I Saw the Beatles Live at Detroit's Olympia Stadium in 1966 and It Was Amazing and It Also Kinda Sucked

Roz Warren

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If you were an American girl in 1966, you were a Beatles fan.

You bought each new 45 the moment it came out, and drove your folks nuts by playing it nonstop. iYou turned up the radio whenever, “If I Fell” came on.You read about the Fab Four in Tiger Beat and plastered your bedroom walls with their posters.You slept with a picture of Paul (or John or George or Ringo) under your pillow.

Playing catchy love songs in matching mod suits and edgy adorable haircuts, the Beatles were custom made for a 12-year-old girl to crush out on. Not only that, but they always looked as if they were having a great time, and refused to take anything seriously.

When a reporter asked, in “A Hard Days Night,” (my favorite movie) if George was a Mod or a rocker, George famously responded: “I’m a mocker.” And I fell. Hard.

So when my friend Gail told me that her uncle, who owned a parking lot near Olympia Stadium, had managed to get his hands on a pair of tickets to the Beatles sold-out show on August 13, I was over-the-moon thrilled.

I was a serious piano student, so I’d been to plenty of concerts. My parents took me often to see the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. But the Beatles weren’t Beethoven.

This, I knew, would be very different.

So what do I actually remember about that long-ago show, over half a decade ago?

We waited, almost levitating with excitement, in the mammoth, buzzing-with-anticipation arena, through an interminable series of opening bands. Until finally, at long last, the Beatles took the stage!

A zillion flash bulbs began to pop, fans pelted the band with jelly beans. (George had made the mistake of mentioning that he liked them in an interview) — and every audience member in the sold-out stadium began screaming at the top of their lungs.

Then, with “She’s a Woman” (to this day, one of my favorites), John, Paul, George and Ringo began to play.

So here’s the truth. While I can say that I SAW the Beatles in 1966, I can’t honestly claim to have actually HEARD them, at least not very well.

“I Feel Fine.” “I Wanna Be Your Man.” These were my favorite songs, and the sound was cranked up loud enough to reach us easily.

But the stadium full of Beatlemaniacs insisted on screaming, shrieking, hollering and calling out (“Paul! Paul! I Love you Paul! “Ringo! Ringo! Ringo! Ringo!”) nonstop at the top of their lungs — through the whole concert.

As the Beatles careened happily through their brief set list (11 songs, including the encore), their fans never once shut up.

Not even for “Yesterday.” It was a far cry from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

But goodness, was it fun!

To this adoring fan, it was heaven. I LOVED the Beatles. How cool was it to be in the same room (even though it was a very large room) with John and Paul and George and Ringo, grooving on their music?

As a concert, however, which is to say, an opportunity to actually hear and enjoy live music? It kinda sucked.

I didn’t blame the Beatles. It wasn’t their fault that their fans wouldn’t shut up. The hysteria that surrounded them was nothing they could do anything about.

Except stop being so awesome, and THAT wasn’t about to happen.

Fast-forward five decades, when I went to see singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton, my current favorite musician, for the first time. My taste in music these days is, inexplicably, that of a Millennial nerd. Lining up for the meet-and-greet after the show, I was several decades older than anyone else there.

As Coulton signed my CD, I remarked that I might be his oldest fan.

“I’m old enough to have seen the Beatles in 1966,” I told him. “And, actually, your show was more fun.”

“I’m better than the Beatles?” he asked incredulously.

“Well, no. But I enjoyed your show a lot more.”

I wouldn’t have missed seeing the Fab Four for anything. But Coulton’s show, in a small concert hell, with great acoustics, (and not a single screamer) while not a Mammoth Unforgettable Cultural Event, was, actually a much better concert.

Later, when I looked at the CD Coulton had signed for me, I saw that he’d inscribed it “Roz, You are Not Old.”

I wondered if he’d still be signing my Cds like that when I’m 64.

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Roz Warren, the author of JUST ANOTHER DAY AT YOUR LOCAL PUBLIC LIBRARY, has appeared on both the Today Show and Morning Edition, writes for everyone from the Funny Times to the New York Times, and has been included in 13 Chicken Soup for the Soul collections. Drop her a line at roSwarren@gmail.com.

Bala Cynwyd, PA
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