,” “She’s a Woman,” “I Feel Fine,” “Dizzy Miss Lizzy,” “Ticket to Ride,” “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Baby’s in Black,” “I Wanna Be Your Man,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Help!” and “I’m Down.”

Near-warp speed: From start to finish, The Beatles’ San Diego concert lasted all of 31 minutes.

Critical response: “The sound worse than death roared in Balboa Stadium last night but it really wasn’t as bad as all that,” read a review in the San Diego Union.

“Two years ago it was the new sound, the thump music with a beat from down under. Last night, the sound was as good — or as bad (depending on your viewpoint) — as ever.”

A matter of record: A chapter is devoted to The Beatles’ Balboa Stadium concert in the 2014 book “Some Fun Tonight! The Backstage Story of How the Beatles Rocked America: The Historic Tours of 1964-1966.” It was written by San Diego State and University of San Diego alum Chuck Gunderson.

Backstage: The Beatles, as per their contract, were provided with one rented piano; two cases of soda pop; two tubs of Kentucky Fried Chicken; three portable TV sets; four cots and sets of clean sheets; five 1-gallon bottles of water; 10 dozen paper cups and 24 assorted sandwiches. The total cost for their backstage food: $33.96.

“At the end of the concert, they were gone instantly,” Richard Knoth, the show’s co-promoter, told the San Diego Union in 1984. “I don’t think they stopped to eat the chicken.”

Delayed departure: The Beatles had a motor home to drive them from Balboa Stadium after their concert concluded. But all did not go according to plan. The vehicle broke down as the band was about to embark. Two San Diego police officers got under the motor home and repaired it.

Sound system rental: $725.20

Stage construction: $249

Tips to stage crew, policemen and firemen: $130

Nurses at stadium: $40

Ambulance service at stadium: $25

House light man: $20

The complete press conference

The Beatles were front-page news around the world in 1965. But not in San Diego, where coverage of their Balboa Stadium press conference appeared on (ahem!) page A-27.

‘AUDIENCE’ FOR PRESS: Beatles Quip At a Fast Clip

By Beverly Beyette / The San Diego Union, Aug. 29, 1965

First came Ringo, the nervous one in the black velvet vest and Paul the friendly one in the gold and gray striped coat.

“We’ll just grab the best seat,” quipped Paul. Then he and Ringo laughed. Just because they like to laugh.

Ringo puffed nervously on his cigarette, squinted out of the blue eyes that just show under the Beatle bob, and laid his skinny sun glasses on the table.

George, wearing a black poplin jacket over a white crocheted shirt, and puffing on a cigarette, took his place to the right of Paul.

POINTY-TOE BOOTS

John, wearing a pale blue cotton jacket over a black T-shirt, took his place at Ringo’s right and wrapped his feet in their pointy-toe boots around the rungs of his chair.

He tilted his head back a bit to see out from under the light brown hair that looks almost like a comic wig.

The Beatles were meeting the press. The Beatles don’t have press conferences exactly - they hold audiences. It would be easier to get invited to tea at Buckingham Palace.

AUDIENCE DESCRIBED

A Beatle audience goes something like this:

Q. John - What were you really trying to say in your book? Why don’t people understand it?

A. I understand it. If I wrote in normal spelling there would be no point in writing. I’m not saying anything. There’s no message.

(The high-pitched shrieks from inside Balboa Stadium can be heard just a few hundred yards away.)

The BeatIes shrugged. “We expect that!” they say, unconcerned.

Q. Do you think you are playing a joke on American kids?

John answers. John does most of the talking.

A. “We look on this as more of a joke than anything. But we wouldn’t make music if we didn’t like it. You’ll find us playing in our hotel rooms.”

Q. Where did you find your sound?

George answers. “We don’t find sounds. We make them.”

Q. How much longer do you think you will last?

George, wryly, “About 30 years.”

Q. Do you think you deserve to be made members of the Order of the British Empire?

“A lot more than a lot of people that get it,” says John.

Q. About the Rolling Stones and the Dave Clark Five and the others ... do you consider them a threat to your popularity?

Paul: “But we’ve got our little skate boards for our hotel rooms.”

Q. You’ve admitted to being agnostics. Are you also irreverent, as has been said?

Paul: “We are agnostics, so there is no point in being irreverent.”

Q. Why do you wear your hair so long?

John: “You like yours short, we like ours long.”

“Da-da-da-da-da-da!” sings out Paul. He and Ringo tap their feet and do a little ditty over that one.

The press conference is over. The shrieks grow louder. The irreverent ones are gone.


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