The Beatles playing Las Vegas in 1964 & their fascination with slot machines

On the 20th of August 1964, The Beatles played two back to back shows at the Las Vegas Convention Center. It was to be the first and last time that the band played in Sin City, on the second day of their North American tour. The summer of 1964 was arguably the height of so-called Beatlemania, and the frenzied atmosphere that followed the group was in full force.

The group had attempted to make a low-key arrival by charter plane from San Francisco, landing in the early hours of the morning. Despite these precautions, word got out and they were greeted by several hundred fans who turned out in defiance of a city-wide curfew in place at the time. Just the day before, a planned parade in San Francisco had been called off over security concerns.

At this point in their career, The Beatles had been touring non-stop since January 1961. They would continue to tour with very few breaks until August 1966, going as far as the Philippines and New Zealand. During this stint in 1964, they were still regarded as the playful and lovable mop-tops from Liverpool – long before John Lennon’s controversial claim that they were ‘more popular than Jesus’, a remark that scandalized much of the devout American public.

The group stayed at the nearby Sahara, reportedly sequestered in their suite on the 18th floor to avoid the throngs of mostly teenaged girls who were attempting to get a peek at their idols. Rumors abound that the Fab Four actually did manage to slip out and see some of the Vegas nightlife, although none of them ever confirmed that to be true.

The casino floor was off-limits for the lads. Despite the extra security laid on, the risk of getting mobbed was too great for an appearance in a public space. Since many of the fans were under eighteen, management was also concerned about keeping them out of the casino premises.

To stave off boredom, and give them a taste of the Las Vegas lifestyle, several slot machines were brought up to the suite. Photos from that day show Paul, Ringo and George enthusiastically engaging with these old-style gaming machines, with the hand-pull lever at the side. John is pictured standing behind the machine, smiling in a pair of sunglasses. According to the journalist Ivor Davis, who was accompanying the group on the tour, John disapproved of gambling and declared it to be “evil.” One can only imagine how Lennon would have felt about the abundance of new slots sites like the ones reviewed by NewCasinoUK – it seems unlikely that he would be a fan of the newest online slots.

At some point during The Beatles’ stay at the Sahara, two teenage sisters managed to slip past security and make it to their suite. Members of the entourage, including Ivor Davis, maintain that everything about the visit was entirely innocent, a claim backed up by the girls themselves. Even so, a reported payment of $10,000 was made to the mother of the girls, who had been frantically trying to find her daughters.

The two sold out shows took place at 4 pm and 9 pm, to audiences of more than 7,000 frantic fans. As was the case with all the concerts The Beatles performed at the time, the songs were all but inaudible due to the screaming of the audience. In attendance were the singer Pat Boone and his family, as well as the legendary performer Liberace, who had met the band backstage before the show.

By today’s standards, the shows that took place might be somewhat disappointing. The program included opening acts, in particular Bill Black’s Combo who joined them for the whole tour. The Beatles performed 12 songs in around half an hour, following a standard set that included “All My Loving,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Twist and Shout.”

It is not known who requested it, but one of the Vegas shows also included “Till There Was You,” the only time on the tour that they played that song. At this point, The Beatles had only recorded three studio albums and did not have that much of a back catalogue to choose from. Only after they gave up touring did they record the majority of their material.

Today, an unused ticket from one of the Vegas shows is among the most valuable of any Beatles memorabilia. The few in existence have sold for up to $10,000.

Almost exactly two years after the Vegas shows, The Beatles quit touring for good. They had played more than 1,400 concerts in 16 countries. They would not perform together again until their very last appearance in January of 1969, at their unannounced concert on the rooftop of the Apple Corps headquarters in London.

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Buddy Iahn

Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites. Email: info@themusicuniverse.com

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