Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Home » Editorial » The Beatles at the San Francisco Cow Palace, “Live”

The Beatles at the San Francisco Cow Palace, “Live”

Back when the Earth’s crust was warm, I convinced my parents to buy me a round-trip ticket from Marion to San Francisco so that I could attend Berkeley for summer school. The ticket cost $75. (I still have the receipt).

It was “the summer of love” and the boy I met there, from Philadelphia (William Hopkins) bought a purple Czechoslovokian motorcyle, which he did not know how to drive. He was living in a fraternity house on campus; I was in a dorm that overlooked San Francisco Bay, and my roommate, who asked me to be in her wedding, was engaged to a sailor who was about to ship out to Vietnam. (The ceremony was at China Lake, and I was the only other female present amongst a large group of sailors about to ship out to go to war in Vietnam. That made me very popular).

One day, we learned that the Beatles were going to play the San Francisco Cow Palace, and I convinced Colgate—err, Bill—to cut class with me and drive up and see if we could get in. We got tickets in the 7th row for $7 and it was the craziest, most hysterical concert I’ve ever attended. The closest I have seen young girls go nuts were the pre-teens at the Taylor Swift concert in Moline on May 8, 2010, when my daughter was working for 13 Management and got me extremely good seats.

The Beatles were brought in in an armored car. But they were late. The restive crowd began stomping on the bleacher seats.

Finally, they emerged and began playing, especially some songs from their new release, HELP! The National Anthem was played by King Curtiss and his band (a noted saxophonist of the day). On the bill after that, Shirley Bassey came out and sang the theme from “Goldfinger,” which was then a new release. “Cannibal and the Headhunters” came out and sat down on the stage and did a sort of “choo choo train” number. And The Astronauts from Colorado were supposed to be on the bill. I was looking forward to hearing them (again) because they had played at some Beta Theta Pi parties at the University (of Iowa) and I’d heard them before, but they didn’t show up.

Security at the Cow Palace was always bad. In fact, this night, it consisted of only one guy and chicken wire waist high. Therefore, some random fellow went streaking across the stage, stole John’s hat and Ringo’s drumsticks. The concert was delayed a bit while someone fetched more drumsticks.

I remember thinking that George didn’t add much. He literally just stood there, like a stick in the mud. My favorite (then and now) was Paul, but it was definitely Paul and John who ran the show. THe best parts were the punctuation of various rhythms with the head shaking that became their trademark.

People down in front started standing on the folding chairs, and, one by one, they went down like dominoes. (*Note to self: do not stand on folding chairs.) After the concert was over, they herded the crowd out through a narrow concrete-passageway. My feet were not touching the ground, but I was moving. It was scary. I thought I was going to e crushed by the crowd. (I’ve experienced this only once since, at the Hubert Humphrey Dome Rolling Stones “Bridges to Babylon” tour, when they refused to open the doors because the roof might collapse.)

It is a concert I will never forget, and I offer the video up to you on the occasion of the 50th year since the Beatles came to America. (The audio on this clip was added from a different concert, so at times the lips don’t seem to “synch up” with the music.)

Ever since this concert experience, I’ve been gun-shy about being “down front” in a mosh pit sort of atmosphere, which is why, when the Dave Matthews Band played Palmer Auditorium, I took my young daughter up in the balcony, rather than down front, and, after audience members began crowd surfing and were dropped on their heads, I was glad we were far away.)


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1 Comment

  1. Pamela

    What a great experience you had, and it was because you had the guts to go for it. I never saw the Beatles perform in concert but, thanks to you, I did see Paul McCartney perform and I remember that we were in the third row. Paul sang a couple of Beatles tunes and when I closed my eyes, it was as if 25 years of my life was erased for oh, a good 10 seconds. But that was enough. What fun!

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