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Any artist that has ever felt confined by their fame is living in the shadow of what The Beatles have gone through. Even after the band had broken up, John Lennon was desensitised to the idea of being a celebrity, trying everything he could to prove to his audience that he was flesh and blood rather than some magical musical deity that would save them from themselves. Although Lennon may not have made that many concert appearances during his solo career, it may be because of how poor one particular show went.
Before they made their massive stamp on culture with their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Beatles were already being heralded for their live performances. Gaining momentum from playing huge shows throughout Hamburg in their early years, the band developed a certain rapport whenever they went onstage, often engaging in banter with each other and not catering to what the crowd wanted.
While their banter may not have had anything to do with their music, it was enough for people like Brian Epstein and George Martin to see potential in them, earning them a deal with Parlophone Records and leading to them recording their first records. Once the band started to gain traction outside of the local scene, though, it was time for them to undergo a huge makeover when they took to the stage.
Donning matching outfits whenever performing, The Beatles had the look of a glorified boy band at the time, being carefully choreographed by Epstein in terms of how they behaved when they took to the stage. While the band’s banter may have been cleaned up then, the audience’s behaviour became out of hand once they hit the US.
Since no one had seen a band like this on television before, young girls would go crazy whenever they saw the band in front of them, usually breaking into hysterics and screaming throughout the entire show. Although the band may have appreciated the publicity and were thankful for the admiration, it also came at the expense of them hearing their music.
For the last few years of their touring life, Lennon would grow tired of the massive screams from the crowd that ruined their live sound, singling out their performance at The Hollywood Bowl as a shallow point for their onstage career. As Lennon recalled in Rolling Stone, “It was awful. Hated it. Some of them were good, some weren’t. I didn’t like the Hollywood Bowl. If we knew we were being recorded, it was death, we were so frightened. You could never hear yourself, and you knew that they were fucking it up on the tape anyway”.
Little did Lennon know that the surprises coming with playing live were just around the corner. After taking his comments about The Beatles having a more significant impact on the youth than Jesus, various shows in America were plagued with problems, including a performance when a firecracker went off in the venue, leading every band member to look at each other, making sure they hadn’t been shot.
While the band would retire from touring after their 1966 run of dates, their final farewell to the audience would come with a performance on top of Apple Corps in 1969. Though Lennon would continue to record music off and on throughout the 1970s, he became more accustomed to the studio environment rather than the touring circuit.