45 years ago since the Beatles made there one & only Montreal appearance :
Some of our members were at that show.......................(you know who you are)
MONTREAL – While 09/09/09 has become entrenched this week as the newest monumental date in the history of the Beatles, this week holds another date of more local importance as far as the Fab Four are concerned.
Sept. 8, 1964.
Forty-five years ago this week was the one and only day the Beatles came to Montreal.
I was there as a 7-year-old.
They played two concerts at the old Forum, one at 4 p.m. and the other at 8 p.m. They were in Montreal for only eight hours, before flying out at night to Jacksonville, Fla.
I went to the afternoon concert with my 17-year-old cousin, recently immigrated from Northern Ireland. Mostly, I remember the pretty blonde English-speaking girl beside me, dressed in a pale blue jacket and matching skirt. She was maybe 17. She was crying and jumping up and down on her seat, just like the girls I’d seen that February on the Ed Sullivan Show.
But the Montreal date had much wider social and political significance than the fond individual recollections of those who were there. As Ringo Starr later revealed in the Beatles DVD Anthology series, he beat his drums during the two Montreal concerts with a plainclothes police officer sitting on stage as his bodyguard.
Police had received what they took as a credible death threat against Starr’s life. A little known group called the Front de libération du Québec had started a bombing campaign in Montreal in March 1963. Although Starr never revealed the source of the threat against him, he said he had been told he was being targeted because of his nationality and religion.
“Some people decided to make an example of me as an English Jew,’ ” recalled Starr, who was born Richard Starkey. “The one major fault is I’m not Jewish.”
Through both concerts, Ringo set his drums higher than usual and crouched in his seat – in order to prevent a potential sniper in the crowd from getting a good angle on him. “No one was seeing much of me that day, “ Starr said.
And he wasn’t impressed with the plainclothes officer.
“I thought, ‘If someone in the audience has a pop at me, what is this guy going to do? Is he going to catch a bullet?’ ”
For police, the threat against Starr was an early sign that budding terrorist elements in Quebec might one day carry out a provocative action against a high-profile British public figure. Such an action did take place in October 1970, when the FLQ kidnapped British trade commissioner James Cross from his Westmount home on Redpath Crescent.
Looking back at old newspaper clippings, I see The Gazette assigned Al Palmer and Terry Haig to cover the Beatles’ two Montreal concerts. Palmer was one of the city’s top reporters in the 1940s and ’50s, a Walter Winchell figure whom famed stripper Lily St. Cyr once called “a real man.” Baseball fans will remember Haig as the colour man on Expos radio broadcasts in the franchise’s last few years in Montreal.
Neither of the Forum concerts lasted more than 30 minutes. Personally, the only song I remember was She Loves You – I also remember shaking my head to the song, like the pretty girl beside me, and my cousin looking down and laughing at me. We were all standing.
According to the website www.beatlesmontreal.com, this is what the band played that day: Twist and Shout, You Can’t Do That, All My Loving, She Loves You, Things We Said Today, Roll Over Beethoven, Can’t Buy Me Love, If I Fell, Boys, A Hard Day’s Night, I Want to Hold Your Hand, and Long Tall Sally.
According to police, the toll from the concerts was: 12 teenage girls treated for hysteria and minor cuts and bruises, and a police officer with a nasty thumb bite.
I was at Paul McCartney’s concert at the Forum in 1989, too. I remember talking about it with Mark Lepage, who covered it for The Gazette. Lepage said it was amazing to sit there and hear all those iconic songs, one after another, and to think, two guys penned all of those songs.
McCartney was back in Quebec last summer for a concert in Quebec City to fête the city’s 400th anniversary. All these years after 1964, there were grumblings about the appropriateness of an Englishman, McCartney, playing on the Plains of Abraham.
McCartney responded by saying that by this very same rear-view-mirror thinking, he should never – and no Englishman should ever – talk to a German.
“You’ve got to bury the hatchet,” he told the LCN news network.
I wonder if he ever thought back to Ringo, and 1964.
To see film footage of the Beatles’ visit to Montreal 45 years ago this week, click here.