Catching lightning in a bottle, The Beatles performed one of the most famous concerts in rock history 50 years ago today. Isolated in the middle of the baseball field with a large barrier of police officers buffering the band from more than 50,000 ravenous fans in the stands, the group experienced the absolute peak of Beatlemania while performing a rocked-out show that somehow sounds pleasant above the din of screeching teenagers. This demonstrated at once both the talent that made the band the most famous in the world and the absurdity of them trying to accommodate their massive fan base by staging concerts which were not practical with 1965 technology.
The concert was preserved on film for a television documentary that aired on the BBC in early 1966 (shown below). While the film does not completely capture the performance (which barely lasted an hour), it does include the best performances with some enhanced, post-production audio. It also contains cool footage of the group arriving by helicopter, emerging from their dressing room in the baseball dugout, and departing by station wagon through the dark outfield of Shea Stadium.
Notable Songs Performed at Shea in 1965
Twist and Shout
I Feel Fine
Dizzy Miss Lizzy
Ticket to Ride
Can’t Buy Me Love
A Hard Day’s Night
The concert was the first of a series of US dates through the Autumn of 1965, following the release of the motion picture and album Help! earlier in the summer. While it is clear that the band members were having a good time performing at this gig, touring itself was becoming less of a viable chore for The Beatles and they would permanently retire from live concerts the following year. In fact, ironically during their final tour in 1966, the Beatles returned to Shea to less fanfare and less fans as that later concert failed to sell out, even though the group made much more money that time.
The 1965 concert was a milestone in popular musical history as the first major stadium concert, a feat which would be replicated throughout the following decades. But as for the 1960s, aside from the 1969 Woodstock Festival, there is no more famous gig from that decade, if ever.