October 25th, 2016

The Beatles at Shea Stadium – I saw them standing there

Updated: 7:27 am, Aug 18, 2015

IT was 50 years ago today that Nigel saw the band play. Leamington businessman Nigel Robinson recalls attending arguably the most famous single pop concert in history.

FIFTY years ago on Saturday (August 15) history was made when the Beatles played the most famous concert of its era – and Beatlemania was at its height.

August 15 1965 at Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets, saw a new level of mass hysteria, and gave birth to the modern day music concert.

And among the crowd of 60,000 plus – were two Warwick schoolboys there to witness it.

Nigel Robinson and David Treadaway were Warwick School sixth formers enjoying their summer holiday in the States when they managed to get tickets for the concert that set new records in attendance and the greatest gross in the history of entertainment.

“It was incredibly exciting,” said Nigel, now a director of Newsline Public Relations in Leamington. “Beatlemania was at its peak in the States, where only the year before in March 1964 the Beatles had an incredible 12 singles in the US top 100 – including all of the top 5!”

The Fab Four had arrived in New York and on the night on the concert they were taken first by helicopter and then by an armoured truck to the stadium, where 2,000 police and security guards had been drafted in.

“The crowd was in a frenzy. They’d been screaming at the end of all the warm-up acts thinking the Beatles were on next and when TV legend Ed Sullivan walked on stage and said: “Ladies and gentlemen. Honoured by their country, decorated by their Queen (they had collected their MBEs just a few months before) and loved here in America; here are the Beatles!”

With that, John, Paul, George and Ringo ran out through a security cordon to the stage in the middle of the baseball park and all hell broke loose.

“There was a wall of deafening sound, girls and women were screaming, sobbing, fainting, and then screaming again. Policemen put their hands over their ears, girls threw themselves against the security wire netting and people charged the police barricades. Collapsed from excitement, heat and exhausted, teenagers were being passed down to the front where the paramedics were waiting. It was just pandemonium.

“We could see that the Beatles had begun playing but we couldn’t hear anything but hysterical screaming.”

They were to say later that they hadn’t even been able to hear themselves and didn’t know if they were playing in unison or not.

“At the end of the concert the screaming went on and no one really moved. As Dave and I tried to move through the crowd saying ‘excuse me’, people who heard our English accent began photographing us and asking us to sign their concert programmes. It was extraordinary. It was a night we’ll never forget!”

Throughout the rest of their visit Americans were ringing up the family they were staying with asking if the ‘English boys’ could come to their parties.

Nigel added: “We were the star attraction at so many events we started to feel we were celebrities too.”

A few months before, the Beatles had released their Help! album and the film of the same name and their tour really opened up the States to the British. Suddenly they wanted everything British and a wave of British pop talent was to sweep America over the years to come.

“It was a golden time for the Brits in America as pop groups, British fashion, actors and businessmen crossed the Atlantic in their droves – even British journalists suddenly found themselves in demand, as I found when I returned a few years later as a reporter on a New York newspaper.”