There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them”
By John Rowlands
Canada(Hollywood Today)2/10/14/–Many of us saw proof this week of how music and the impact of talent, style, fashion and meaningful lyrics can change a life forever. The Beatles 50th. Anniversary celebration of having arrived in America to appear on the Ed Sullivan show was as joyful as their music that will continue, as we all knew and saw last night on CBS Television, to stand the test of time.
I remember it well as an 18 year old freelance photographer working for Capitol records in Canada. My assignment was to photograph their 1965 and 1966 shows and press conferences in Toronto. I had missed their shows the year before as I was only elevated to this new level of responsibility after pulling off satifactory tour photography of the Dave Clark Five’s Canadian tour which followed The Beatles 64 tour earlier in the year.
The Beatles press conference was a circus of writers, photographers and local media
I had lunch with my Dad who worked downtown that August 17th, 1965 and he drove me to the King Edward hotel where I met Joe Woodhouse, the promo rep for Capitol, and a brief visit with the band in a hotel suite started the day. It was planned that all four Beatles were to be in one roon until they left for the Gardens. With the hotel under seige by a thousand or more mostly teenage girl fans it was comfortably wise to see all four ‘mop tops’ with the blink of an eye in the same room. The waiting got a bit long on this day as the escape route had not been fully contemplated before the throngs of charged fans compressed the lobby and the street thus forcing a change from the original plan.
John Lennon quipped that he “would rather go bowling than hang around trapped in a hotel”.
Woodhouse and I left in advance of the band and on the way through the lobby he jokingly said “we better get out of here quick before they find out you’re Paul’s cousin!.” That was it! The girls around us started to chase us out of the lobby and others figured something was going on and joined in. The crush was on! We ran for our lives to Joe’s car, which was pointed away from the hotel and our frenzied departure was complete. That parking direction fact alone saved us from being crushed by a crowd too large to stop from running.
Arriving at Maple Leaf Gardens the buzz of the fans could be heard a block away and the energy and activity to get to your seats was like a fast forward video mode. The Dam was about to burst.
First came the opening acts. Brenda Holloway and the King Curtis Band, Cannibal & The Headhunters, Sounds Incorporated, and the Young Rascals. The crowd was appreciative but holding back what was saved for their first Superstars.
FINALLY The Beatles walked onstage following a half audible introduction. The screaming started, the flash bulbs lit the Gardens like white sunlight and the show rocked on more like a silent movie with an overbalanced audience track of screaming hysteria. In walking backstage to get to the other side of the hall with about 4 walls of concrete block filtering the sound I actually heard defined lyrics and harmonies, something the audience did not………not that it mattered, the best part was the fans were in the same room as the lads from Liverpool and their eyes did not lie!
Most fans present don’t remember how long the show lasted as so much was happening in the 2 and a half to three minutes it took to play each song………it seemed a lifetime because you were caught up in it.
The Beatles played for 27 minutes. Their set contained 12 songs: a shortened version of Twist And Shout, followed by 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, Act Naturally, A Hard Day’s Night, Help! and I’m Down.
With kurt bows to the crowd The Beatles disappear in the darkness and the house lights bring the crowd back to their lives without the band in the room and a sadness that they’ve gone tempers the excitement and memories that as we know, will last a lifetime.
Regrouping I got backstage avoiding security checks and bottle necked hallways to wait for the press conference. En route to the Hot Stove Lounge I see George chatting with a sound tech who was giving George his critique on the guitar amps. There was no stand alone sound system as there are now and the lyrics and instruments were funneled through the house system. With Maple Leaf Gardens being a hockey arena the sound came through the building via large bullhorn metal trumpet-like speakers.
I waited til their chat ended and introduced myself to George and the tech and we chatted about the show, the city and the fans for show one of the day. It was a light conversation but I had two new friends, one being a world famous guitar player and the other a technical person making sure George sounded like a world famous guitar player. Meeting George then and there was to prove advantageous a little later at the press conference.
The Beatles press conference was a circus of writers, photographers and local media types, contest winners and industry related personnel. The lads were seated at a long desk flanked with tape decks and microphones galore. Questions were asked to Brian Epstein who decided which Beatles might give the best response and it worked.
Stationing myself down front of that desk and in front of George I asked him if he could ask John to stand so I could get a more compact closeup of the foursome and John and George obliged with George looking into my camera as I squeezed off the first shot and the band rotated to face any and all photos who needed this new visual.
Once the Conference was over I joined a friend from the Montreal Gazette in the hallway to listen to the tape he had just made of the event. He had placed his running cassette recorder on the table in front of George and Paul. He rewound the tape and we listened to Brian directing a question to Paul and when Paul gave his answer it was drowned out by a thumping noise during his response…….we looked at each other in a wide eyed 65 version of WTF and listened to the next question……the same thing happened……..THUMP THUMP THUMP all through a Beatles response. Jerry suddenly realized he was going to have to rely on his memory or borrow a transcript from another friend’s tape deck.
In looking at several shots from the table the next day once I had processed the film and prints I saw each Beatle had picked up a microphone…………
Ready for the second Beatles appearance, having skipped shooting the opening acts again, I lingered by the ramp to the stage and waited for the band to take the stage. Standing close to George, who knew from our conversation that I played the guitar, and with five minutes to cue to the stage call, he showed me a couple of licks on the guitar and John pitched in showing me the beginning of I FEEL FINE. My day was made, my memories had a new soundtrack and the smiles I saw from these two great guys giving a two minute “on the run” guitar lesson to a young photographer are etched into my brain forever.
The second show was the echo of the first but my experiences here with these fun loving new superstars led to two more shows with them in 1966, working with Capitol and John and Yoko in 1969, George on his 1974 tour with Ravi and Sir Paul on the Wings Over America tour and in 2009 in Coachella and 2013 in Ottawa.
Ob-la-di ob-la-da life goes on bra
La-la how the life goes on
Ob-la-di ob-la-da life goes on bra
La-la how the life goes on
……….and like every audience member at the Grammy show taping and many of the fans watching I sang along and teared up several times when the music and the magic of the Beatles touched as all on this very special occasion. And you know for sure that John and George were there.
A Photographic Retrospective By John Robert Rowlands
Group Shots – Press Conference August 1965
Stage Shots of the Beatles – 1965 and 1966
John Rowlands Photography