The year 1965 was an incredible one for The Beatles, who at the time were riding the crest of “Beatlemania” and were far and away the most popular phenomenon in music — or any form of entertainment. They filmed and released their second feature film, Help!, were named “Members of the British Empire” by Queen Elizabeth II, and they recorded and released their revolutionary album Rubber Soul, among numerous other accomplishments.
But the most memorable single event of 1965 for The Beatles, and the world, came 52 years ago, on August 15, when the group played an unprecedented concert at New York City’s Shea Stadium — then the home of the New York Mets baseball team and New York Jets NFL football team — in front of a record 55,600 fans, at that time a staggering number for a pop music performance.
The Shea Stadium show kicked off the Beatles’ second full tour of the United States, in which the legendary band performed 16 concerts in 10 U.S. cities — including a pair of shows at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on August 29 and 30 that were recorded and later used to create the Beatles’ first and only official live album.
The Shea Stadium concert, however, was not the first time that The Beatles performed in a sports stadium. After performing in the United Kingdom primarily in theaters that seated no more than 3,500, when the group brought Beatlemania to America for their first U.S. and Canadian tour in 1964, they performed at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida; as well as Empire Stadium, a Canadian football venue in Vancouver, British Columbia; Municipal Stadium, then home of baseball’s Kansas City Athletics; and City Park Stadium, for the only show The Beatles ever played in New Orleans.
But none of those concerts — though huge for their era with crowds topping 20,000 people — compared to the awe-inspiring Shea Stadium event the following year, a show that grossed more than $300,000 in ticket sales, another record at the time.
The concert was filmed by the production company owned by TV personality Ed Sullivan, who also introduced The Beatles at Shea Stadium. Watch that film of The Beatles at Shea Stadium, below.
The Shea Stadium Beatles concert set the record for the biggest crowd at a single-day music event, and that record stood until May 5, 1973, when another British band, Led Zeppelin, drew 56,800 to Tampa Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
But even losing the record could not diminish the historical significance of The Beatles Shea Stadium concert 52 years ago.
“Now it’s quite commonplace for people to play Shea Stadium or Giants Stadium and all those big places, but this was the first time. It seemed like millions of people, but we were ready for it. They obviously felt we were popular enough to fill it,” Paul McCartney recalled in an interview 30 years later.
“Once you go on stage and you know you’ve filled a place that size, it’s magic. Just walls of people. Half the fun was being involved in this gigantic event ourselves,” McCartney said.
Shea Stadium was demolished in February of 2009, but when its replacement facility, Citi Field, opened right next door to the former Shea, McCartney himself returned to play the first concert in the new stadium, on July 17 — just 29 days shy of the 44th anniversary of that legendary night when The Beatles played Shea Stadium.
[Featured Image by AP Images, File]