There are things we do for money and there are things we do for love – notwithstanding the well-established proviso that the former can’t buy me the latter.
Into the second category assuredly falls Chuck Gunderson, a San Diego native who made his living in advertising but whose labor of love over the last decade has been his painstaking compilation of the facts, the unpublished photographs, the contracts, correspondence, and ticket stubs associated with every single concert the Beatles played in North America during their three epic tours from August 1964 to August 1966. The results are arrayed in a stunning, thirteen-pound, self-published deluxe slipcase edition that houses the two-volume behemoth coffee-table books called Some Fun Tonight! The Backstage Story of How the Beatles Rocked America: The Historic Tours of 1964-1966. (The book can be ordered on Amazon.com or via Gunderson’s own website, www.somefuntonight.com.)
As the literature of the Beatles grows, each sliver of their singular career is attracting ever-greater, more detailed scholarly scrutiny. With rich detail and lavish illustration, Gunderson applies the forensic treatment to the Beatles’ frenzied, twenty-minute shows that left American teenage girls – and their brothers and dates, their parents, and just about everyone else with a pulse in the mid-Sixties – enthralled, joyous, ecstatic, emotionally devastated…
Yet the author’s choice was not, in the eyes of most musicologists, an obvious one; for it is the work of “the later Beatles,” when the Fab Four jettisoned Beatlemania forever and sequestered themselves inside Studio Two at Abbey Road to produce landmark records like Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band, the White Album, and Abbey Road, that typically attracts the greatest critical acclaim. What made Gunderson go for the Beatles of Shea Stadium vintage? Why does he own a treasured collection of un-ripped ticket stubs for every single one of their tour shows in America?
The author declares the touring era “the most fascinating period” of the whole magical mystery tour. “Let’s face it: They didn’t start their career in a studio. They started their career on hot, cramped, sweaty stages in Liverpool and Hamburg, Germany. That’s where they cut their craft,” Gunderson said in a visit to The Foxhole.
“I realized that really no good book had been written about the tours of America. Maybe one of the tours or two of the tours [had been chronicled, in books that were] very short in nature, not a lot of detail, hardly any photographs. I decided to break the mold. I wanted to give the reader a day-by-day, hour-by-hour synopsis of the entire [set of] tours: every city they visited, from the moment the plane touched down to the moment it left, and then all the negotiations that happened before the Beatles even got to that city.”
Gunderson attributes the Beatles’ decision to stop touring to both their disaffection from what Paul McCartney called “the lark of touring” and the fact that, as their musical innovations escalated, the Beatles found it increasingly difficult to recreate their new sounds onstage – especially amidst hysterical screaming in baseball stadiums from tens of thousands of fans, a deafening white-noise sound that obliterated their playing.
Though he agrees the Beatles’ first Shea concert, on August 15, 1965 – the event that ushered in the modern era of live entertainment, with concerts performed in stadiums – is the most celebrated of their shows, it is not Gunderson’s favorite. Asked to identify the show that found the Beatles at their peak as live performers in America, he cites their appearance at the Hollywood Bowl in California, on August 23, 1964, parts of which were later released officially in the 1977 Capitol LP The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl.
“Here’s four guys from Liverpool,” Gunderson said, “playing one of the most famous and most iconic venues in all of North America. And as John said when he was asked, ‘Which of all the concerts did you like the best?’ John would always answer: ‘The Bowl.’”