It was 55 years ago Saturday (August 15th, 1965) that the Beatles played their legendary concert at Shea Stadium in New York City. The show was the first on their 1965 U.S. summer tour, and it was also the first-ever open-air stadium rock concert. The group flew into New York on August 13th and a day later taped a five-song performance for The Ed Sullivan Show to be broadcast the following month. Sullivan returned the favor by introducing the group the next night at Shea, in front of a sell-out crowd of 55,600 fans.
The Beatles, who performed on a makeshift stage near where second base would normally be, earned a whopping $160,000 for their 30-minute set — which was a record payout at that time. The New York Police Department was worried that fans attending the shows would jam the tunnels in and out of Manhattan, so the Beatles were escorted from the Warwick Hotel to the Manhattan East River Heliport and flown by helicopter to the roof of the World's Fair building in Flushing Meadows Park, not far from Shea Stadium. Next, the group jumped in a Wells Fargo armored van and were driven to the stadium. The van driver gave each of the Beatles a Wells Fargo “agent badge,” which they all wore at the evening's concert.
Unlike today's stadium events, no seats were set up on the field for safety reasons. Throughout the concert — which also featured legendary New York DJ Murray The K and opening acts the King Curtis Band, Cannibal & the Headhunters, Brenda Holloway, and Sounds Incorporated — fans were constantly stopped from making mad dashes towards the stage.