The Beatles’ record-breaking first performance at New York’s Shea Stadium was watched by 55,600 fans, and marked the beginning of the group’s second full US concert tour.
The William A Shea Municipal Stadium, to give it its full name, was the home of the New York Mets baseball team. The stage was located on second base, far from the audience, which was confined to the stadium’s spectator areas.
Now we were playing stadiums! There were all those people and just a tiny PA system – they couldn’t get a bigger one. We always used to use the house PA. That was good enough for us, even at Shea Stadium. I never felt people came to hear our show – I felt they came to see us. From the count-in on the first number, the volume of screams drowned everything else out.
The concert at Shea Stadium set a world record for attendance figures, and also for gross revenue. The Beatles pocketed $160,000 of the $304,000 box office takings. The event was promoted by Sid Bernstein, and 2,000 security personnel were enlisted to handle crowd control.
The Beatles had hoped to land on the field by helicopter, but the idea was blocked by the New York City authorities. They travelled by limousine from the Warwick Hotel to a heliport, from where they were flown in a New York Airways Boeing Vertol 107-II helicopter, over New York City, to the roof of the World’s Fair building in Queens. From there they boarded a Wells Fargo armoured van, where they were each given a Wells Fargo agent badge, and were driven to the stadium.
The journey, which involved a sightseeing opportunity over the skyscrapers of Manhattan, was filmed by Ed Sullivan’s company Sullivan Productions, in association with NEMS Enterprises and Subafilms – owned by Brian Epstein and The Beatles. The concert was also filmed by 12 camera operators.
Other acts on the bill were, in order of appearance, Brenda Holloway and the King Curtis Band, Cannibal & The Headhunters, Sounds Incorporated, and the Young Rascals. The Beatles were introduced by Ed Sullivan.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, honoured by their country, decorated by their Queen, loved here in America, here are The Beatles!
Also on this day...
- 2010: Paul McCartney live: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia
- 2009: Paul McCartney live: Piedmont Park, Atlanta
- 1969: Recording: Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight, The End, Something, Here Comes The Sun
- 1968: Recording, mixing: Rocky Raccoon
- 1966: Live: DC Stadium, Washington, DC
- 1963: Live: Odeon Cinema, Llandudno
- 1962: Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (evening) – Pete Best’s final show with The Beatles
- 1962: Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (lunchtime)
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.
The existence of a ticket stub is less certain for this one, but it’s probably the most famous concert my mum ever attended. She dragged her best friend (my godmother) from Philadelphia to New York City to see the concert with her – unwillingly by all accounts, as she was herself more of an Elvis fan and complained of being very bored at Shea.
Interestingly, it wasn’t until reminded recently about the amplification issue that my mum remembered not being able to hear very well. She confirmed that it was indeed extremely hard to hear the lads.
Not to be a nit, but we shouldn’t be calling a baseball field a “pitch”. I sure heard it when I visited England and referred to the “soccer field”!