Pointe-à-Callière Museum presents The Beatles in Montréal exhibition from March 29, 2013 to March 30, 2014, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the event. 360 objects are on display, including personal items, objects signed by The Beatles, records, instruments, Beatlemania-related items, film excerpts, archival photos, and pages from newspapers.
John Lennon’s legendary Rolls-Royce Phantom V is on loan from the Royal BC Museum in Victoria. Lennon purchased it when he was just 24 years old! The Beatles rode in the Rolls to Buckingham Palace Oct. 26, 1965, to pick up the medals they had been awarded as Members of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
Over the years, Lennon had several modifications made to the Rolls: the rear seat was converted into a double bed, and a television, refrigerator, telephone, and sound system were added. In 1970, John Lennon and Yoko Ono shipped the Rolls to the United States where it was rented out to such artists as The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Lennon and Yoko Ono tried to sell it but no buyer was found.
On June 29, 1985, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum decided to put the car up for auction. Sotheby’s estimated the car would sell for between $200,000 and $300,000 USD. This turned out to be a gross underestimation, as the Rolls was purchased by Jim Pattison of Ripley International Inc. for the tidy sum of $2,299,000 USD. In 1986, Pattison was named chairman of Expo 86 in Vancouver. He loaned the famous Rolls to Expo for exhibition during the event.
In 1987, Pattison donated the car to the province of British Columbia. The Rolls-Royce was exhibited at the British Columbia Transportation Museum in Cloverdale, near Vancouver. In 1993, the magnificent vehicle was sent to the Royal BC Museum in Victoria.
A recording of the Montreal concerts can be heard by visitors to the show, while film clips of various Beatles appearances play from displays. People can even sing along with the group in one section.
Drummer Ringo Starr had received a death threat from someone who did not like “English Jews,” although Starr, whose real name is Richard Starkey, is not Jewish. During the performance, he tried to hide behind strategically placed cymbals acting as a shield of sorts and was seated close to a plainclothes police officer who presumably was meant to leap in front of Ringo and catch whatever bullet was being aimed at the Beatles’ drummer.
The Beatles performed just two shows at the Montréal Forum on St. Catherine Street on September 8, 1964, at 4 pm and 8:30 pm; tickets cost $4.50 and $5.50.
About 5,000 delirious fans met the Beatles when they landed at Dorval airport on Sept. 8, 1964, and a total of 21,000 would attend their two concerts –9,500 at a late-afternoon matinee and 11,500 at an evening show.
The numbers reportedly miffed the band because they were well below the Montreal Forum’s 13,551-seat capacity at the time. At the Forum, there were another 400 police to keep order for the two concerts, the first with about 9,000 fans and the second one with about 11,500 people in the audience.
The audience at the Forum screamed so loud it was difficult to hear the Beatles singing. About 100 teenaged girls needed medical attention. Luckily there were 200 St. John Ambulance medics on hand and five ambulances to take hysterical girls to hospital.
The museum encouraged the participation of the public at large – especially collectors of Beatle memorabilia – towards the development of the exhibition.
The exhibition revisits the effervescent music scene of 1960s Montréal and Québec: Les Baronets, Les Jaguars, César et les Romains, Les Classels, Les Hou-Lops, The Haunted, Les Sultans, and Les Mégatones… groups that are synonymous with the “yé-yé” era.
Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr played Montreal several times after their group’s 1970 split. John Lennon returned to the city in 1969 for a week-long bed-in for peace with wife Yoko Ono and recorded the antiwar anthem “Give Peace A Chance” at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. Even to this day, the hotel has the John and Yoko Suite – you can rent and sleep in the same kind of bed.