five nights in a judo arena

Back in an alternate universe about 45 years ago, a young record store proprietor in Tampa carried, along with the regular merchandise, bootleg albums from several outlets in North Carolina, the home of all manner of fun stuff, including “cheap” cigarettes and ’shine. There were labels such as Singer’s Original Double Disk, Tiger Boy, TAKRL, and Ze Anonym Plattenspieler. There were great titles such as Jim Croce’s Dead Men Still Tell Tales and In Your Mouth or On the Ground by Blue Oyster Cult.

The store, which all the school kids seemed to dig, also ordered ten copies of a bootleg by Tampa’s own killer Southern rockers, the band with four blazing guitars. The owner was a pretty lousy businessman, selling albums that cost $3 for $3.99. The store sold five of them for $4.95 gross profit (oh, and there was shipping).

A friend of a friend of the band heard the store had made $10,000 from those record sales and promptly called the feds, who roared in one afternoon and confiscated everything that looked to them like a bootleg.

They missed a few, most prominently ones in a display rack loaded down with a dozen copies of five nights in a judo arena. They missed those because they had distinctly un-bootleg-like covers, the ones that said at the bottom THE BEATLES ON STAGE IN JAPAN.

The 26 minutes of music came from one of the five shows The Beatles played at Nippon Budokan during their brief summer run through Germany, Japan, and The Philippines. Their August tour of North America would be their last. This was the first time a concert was performed at the martial arts hall best known for sumo wrestling (and the floodgates opened).

Although the title says “five nights…” it was in fact five shows over three days, a single show June 30 and two shows each on July 1 and 2. The setlists from these dates are very similar. These are courtesy of

And there were any number of bootlegs of bootlegs after that, until finally they were legit and sold on DVD.

You can find a number of videos of individual songs from some of the shows. These two video sets contain multiple videos, this one labelled as 1st Concert:

And this series labelled 2nd Concert:

Interestingly, they did not play either side of their single on the charts, “Yellow Submarine” b/w “Eleanor Rigby,” nor did they play any of the material from the recently recorded Revolver, which wouldn’t be released until August 5.

The Beatles getting off JAL for the shows at Budokan


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