When The Beatles performed at Shea Stadium on Aug. 15, 1965, the event was an important moment in popular culture. Early in his career, Frank Sinatra caused the bobbysoxers to swoon at the old Paramount Theatre and Elvis Presley went on to become the King of Rock and Roll. But nobody did it like The Beatles.
To say The Beatles dominated radio, television and the movies during the 1960s would not be an exaggeration. But the frenzy of Beatlemania was perhaps best epitomized at the band’s historic show in Flushing, Queens.
On that hot August night, more than 55,600 fans proved The Beatles were not just a passing fancy. Together, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were an irresistible phenomenon. While Bob Dylan was playing his way to being the voice of a generation, The Beatles conquered the world.
For Beatles enthusiasts, the remarkable concert at Shea Stadium is available on CD and DVD. But there is nothing like being at a big event as it happens. Carla Shaw is a fan who attended the Beatles performance at Shea. Shaw watched the Fab Four from seat 2, section 2 in row J. That is, before the pandemonium set in.
A Firsthand Account of The Beatles at Shea Stadium
Musicinterviewmagazine.com recently caught up with Carla Shaw for a telephone interview where she talked about the famous Beatles concert at Shea Stadium.
Were you a Beatles fan before the legendary show at Shea Stadium?
I was a Beatles fan from the very start of Beatledom. It was before their movies. They were The Beatles and it just was. I remember when “She Loves You” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” first hit. I also remember going around the mall with my friends singing “I wanna hold your hand.” We just loved the Beatles. We watched every single thing about them, like any time they were on television, even for just a minute. We read every article and knew every detail that we could find out about them. We were very much into music and rock and roll in a general anyway. The Beach Boys were big for us, but nothing like The Beatles.
The attendance at Shea on Aug. 15, 1965 is estimated to be 55,600.* How did you acquire tickets?
I had been in Europe with my brother and arrived home on Aug 8th. On Aug. 10th I turned 14 and on Aug. 15, my friends and I went to see The Beatles. My friend had the tickets. Her dad got them. He was good at facilitating those things. I think he had some type of connection at London Records or something, so he would bring home the first Rolling Stones album and things like that.
I went with my two friends, Mindy and Susan. I’d known them since elementary school. The three of us were pretty much inseparable.
What was it like at the stadium when you arrived?
There were crowds of mostly young girls around and a very high excitement level, almost breathtaking in a lot of ways. I remember how it was unbelievable that we were going to see The Beatles. I was still a little frazzled from traveling and all the excitement made it seem like an extension of my vacation. There were such crowds when we arrived at the stadium. The excitement was nonstop. There was this buzzing of electricity. It was one of the times in my life that I can say there was electricity in the air.
What happened when you reached your seats?
We were on the first base side. They kept flashing a sign that said “The Rascals Are Coming, The Rascals Are Coming” and we had no idea what that meant. I think there was an opening band. But suddenly The Beatles were just there singing and everyone started screaming. I don’t know if everybody rushed forward but we moved ahead toward the railing. I could see the Beatles pretty well. But here’s my biggest memory of the concert. We were standing at the railing with one friend on the right and the other on my left with our arms linked. One was for Paul, the other loved Ringo and I loved John. They were each jumping up and down. One was screaming “Paul, Paul” at the top of her lungs and crying and waving while my other friend screamed “Ringo, Ringo.” I stood there and tried to scream “John” but I felt silly. But after a while everyone was screaming. I kind of remember wishing everyone would be quiet for a little bit. But that was never going to happen. I think of that all the time, because situations will have a parallel to it and it comes back to me.
Could you hear any of the music during the show?
Yes, I could. It was really hard, but I could. I guess if I was screaming I couldn’t hear anything. But if I wasn’t screaming and just stood there I could hear the music. Like I said, it was almost an extension of my travels so it was just this craziest experience seeing the Beatles. Every once in a while a girl would get onto the field and go running towards them and the police would go and tackle her. That would happen every so often until the concert finally stopped. When it was over we still stood there and screamed. Of course, we were there for the entire show. I forgot I left my purse at the seats when we ran to the railing. When we got back to our seats after the show, the purse was there but my wallet had been stolen.
Do you have any post-concert stories to share?
Oh yeah. When we walked through the parking lot we saw this van. I told you how they were flashing this sign during the show, “The Rascals Are Coming, The Rascals Are Coming.” After the concert we saw that the same van said, “The Rascals.” Because of the crowd, we caught up to the van. That’s when one of my friends said it was them, The Rascals. It turned out to be their guitar player Gene Cornish driving the van. We were yelling and freaked him out a little bit. He was kind of cute. My friends kissed him and maybe I did too. He gave us buttons that said “The Rascals.” When my friend asked if he had anything else, he gave us a Rascals pillowcase. Yes, a pillowcase. And I still have that pillowcase with the Rascals button pinned to it. I’ve moved a lot but I have this box of memories and its right there. It was crazy after the Beatles concert. After the show it seemed like we continued running through the parking lot until one of the dads picked us up.
Have you been a lifelong Beatles fan ever since?
Oh yes. I love The Beatles and the concert at Shea Stadium was the greatest year of my youth. It was amazing.
We have to ask, who’s your favorite Beatle of all time?
The Beatles at Shea Stadium attendance information obtained from beatlesbible.com.
Editor’s note: A fourth member of Carla Shaw’s group of friends was Anne, whose father provided transportation to the concert at Shea.
Photos: The Beatles poster – Ronald Saunders/Creative Commons (CC) usage does not suggest endorsement; John Lennon – The Fabs/CC; The Beatles (four square) – The Fabs/CC; The Beatles at JFK – The Fabs/CC; The Beatles at Shea Stadium ticket stub with permission from a personal collection.