The Beatles At Shea Stadium: The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert Paperback – 28 Nov 2013
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About the Author
Dave Schwensen is an entertainment journalist, award-winning humor columnist, pop culture historian and author of six books including "The Beatles In Cleveland."
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I found it disappointingly shallow, despite the excellent sources Mr Schwenson has tracked down. Too many surfaces have been left unscratched, too many clues left unfollowed. And why, once again, was the 1966 concert completely ignored?
Everyone knows there was plenty of screaming, so why use up book-space to repeat this fact endlessly? The sound engineer has a fabulous tale to tell, it needs a writer with empathy and enthusiasm to tell it, qualities lacking here. Some guy has Paul's Shea jacket; but there's few photos of it ... and those that are there are not good.
I'm disappointed to say that this book is an opportunity lost.
This book gives all the background to the concert, including information on promoter Sid Bernstein and New York DJ's Cousin Brucie Morrow and Murray the K. Many people who attended the concert, either as a fan or because they were involved in the show in some way, are interviewed and share their stories of that momentous day. In 1965, the attendance and revenue were record breaking - it was the height of Beatlemania and the birth of stadium rock. In many ways, it was a concert that changed the music scene forever, with bands afterwards demanding a larger share of the profits and better security, sound and organisation. Yet, despite the obvious need for crowd control, it seems to have been a good natured and happy event. Fans recall the constant screaming, like "white noise", but the police were there simply to protect them and scoop them up if they broke towards the stage. Nobody was hurt, nobody fought, there was no trouble - just an overwhelming excitement and enjoyment.
Every song performed is looked at in depth, including the finale of "I'm Down" - where, famously, John played the keyboard with his elbow, as the band gave up battling the roar of the crowd and just performed with enjoyment. Having arrived nearby by helicopter, even the fans wondered how they would "get away". They were finally whisked away in a station wagon and, as fan Doug Fernandez recalled, "It was electric, it was fun and then it was over." Years later, when Paul played with Billy Joel at the last show held at Shea, the same man drove him to the stage who had driven the band on that first show.
This is a fascinating account of that day. It has detailed information on everything about that ground breaking concert and also about the making of the television special. Many documents are hard to read, but the author assumed (correctly) that completists will want to see them and, where possible, letters are transcribed. There is a very interesting letter from M. Clay Adams to his son, Michael, after he travelled to London to record the Beatles overdubs for the tv special, including his impressions of both George Martin and the Beatles.
It is also interesting to note that, amongst the crowd at Shea that day were many famous faces - including the Rolling Stones and also Meryl Steep - who was keen to tell Paul that she had made a banner for him saying, "I'll love you forever, Paul", when she presented him with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (he said he remembered it!). Also there were both Linda Eastman and Barbara Bach, yet to meet their future husbands in person. This is a wonderful collection of memories and stories and, although it is obviously about one specific event, it is a must read for Beatles fans.