That day


The Beatles on stage at the Montréal Forum, september 8, 1964.(Source: Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Fonds Jean-Louis Frund)

Some Dates

Before the show

1964 was the year when Quebecers and Canadians began their love story with the Beatles. There were several key events that took place before their visit to Montréal which helped spark the interest of many: February: the Beatles played in front of 73 millions of viewers on the Ed Sullivan show [Link to You Tube video]; their first North-American tour and start of the Beatlemania.

The Beatles’ Show in Montréal

May 15: Ticket for the Montréal show go on sale

July: The release of the film A Hard Day’s Night

August: The lauch of the North-American tour: Vancouver (22 of August ); Toronto (7 of September )

September 8, 1964

It’s the day after Labour Day and also the first day of classes for thousands of Québec students, and the very first for the newly created Ministry of Education of Québec.

2:24 pm: The Beatles arrive at Dorval airport. In spite of an awful storm, 5 000 fans are waiting for them at the airport, most of them girls, along with 120 officers from the RCMP. At the same time, the group learns that a death threat has been made against the group’s drummer. They then rush to the Forum in a limo. Ringo Starr said of this event later on: “Some people decided to make an example of me as an English Jew—the one major fault is I’m not Jewish” (The Beatles, Anthology, San Francisco, CA : Chronicle Books, p.153).

4 pm: First show in front of 9 500 fans. The Beatles were not alone and many groups played in the opening act:

  1. An unidentified group from Québec (if you know them, tell us about it!)
  2. Also from Québec, the 4 français, also known as The Frenchmen (Fred Torak chant, guitare, Nick Angelo – guitare, Al Baron – chant, guitare basse et Danny Neal – batterie)
  3. The Exciters [Link to You Tube video]
  4. Jackie de Shannon [Link to You Tube video]
  5. Bill Black Combo [vidéo]

The Righteous Brothers [Link to You Tube video] and Clarence «Frogman» Henry [Link to You Tube video] were part of the tour but didn’t play that day.

6 pm: A laid-back press conference for the Canadian press took place (for the full press conference, see the archives of Radio-Canada).

8:30 pm: Second show, this time sold out, in front of 500 fans. The MCs are Buddy Gee of CKGM, Michel Desrochers of CJMS and Dave Boxer of CFCF. Panic almost took hold of the fans when radio station CJMS announced that, according to an anonymous source, twenty bombs were placed in and around the Forum. Consequently, fearing for his security, Ringo strategically placed his cymbals so they would shelter him from possible projectiles.

Each of the Beatles performances that day lasted no more than 30 minutes. Here is a list of the songs played during those concerts: 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.

The journalist André Béliveau wrote in Le Petit Journal on September 13, 1964: “A girl in the first row groans amidst her cries: “Paul! Paul!”. Another girl wearing white gloves loses her breath, shouting. Yet another hits herself on the head with her shoes (…). Adolescents were ripping off their necklaces and bracelets and throwing them in the air. Suddenly, a young girl stands up, staggers, screams and falls down on the ground. Ambulance personnel came running to rescue her. Other fans throw themselves into each others arms, they slap, scratch and bit each other, climb on chairs…”

Some famous personalities from the Québec showbiz scene were also present: Janette Bertrand, Michèle Richard [video], Pierre Lalonde [video], René Angelil, Pierre Labelle and Jean Beaulne (les Baronets [video]), Claude Poirier (CJMS), Jean-Pierre Ferland, Aglaé, Doris Lussier, Frenchie Jarraud (TV and radio host), François Rozet (actor), Normand Fréchette, etc.

11 pm: The Beatles leave the Forum in three limousines. They do not head for their hotel, the Queen Elizabeth, were they had plan to stay the night but to rather to the airport. They explained later on that if they had stayed, they might have lost Ringo in an attempt on his life or else died in the plane since hurricane Dora was thetening to hit Jacksonville, their final destination. Again, under heavy rain, some 300 fans waited at the airport to say their final goodbyes to the Beatles.

After the show

Despite the fans and the local radio stations best efforts, The Beatles would never perform again in Montréal. However, individual group members visited Montréal: John Lennon for his Bed-In in 1969, Paul McCartney in 1989 to perform at the Forum, Ringo Starr to perform at the Bell Center in 2001 and finally, George Harrison, at the Forum, in 1974 and during Montréal’s Grand Prix in 2001.

What the Press said about it (in french):

 

Le journal de Montréal, 9 septembre 1964 – Document PDF (1,8 Mo)

La Patrie, semaine du 10 septembre 1964 – Document PDF (2,7 Mo)

Le petit journal, 13 septembre 1964 – Document PDF (3,1 Mo)