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The Beatles at Shea Stadium

The Beatles at Shea Stadium

NEW YORK CITY, August 15, 1965

In 1964 All American Scoreboards installed a massive 86' x 175' scoreboard at Shea Stadium. Shea Stadium was the second full-featured MLB scoreboard (second to Bill Veeck's White Sox' "exploding scoreboard", installed in 1960). When Shea first opened, the big square at the top of the scoreboard would be filled with a picture of whoever was at bat, later it was filled with the Mets logo and so it remained till 1988. The Rheingold ad and Longines clock remained unchanged since 1965. The large white background was translucent, containing colored light bulbs which lit up at night.

Shea Stadium was the home of the New York Mets since its inception in 1964, and hosted the Major League Baseball All-Star Game that same year, three National League Division Series (1999, 2000 and 2006), seven National League Championship Series (1969, 1973, 1986, 1988, 1999, 2000 and 2006), and four World Series (1969, 1973, 1986 and 2000). On Sunday, August 15, 1965, The Beatles opened their 1965 North American tour there to a record audience of 55,600.

"Beatlemania" was at one of its highest marks at the Shea Concert. Film footage taken at the concert shows many teenagers and women crying, screaming, and even fainting. The crowd noise was such that security guards can be seen covering their ears as The Beatles enter the field. Despite the heavy security presence individual fans broke onto the field a number of times during the concert and had to be chased down and restrained. Concert film footage also shows John Lennon light-heartedly pointing out one such incident as he attempted to talk to the audience in between songs.

The deafening level of crowd noise coupled with the distance between the band and the audience meant that nobody in the stadium could hear much of anything. Vox had specially designed 100-watt amplifiers for this tour and it was still not anywhere near loud enough, and so the Beatles used the house amplification system. Lennon described the noise as "wild" and also twice as deafening when the Beatles performed. Not being able to hear each other or even themselves, The Beatles just played through a list of songs nervously, not knowing what kind of sound was being produced. At the end of the show (during "I'm Down"), Lennon saw the whole show as being so ridiculous that he just began playing the keyboard with his elbows while the whole group laughed hysterically. The Beatles section of the concert was extremely short by modern standards (just 30 minutes), but was the typical 1965 Beatles tour set list, with Ringo opting to sing "Act Naturally" instead of "I Wanna Be Your Man".

A documentary titled The Beatles at Shea Stadium was produced by Ed Sullivan (under his Sullivan Productions, Inc. banner), NEMS Enterprises Ltd. (which owns the 1965 copyright), and the Beatles company Subafilms Ltd. The project utilised twelve cameras to capture the mayhem and mass hysteria that was Beatlemania in America in 1965. With overdubs recorded by the Beatles in London in January 1966 to cover audio problems throughout the concert recording, the documentary aired in the United States in 1966 on the ABC television network, and has been widely available on the bootleg circuit for decades.