40th Anniversary of Beatles Concert at Shea Stadium
A Reflection by Victor Lana
Forty years ago, on August 15, 1965, the Beatles played at Shea Stadium. No, they weren’t shagging flies; they had a concert there. The stage was centered on second base, and the crowd (mostly consisting of screaming young girls) made it nearly impossible to hear anything of the music. Why does this moment resonate for Beatles and Mets fans until this day?
Well, for one thing, it is really one of the last moments where the Beatles were still connected to their mop-top image. Remember, Rubber Soul will soon be released, with the oddly warped images of the Fab Four leaving behind (or perhaps gently jolting) those innocent bubble gum dreamers forever. As the Beatles were evolving, they knew their Brian Epstein created image that captured the teeny boppers was going to have to go, along with the Pierre Cardin suits and the pudding bowl haircuts.
The other thing was that the Beatles’ live performances were coming to an end (the last being in San Francisco in 1966). It is of note that while they were an amazing band to see in concert, their real awakening as musicians, writers, and singers would come in the studio. So this frenzied moment of glaring lights, screaming girls, and inaudible vocals was something to be cherished.
Finally, Mets fans didn’t have much to cheer about at this point in their history. It is a moment of pride for most Mets fans that the concert took place at Shea and not that other stadium across the river in the Bronx. Even if the Beatles didn’t know much about baseball, it gave Mets fans a thrill to know they had the Beatles on their turf. In fact, I still can’t go to a game and not, for a brief moment, imagine the Beatles on that stage at second base. The ghosts of the young John, Paul, George, and Ringo will linger there forever, along with specters of every Mets player who ever crossed the bag.
I was too young to attend the concert, but my friend’s thirteen year old sister went and brought along her trusty little movie camera and a Polaroid. I haven’t seen the film in probably thirty years, and I don’t know where she and her brother are now, but it was an amazing little three minute film. The Beatles come on stage; they bow to the audience; hands go up in the air in front of her; she moves around and gets them in the shot again playing their instruments; Paul makes love to the microphone, and the hands go up in the air again. That’s when the film ran out.
I probably watched that twenty or so times with my friend, so I recall it vividly. The Polaroid pictures were all blurry, except for a few clear ones depicting the backs of some girls’ heads and arms. Who knows how many other people have similar snippets of this amazing moment? Of course, there is the concert footage itself, complete with sound, but that is not the same thing as the purity of that grainy little silent film shot on an old Super 8.
I suppose the 40th anniversary of the Beatles’ concert at Shea means nothing to many people, especially those who weren’t around back then or who are not Beatles or Mets fans. But for me, and a good number of other people I knew, it was a defining moment for us as fans of both the Mets and the band. I believe nothing so pure and innocent and a just little bit crazy will ever happen to us in the same way ever again.
Copyright Victor Lana 2005