However, for the return gig on August 23 the following year, ticket sales at $4.50 each were lukewarm. John Lennon’s infamous “We’re more popular than Jesus now” remark had exploded in the media in July while the release of Revolver confirmed the Fab Four were falling victim to the hippie ethos.
At the time, no one knew that the 1966 tour would prove to be The Beatles’ last hurrah as a live-performing act (the 1969 Savile Row rooftop concert aside).
The simple 18in x 2ft (40 x 60cm) cardboard poster created by promoter Sid Bernstein to advertise the event is today familiar from countless later bootlegged copies. But, of the few hundred originals made before the concert by the Murray Poster Printing Co, only half a dozen are thought to have survived.
The example offered for sale by Dallas auction house Heritage (25% buyer’s premium) on April 4 was a fresh discovery. The Massachusetts vendor had received news that a poster similar to one on his wall had been sold by Heritage last November for $100,000. He had been quick to make the call.
Specialist Pete Howard had picked up. “I get lots of phone calls. Honest to goodness, when somebody starts to say ‘I’ve got this old Beatles concert poster’ my eyes roll and my goal switches to finishing the call as quickly and politely as I can. Why? Because with Beatles concert posters, they’re always fake.”
But this one (minus the year that adorns so many copies) turned out to be “the real deal”. As documented in a letter of provenance, it had been pulled from a wall by the sister of the consignor in 1966, framed and cherished for 54 years.
The hammer price of $110,000 (£88,000) represented an auction record for any concert poster.
Winter Dance Party
Another ‘grail’ item of concert poster collecting, a 14 x 22in (35 x 55cm) sheet announcing the Winter Dance Party tour stop in Mankato, Minnesota, on January 25, 1959, shared a similar provenance. It had been taken by a female teenager as she filed out of the ballroom after the last song. Of the five acts playing that night – Buddy Holly and the Crickets, The Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, Dion and The Belmonts and Frankie Sardo – the first three would perish in a plane crash eight days later.
Although again reproduced ad infinitum over the ensuing decades, only three posters are known to exist from the Winter Dance Party shows with this the first to be offered at auction. It doubled estimate in selling at $100,000 (£80,000).