On the Town: The Beatles at Budokan
July 2, 1966
IT WAS A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, BUT THE Beatles at least didn't have to cry for help during their first performance Thursday at Tokyo's filled-to-capacity Budokan Hall.
However, the normally passive Japanese, who have been known to reduce foreign performers to tears with their reluctance to applaud enthusiastically, reacted just like Beatles fans the world over
They shrieked. They cried. They went into yoga-like trances. With the exception of the Lennon-McCartney-penned "Yesterday," which miraculously drew a certain degree of silence, the songs the Beatles sang that night will forever remain a mystery to me.
The wave of one Beatle hand, the slightest. twitch of one Beatle buttock, was enough to send their mostly female followers into a screaming, ears-hugging tizzy. (Yellow-capped ushers, most of them judo and karate students, rushed forward to reseat the excited females every time they stood up to screech.)
"Thank you very much." said Paul McCartney, and pandemonium prevailed. Handkerchiefs waved in the air like battle flags and printed banners ("Viva Beatles," "Hurrah Beatles," "We Love You Paul") sprung up all around the circular, Roman arena-type Budokan.
IN A WAY THE PERFORMANCE WAS JUST LIKE THROWING the Buddhists to the lions; like a dog-eat-dog football game or a spirited bullfight in Spain.
The place was overrun by Japanese policemen (500 of them in plain clothes planted throughout the audience) and 400 firemen were on hand — just in case some fanatic Beatles fan should decide to burn either himself or the Budokan.
The ushers, it seems, went into training days ago in the obviously difficult art of pushing hysterical teen-agers into their seats. (Members of the press were used as practice dummies, I'm told, but this hasn't been confirmed.)
While the ushers were in training, the teen-agers — ever inventive — were far from idle. They were sneaking into this hallowed hall (where kendo, judo, karate and other physical-type arts are practiced and. revered) to calculate the effects on the human body if it happens to jump from the: first balcony to the main floor.
THE ONLY JUMPING, HOWEVER, WAS DONE — UP AND DOWN — by both the Beatles and their fans. And the Beatles earlier had given a pretty solid answer to the accusation that they might be desecrating this hall where "traditional Japanese arts" are practiced.
"We're just as traditional," snorted John Lennon.
Although a lot of wailing and weeping was done during the performance, much of it was done at the end when many of the nubile and numbed female teen-agers sat staring staring through tear-filled eyes and refused to budge from their seats.
Whether they were crying .because they were emotionally overcome at the sight and sound of the Liverpool leapers, or because the Beatles — who were preceded by several Japanese rock 'n' roll groups — only performed for 25 minutes, is hard to say.
P.S. — Being well aware of the riots the. Beatles have caused in the past, old crafty Ricketts coughed up exactly $1 (which the Great American Insurance Co. reluctantly accepted) to insure this frail body against $100 worth of physical harm at the first Beatles performance in Japan. Great American, you can now relax.