Today marks the final concert of the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ last US tour.
Also, the Remains’.
For local musicologists — and fans of the regionally famous band that included 2 Westporters, and lives on in the hearts and souls of anyone who heard them — that 2nd fact is as least as important as the 1st.
Fred Cantor — the band’s Boswell, who makes sure his fellow Staples High grads Barry Tashian and Bill Briggs (plus Vern Miller and Chip Damiani) “remain” alive, with an off-Broadway musical (“All Good Things”) and documentary film (“America’s Lost Band“) — sent along a reminder of the legendary summer of ’66 tour.
By then the Remains had already appeared on “Ed Sullivan” and “Hullabaloo.” They’d relocated from Boston to New York, and had a contract with Epic Records. But they had not yet broken into the big time, when they got the offer to tour with the Beatles (along with the Ronettes, the Cyrkle and Bobby Hebb).
Tashian — the front man, just 3 years out of Staples — remembers not being able to get out of their car, on the way to their 1st concert in Chicago. Screaming fans thought they were the Beatles. He found it funny — and scary.
They could not use their own amps there — and did not even have a chance to try out the ones they were given. To musicians, that’s like walking on a tightrope without a net.
Indoor arenas — like Detroit, where the band could see the crowd — were excellent. “They were digging us,” Tashian told Cantor. “We were saying, ‘This is great. This is elevated to another place.”
But in large stadiums like Cleveland, the audience was too far away to make the connections the Remains thrived on. After that show, they met with their road manager. They second-guessed everything they did wrong — and right.
Barry Tashian (left) and Vern Miller, on stage. Drummer ND Smart (who replaced Chip Damiani on the tour) is hidden. Keyboardist Bill Briggs is not in the shot. (Photo/Ed Freeman)
Their interactions with the Beatles were limited, but memorable. Tashian says they had tons of energy, and great senses of humor. They did not take things too seriously.
Tashian learned a lot. “The world was a different place when you were with John Lennon,” he says.
The Westport guitarist also listened to Ravi Shankar with George Harrison. Indian music was a revelation. So was a new invention Harrison had gotten hold of: tape cassettes.
Six days before the end of the tour, the Remains and Beatles played Shea Stadium. Tashian calls it “an emotional moment.” The lights were the brightest of any place they played. With a rare break the night before, he felt rested, “a little more balanced and grounded.”
The Remains, back in the day.
In California, near the end of the tour, Harrison sent a car to pick up Tashian. Meeting the Beach Boys, Mama Cass Elliot, Roger McGuinn and others, he was “speechless.”
Briggs — the Remains’ keyboardist — recalls the final concert, at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park:
“It just seemed like you were playing on a mountaintop and there was nobody there. They shut off the lights, all in the stadium proper and they just left a row of the lights on the top. It was like we were playing there by ourselves.
“I really enjoyed it. That was probably the most relaxed I was on the whole tour.”
What came next was tough. “It was like being dumped from a dump truck down over a ledge into a quarry or something, just left down there in the dust,” Tashian says.
He realizes now that his band had been breaking up — for various reasons — even before the tour began.
The Beatles kept recording, until they too broke apart. Today, of course, they’re still big — perhaps bigger than ever.
The Remains are just a footnote in rock ‘n’ roll history.
But to anyone who heard them play — particularly at small clubs, not the big arenas and stadiums of that 1966 tour — what a footnote they are.
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