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Old Aug 20, 2006, 07:47 AM   #1
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Default When we was Fab - Memories stirred by 40th anniversary of Beatles’ Suffolk Downs show

When we was Fab - Memories stirred by 40th anniversary of Beatles’ Suffolk Downs show

By Christopher Blagg, The Boston Herald

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Paul McCartney and George Harrison perform at Suffolk Downs. (Herald file photo)

A ticket to the August 18, 1966 Beatles concert.

Aug. 18, 1966: not your typical day at the racetrack.

For $5.75, you could have witnessed history and seen John, Paul, George and Ringo play the Boston stop on what turned out to be the Beatles’ final tour.

Tomorrow marks the 40th anniversary of the Fab Four’s concert at Suffolk Downs. Duncan Dewar, who was 15 at the time, was among the estimated 25,000 fans who either paid for a ticket or sneaked into the show. Now a radio personality at Portsmouth, N.H.’s 98.7 The Bay, Dewar vividly remembers the madness of the occasssion.
‘‘It was turmoil,” he said. ‘‘It was chaos. People were climbing onto the steel girders to get a bird’s-eye view of the band. The noise level from the crowd was overwhelming. The speaker system was drowned out by the crowd noise.”

Barry Tashian was in an even better position to witness the bedlam. His Boston band the Remains was the opening act on the tour. When the Beatles walked onstage, ‘‘it sounded like a rocket taking off,” he said, ‘‘just this big whooshing sound. Think of 25,000 people screaming. Makes a lot of noise.”

Tashian, who wrote a book about the experience, ‘‘Ticket to Ride: The Extraordinary Diary of the Beatles’ Last Tour,” was impressed by the Beatles’ musicianship - at least when he could hear them.

‘‘The crowd would not always have to be so noisy, so occasionally you could hear them pretty well,” he said. ‘‘They were great. Just a really tight bar band. Just four guys plugging in and playing.”

Not everyone was satisfied with the Suffolk Downs concert. Dewar left disappointed by the short time the Beatles spent onstage.

‘‘It went so fast I remember thinking that we got (shortchanged),” he said. ‘‘It wasn’t much longer than 20-30 minutes. It was something we had been anticipating all summer. I was one of those that climbed the girders, so I was able to see at least.”

Some fans who couldn’t get tickets managed to get in on the experience. Revere native Charlotte DeSimone, who works in the payroll department of Suffolk Downs, was 17 when she and her friends found a spot on the outskirts of the racetrack.

‘‘My mother wouldn’t let me go to the concert, but we all went on the hill opposite the track,” she said. ‘‘You couldn’t see anything, but you could definitely hear everything. It was such an event. Even people who weren’t fans were outside checking it out because it was such a big deal in the community.”

Many who were there recall a disorganized event marked by gate-crashers climbing fences and harried state police struggling to maintain order amid the hysteria. But for some fans, the Beatles at Suffolk Downs was a spiritual experience.

Connecticut resident Mike Sacchetti was 17 when he drove north to see his favorite band.

‘‘I remember hearing the announcer say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the Beatles,’ and then seeing them jump onstage,” Sacchetti said. ‘‘Honestly, not to sound like a weirdo or anything, but the world stopped. I didn’t hear anything. It was just a moment frozen in time. It was one of those out-of-body experiences, almost as if my whole world shut down.

‘‘It’s forever burned in my brain. I just see this scene over and over again, like a movie. That was one of the pinnacle moments in my life.”
"Excuse me, do you mind not farting while I'm saving the world?" -The 9th Doctor, DOCTOR WHO episode "World War Three"

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Old Aug 20, 2006, 08:00 AM   #2
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Default readers remember the Beatles at Suffolk Downs readers remember the Beatles at Suffolk Downs

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A young Paul McCartney admirer hands him a trinket at the Suffolk Downs show. (Herald file photo)

The following are responses from online readers of their memories of the famed 1966 Beatles concert at Suffolk Downs in Boston. If you have a memory, or a photo, e-mail away to

It was a hard day’s night of work some 40 years ago for one Burlington kid whose boss miraculously cut him loose in time for the famed Beatles last concert in Boston.

The year was 1966 and Robert Gouveia jumped in his 1956 Ford, colored light primer gray, and headed to Suffolk Downs.

"I couldn’t hear much because the girls were screaming so loud,” Gouveia recalled of his night watching the green-suit clad British stars perform all their hits, which cost him a mere $5.

And Laurie, who was 12 years old at the time and went with her aunt and five girlfriends, was one of those screaming. She even recalled exactly what she wore -- white go-go boots, a black and white checkered mini skirt and a ponytail with an "I luv Paul" button on top.

"This was the only time in my life I came close to fainting," she said of the outdoor concert. "You could hardly hear them sing and barely make out who was on the stage, but we knew it was them and that’s all it took!"

While Gouveia was "wrapped up in all the frenzy of the yelling," Jeffrey Anderson "couldn’t hear one single note" and Cindi Lane was being pulled from the crushing crowd by police.

"I was on crutches and was crushed up against the fence," recalled Lane, who now lives in North Carolina.

But Jack Rivera still holds on to memories of Beatlemania by showcasing his 11th row ticket stub and an original flyer promoting the concert. And it seems that mania continues, as the ever-catchy Beatles songs remain some of the best-selling, most-widely popular tunes.

"My grandchildren have seen Ringo (Starr) and know the music, so the beat goes on!" Lane said.

For David Esposito, it’s all still a dream.
"It was a beautiful night and we bought a program book — I still have it — and a quick hot dog and coke," he writes. "Right before the Beatles came on, The Remains from Boston - formerly Barry and the Remains ... they did an unbelieve set,sounding like a cross between the early Kinks and Yardbirds."

Then the show really took off.

"After a break, the Beatles came on and obviously the whole place went berserk. We could not get the girls sitting in front of us to sit down and shut up," he writes. "The Beatles had Khaki-colored high-collared suits with some kind of badge on the pocket, and Paul McCartney had on brown shoes, while the others wore black Beatle boots. Paul had 2 Hofner basses, George had a Gretsch and a Rickenbacker 12-string. I remember Lennon introducing a few songs and not knowing which album the song was on, saying ’I don’t own the record.’

"I can’t remember the exact set list (I used to have it written down), but they did hits like HELP, A HARD DAYS NIGHT, etc. as well as newer stuff like IF INEEDED SOMEONE and NOWHERE MAN. It all seemed to happen so fast and then it was over."
"Excuse me, do you mind not farting while I'm saving the world?" -The 9th Doctor, DOCTOR WHO episode "World War Three"
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Old Aug 20, 2006, 08:06 AM   #3
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Backstory: The Beatles play Boston, 40 years ago Friday

By Christopher L. Tyner | CORRESPONDENT
The Christian Science Monitor

Friday, August 18, 2006

RUMNEY, N.H. – It was 40 years ago today that Sergeant Pepper came to Boston to play. Aug. 18, 1966, to be exact - a warm summer evening that crackled with excitement as my best friend's dad, a prominent Boston lawyer wanting to experience his son's Beatle mania firsthand, drove the three of us to Suffolk Downs racetrack.
The crowd of 25,000 sat facing a small wood-frame stage set up on the dirt raceway. We had paid $4.75 per ticket. Warm-up acts - the Remains, Bobby Hebb, the Cyrkle, and the Ronettes - drew appreciative applause, but the evening began when the crowd caught sight of a line of black limousines making its way down the track toward the stage. John, Paul, George, and Ringo were in the house.

If you've never heard 15,000 teenage girls (give or take a few thousand) shriek, you've missed one of life's phenomena. Jon, his dad, and I stood surrounded in the center section, perhaps 225 feet from the stage, like the silent nucleus of an atomic mob. John Lennon belted out the first lyrics - "Just let me hear some of that rock and roll music..." - sending the place into controlled pandemonium. Those proved to be the operative words of the evening - if only we could hear.

The girl next to me held out a camera and asked, screaming, if I would stand on my chair and take a picture of the stage. She never took her eyes off the Beatles as she dictated instructions. My first thought: I am going to master the guitar. By the fourth song, the girls had exhausted themselves and the squeals subsided. We had been given a window to hear.

The vocal harmony of Lennon's baritone and McCartney's tenor has never ceased to amaze me. But to hear it live is another matter. Harrison's guitar work on his sunburst Epiphone Casino offered beautiful embroidery to "Day Tripper" and "Nowhere Man." Ringo nailed each song with his rock-steady beat.

Alas, our show lasted a mere 35 minutes. After finishing the last of 11 songs - "Long Tall Sally" - the Fab Four waved, jumped in their limos, and drove into the night. It turns out we caught the caboose of Beatle mania. Eleven days later, they played their last public concert, in San Francisco, and retired from touring to focus on recording.

The Beatles have never quite left me since that night. Even though we were only in our mid-teens, Jon and I had decided to form a band that year at the private school we attended in the Midwest. We wanted to be the Beatles. He told me that he had been in a group back home and how at one of their shows a girl had jumped up and touched his guitar. He had me at "girl."

Jon played lead on his new Fender Jazzmaster. I played rhythm on my Hagstrom. Borrowing amplifiers from classmates, we played for a few class functions and once for the entire school in the gymnasium. Our repertoire included some pop tunes and, of course, several Beatles songs. We had the requisite Beatle hair cut, with bangs.

Since then, I've often wondered why the Beatles were so much a part of the DNA of our generation - the next several generations, in fact. For me, the Beatles' career bookended my teen years. I was 13 when they first appeared on Ed Sullivan Feb. 9, 1964, and I was 19 when they broke up in 1970. Potent symmetry. Music is the soundtrack to a teen's life, and I associate Beatles songs with all those formulative events - the first parties, dances, cars, and dates. To this day, a Beatle song on the radio acts as a time machine.

The Beatles were master musicians, blessed with two of the era's great voices. Their music was varied and evolved organically over time. Each album's song composition seemed better and more interesting - from their first, "Please Please Me," recorded in a single day, to "Revolver," the album they released just before the Boston concert and worked on 18 hours per song. The White Album, Sgt. Pepper, and Abbey Road were yet to come, and fans would buy them all - an estimated 1 billion discs and tapes to date, more than any group in history.

Of course, the Beatles' artistry didn't just spring from the Liverpool air. They had put in years of apprenticeship in German and English clubs, studied all of America's classic music - R&B, country, the blues, and rock 'n' roll. Their passion for these genres was critical to their sound and ultimate success.

Yet, to me, the Beatles represented more than just music. They epitomized the rebelliousness of the time. In my own version of it, I remember coming home after my first year of college. My dad opened the front door to discover my white peasant shirt and foot-long hair. "Oh Lord," he said, good-naturedly.

Today my infatuation continues, but on a different level. Jon and I still try to play Beatles' songs. We're just doing it long distance and, in middle age, sans hair. We record our parts on 12-track digital recorders and exchange them on CDs. The other adds his own voice-overs and guitar licks. It's like a traveling recording studio.

Our grown-up obsession has led to a dangerous offshoot - guitar collecting. I own Martin and Gibson acoustic guitars, in addition to three electrics. (It reminds me of the old joke about the kid who tells his mother that when he grows up he wants to be a musician. The mother replies: Son, you can't do both.)

My friend Jon has amassed a museum-size collection of Beatles-era electric guitars (24 at last count), most now worth more than Google stock, including a 1955 Gretsch Duo Jet, a 1966 Rickenbacker 12-string, and a 1964 Gibson SG - all like George Harrison's. When I ask Jon why he does it, he says simply: These early guitars represent the authentic voice of the rock 'n' roll era. To him, they are the Stradivariuses of their time.

The Beatles have secured their place as one of the most important forces in 20th-century pop culture. As such, more books come out each year trying to explain their musical genus and genius - including Walter Everett's recent two-volume set, "The Beatles as Musicians." But examine anything too closely, especially art, and it can slip through your hands. McCartney himself once said: "I'd like a lot more things to happen like they did when you were kids, when you didn't know how the conjuror did it and were happy just to see it there and say, 'Well, it's magic.' "

Forty years ago Friday night, John, Paul, George, and Ringo played Suffolk Downs. It was magic.
"Excuse me, do you mind not farting while I'm saving the world?" -The 9th Doctor, DOCTOR WHO episode "World War Three"
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