George Harrison said The Beatles‘ performance at Shea Stadium in 1965 was “impersonal.” By the time the group played their record-breaking concert, they’d already been through the wringer touring the world at the height of Beatlemania. When they landed in New York, they didn’t care anymore.
The Beatles were tired from touring before their performance at Shea Stadium
Touring throughout Beatlemania was exhausting for the four lads from Liverpool. Most of the time, they hid from hoards of screaming girls in cars and hotel rooms. They often had to be escorted to the stage in armored vehicles.
In Here Comes The Sun: The Spiritual And Musical Journey Of George Harrison, Joshua M. Greene wrote, “During a concert in Kansas City in September 1964, hundreds of screaming fans broke through police barriers and attacked the band’s mobile dressing room.
“The van rocked backward and for-ward until at last it pitched over with a groan. To restore order, police retaliated by attacking the mob with rubber billy clubs… The Beatles had managed to survive the circumstances of their career thanks to a limitless supply of friendship and an ability to laugh at anything, even tragedy—but the humor had gone out of their lives.”
When The Beatles heard about their upcoming performance at Shea Stadium, they were hardly overjoyed.
George said The Beatles’ performance at Shea Stadium was ‘impersonal’
By the time The Beatles performed at Shea Stadium on August 15, 1965, they didn’t care about what would happen. About 56,000 people packed into the sports arena, “the largest crowd ever assembled for an entertainment event,” Greene wrote.
“The band arrived by helicopter atop a nearby World’s Fair building, then scrambled into a Wells Fargo armored truck that drove them inside the stadium. They stepped out of the truck, and from the stands spewed an apocalyptic roar. Police held their ears against the pain.
“Within minutes, emergency nursing stations beneath the stands were filled to overflowing with girls who had fainted from their own screaming. Stadium concerts had never happened before. No singer or group could fill so large a space.
“For the Beatles’ concert, the Vox sound company created customized amplifiers with their usual thirty watts of power boosted to a spectacular one hundred watts. Nothing helped. The audience was a raging animal, far away, straining against wire barriers.”
This was not what the band signed up for when they started. They liked engaging with their fans, not caging them in for both their safety.
A day after the concert, a reporter asked John Lennon, “Does it bother you that you can’t hear what you sing during concerts?” He replied, “No, we don’t mind. We’ve got the records at home.” It was the usual witty remark, but underneath, The Beatles hated it.
A reporter asked George how he felt about the near riot at Shea Stadium. He replied, “It was very impersonal. Worst of all . . . we really didn’t care anymore.”
Cousin Brucie said the band was afraid something bad would happen
George claimed that The Beatles didn’t care what would happen during their performance at Shea Stadium. However, radio personality Cousin Brucie, a.k.a. Bruce Morrow, claims differently.
He befriended The Beatles after he played “I Want To Hold Your Hand” on heavy rotation. Then, he and Ed Sullivan introduced The Beatles on stage at Shea Stadium. “About 65,000 screaming fans,” he said. “There was energy like I have never felt. But now I say, it was an energy of love.”
Cousin Brucie said The Beatles were nervous before the show; he was too but reassured them. He said, “And in the dugout before we introduced them John Lennon comes up to me with Paul McCartney and John says, ‘Cousin, is this going to be safe? Is it dangerous?’
“And I put my fingers behind my back and I crossed my fingers because I was scared, and said, ‘John, Paul. This is going to be safe. All they want to do is be in the same space as you cause they love you.’ Frankly I was scared stiff – I’d never felt a cacophony of energy like I’d never felt.
“So I’m walking up the stairs with Ed Sullivan and we were just feeling this huge energy – you could feel it through your body. And Ed says, ‘Is this going to be safe Cousin?’ So I said to him since I wanted to give him a hard time, ‘Well Ed. I think it’s not going to be safe. It will be dangerous.’ He then asked, ‘What do we do?’ I said, ‘Pray, Ed, Pray.'”
The Beatles didn’t perform or tour for much longer after their performance at Shea Stadium. Their nerves were gone.