Paul McCartney had been on the road for nearly a year when his Flowers in the Dirt tour finally touched down in Liverpool on June 28th, 1990. This was a special night since McCartney had been completely off the road since the final Wings trek in 1979, and this was his first show that centered around Beatles tunes. A humongous crowd showed up at King’s Dock to watch the local hero and cameras were rolling for a television special.
The year also marked the 50th anniversary of John Lennon‘s birth, and McCartney wanted to do something memorable at the show to mark the occasion. “So much gets said about me and John,” he said at the time. “And we had barneys [British slang for fights], plenty of barneys. I like the idea of putting that to rest by playing a small tribute to to him.”
He pulled that off by performing a long medley that incorporated “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Help!” and “Give Peace a Chance.” It was the first time he’d ever played those songs live, and he picked them since they were quintessential Lennon tunes. “To me, ‘Give Peace a Chance’ is one of John’s big statements to the world,” McCartney said. “I’m not trying to make a saint out of him, but the Vietnam War was bought to a close by a million people singing that song at the White House.”
The tribute worked so well that Paul kept it in the set list until the tour wrapped a month later at Soldier Field in Chicago. John songs were largely left out on his next few tours, though when he returned to Liverpool in 2008 he shocked fans by playing “A Day in the Life” followed by a bit of “Give Peace a Chance.” He hadn’t sang a note of the former song since it was recorded in 1967. It hung around the set list for the next four years, though now he sticks to his own Lennon tribute “Here Today” at every show to honor his old friend and bandmate.