50 Years Later: The Greatest Beatles Performance of All Time

One of the most pervasive misconceptions about the Beatles is that they were awful as an in-concert act. The myth, as I recall my eighth-grade music teacher putting it, says the Beatles weren’t even playing up there on stage most of the time. They were only pretending to because no one could hear them anyway. And then when they did play, they weren’t much good, relying as they did on on studio time and trickery to make their records sound nice.

These lines are often parrotted even by Beatles fans. The band's own record label didn’t see fit to release any live material until seven years after the group had broken up, and that set has been out of print for an age. 

I believed the cliché myself—until I started collecting Beatles bootlegs and hit upon one performance in particular that remains one of the five or six best shows I’ve ever heard by anyone. In October 1963, the Beatles were superstars in Britain and completely unknown in America. “Love Me Do,” “Please Please Me,” a debut LP, “From Me to You,” and “She Loves You” had all happened; mega-single “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and With the Beatles were about to. By this point, teenyboppers were screaming wildly at the band’s shows, but not 50 years ago on October 24 at Stockholm’s Karlaplansstudion, where the band would taped a seven-song concert, in front of a 100 people, to be broadcast over the radio. (And eventually, luckily for us, on YouTube.)

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The Beatles pop group from Liverpool visiting Stockholm (Part 1)
  • The Beatles pop group from Liverpool visiting Stockholm (Part 1)
  • The Beatles
  • Swedish Radio Show

October 24, 1963

Although our tour of Sweden doesn’t star until tomorrow, we spent the day at Karlaplansstudion in Karlaplan, Stockholm to record a performance for a Swedish Radio show called ‘The Beatles popgrupp fran Liverpool pa besok i Stockholm’, which means 'The Beatles pop group from Liverpool visiting Stockholm’. We were enthused by the chance to play in front of an audience that wasn’t screaming, and hope we made a good first impression in Sweden. Here’s the first part of the show. You can find part two here.