SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- It was 48 years ago today, in a now-abandoned arena, that The Beatles played their last live concert for paying fans.
"There was a big talk at Candlestick Park that this had got to end. At that San Francisco gig it seemed that this could possibly be the last time, but I never felt 100% certain till we got back to London. John (Lennon) wanted to give up more than the others. He said that he'd had enough," Ringo Starr later recalled in an autobiography.
The Beatles' performance at San Francisco's Candlestick Park, on Aug. 29, 1966, was their last live concert appearance for paying fans. With the anniversary comes the demise of the open-air, all-concrete stadium itself, which has served as the longtime home of the Giants baseball team and 49ers football team (as well as football's Oakland Raiders, for a short time). Demolition of "The Stick," as its known to local fans, has been planned since the end of the 2013 football season, but has been moved to late 2014 or early 2015. Memories are often more about time than location, and endure beyond the removal of the venue. What is remembered about The Beatles' farewell concert performance is that only half the tickets were sold, leaving some 25,000 seats in the stadium, capacity 42,500, empty. Like most summer nights in the stadium, it was foggy, windy, and cold.
"It's a bit chilly," Paul McCartney commented to the audience during the show.
The weather didn't subdue the crowd's excitement, however, which was characteristic of performances by The Beatles -- the only act in music at the time to use stadiums as concert halls. The audience was overwhelmingly young and female, and yes, they screamed nonstop through the 11-song set, beginning with Chuck Berry's "Rock and Roll Music" and ending with Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally."
The Beatles told no one but themselves this was the end of the concert road. Lennon and McCartney photographed the audience and themselves from the stage, and the quartet walked offstage -- and into the next phase of their careers -- as Lennon played the opening bars of "In My Life."
"Before one of the last numbers, we actually set up this camera, I think it had a fisheye, a wide-angle lens. We set it up on the amplifier and Ringo came off the drums, and we stood with our backs to the audience and posed for a photograph, because we knew that was the last show," George Harrison said in Keith Badman's book The Beatles Off the Record.
By not touring or playing concerts, The Beatles were able to spend far more time in the studio, revolutionizing music and becoming one of the most influential bands of all time. But Candlestick Park also endured long past the Fab Four's farewell show. It remains to be seen if the storied history of San Francisco treats its old stadium as in several other cities -- a building reviled for its faults and inconveniences, only to be later missed and recalled fondly.
Opened in 1960, Candlestick was constructed on a promontory six miles from downtown San Francisco, and it came with the attendant weather for standing on a point overlooking an ocean. Wind and bitter cold evening temperatures, as well as fog and mist, were the prevailing weather conditions. The roof, shaped like a boomerang, was designed to reduce wind in the stadium, so perhaps things inside could have been worse.
Although pitcher Stu Miller claimed it never happened, baseball lore contends the wind blew him off the mound when the 1961 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was played at Candlestick. "I just waved at little ... people tell me they saw me flying in the air," he reminisced.
The Giants played a rain-delayed 1962 World Series there (which they lost, to the New York Yankees). As their fortunes fell in the following years, those of the 49ers rose, winning three Super Bowls while Candlestick tenants.
The World Series returned to the stadium Oct.17, 1989. Yet 25 minutes before the Giants were to play the Oakland A's in Game 3, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck San Francisco. Police and players wandered the field in bewilderment, unaware the quake was rocking the city's bridges, highways and downtown. The earthquake killed 63 people and demolished several bridges, but Candlestick survived with limited damage. The A's eventually won the World Series, with the third game begun 10 days late.
Perhaps fittingly, the stadium's last event, Aug. 14, 2014, was the return of a Beatle. Paul McCartney, age 72 but still rocking and on the road, performed, for a capacity crowd this time, in a concert awash with nostalgia and memory-shaking songs, as well as a displayed photo collage of rock luminaries, for those who remembered rock music in 1966.
"It's sad to see the old place closing down, but we're going to close it down in style," McCartney shouted from the stage.
Every city eventually knocks down its unusable architecture, causing memories for anyone who ventured inside those buildings to fly out like demolition dust. Candlestick Park, often unloved in its storied past, is only now being appreciated as a place where history happened. Study American sports, popular culture, or disaster preparation, and the name keeps coming up. We'll eventually learn if AT&T Park, where the Giants now play across town, or the 49ers' new Levi's Stadium 40 miles away in in Santa Clara, will develop that pedigree. In those locales, at least the weather tends to be better.