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The Night The Beatles Rocked Shea Stadium

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Though the Fab Four found it hard to remember the second occasion, the Beatles actually played Shea Stadium twice. When he was later asked about the "second Shea Stadium concert," George Harrison replied, "Did we play Shea twice?" Ringo Starr was asked the same question and gave the same exact response, "Did we play Shea twice?"

This is rather understandable, with the Beatles' extraordinarily eventful career, the excessive drugs taken, and the natural flaws of memory. Another word would probably also apply: anti-climactic. The first Beatles concert is often considered an apogee, some kind of peak in the unforgettable phenomena we know as "Beatlemania." After their monumental first Shea concert, the second one just over a year later was surely anti-climactic -- the tickets didn't even sell out. (The poster at left is for the less-memorable second concert at Shea Stadium.)

The first Beatles concert at Shea Stadium was on August 15, 1965. Any Beatles fan worth his or her salt knows this one as "The Shea Stadium Concert."

A Full House

Although the Beatles had sold out countless theaters, local auditoriums, and dance halls, no rock group had ever played a concert at an actual sports stadium before. The crowd was at capacity, an eye-popping 55,600 fans, mostly screaming, crying, and even fainting women and teenage girls.

Interestingly, among the screaming, worshiping fans were two future Beatle wives. Both Linda Eastman and Barbara Bach (the future wives of Paul and Ringo, respectively) were sitting amongst the other adoring fans. (One has to wonder what was going through those girls' minds at the time.)

The boys were dramatically escorted to the roof of the World's Fair in a whirling helicopter. According to George, en route to the rooftop, the pilot was zipping and whizzing them wildly over the Big Apple, pointing out the various sights, as the Beatles sat in slight terror at the aerial acrobatics. The boys were then driven to the concert in a Wells-Fargo Bank van.

After they were deposited at the stadium, each of the Beatles was given his own little Wells-Fargo badge. (In the film of the concert, you can spot each Beatle proudly wearing his Wells-Fargo badge pinned to his jacket.)

Once the previous acts finished their obligatory, thankless performances, the Beatles walked out onto the field like four deities. The noise was deafening -- in the video footage, some of the security people can be seen putting their hands over their ears or sticking their fingers in their ears to block out the noise. Thousands of bright camera flashbulbs greeted the Beatles as they entered, making the field look like a wild electronics laboratory.

Video of the opening of the concert from YouTube user saltaeb99

The boys nervously picked up their guitars and Ringo climbed aboard his drum kit. They stood in the middle of Shea Stadium, small and distant figures, which probably added to the adoration and surrealism of the moment.

It was a typically brief Beatles concert, just 12 songs played in about 30 minutes. The Beatles used their "new" 100-volt amps, rather like using a portable hand mic to get an interview with King Kong, and throughout the deafening roar, they couldn't hear a note any of them played (or sang).

INTERVIEWER: "Does it bother you that you can't hear what you sing during a concert?"

JOHN LENNON: "No, we don't mind. We've got the records at home."

Because of the excessive noise and the need to somehow keep some kind of a beat, Ringo later confessed to watching the swinging rear ends of his three bandmates to give him some semblance of rhythm.

John opened with his version of "Twist and Shout," a usual routine, but Paul, George, and Ringo all noticed something slightly different about John. According to George, John Lennon "cracked up" that night. The surrealism of the event caught Lennon's fancy and, always the craziest of the Fab Four, John just "lost it."

In the video footage, John can be seen cackling and breaking up with mad glee several times, as the other boys look over the crowd, and each other, with slight disbelief. At one point, John holds his arms out-stretched and starts chanting, in a Peter Sellers-like voice, up at some imaginary heavenly presence above him. At another point, as Paul talks to the crowd, John does his usual spastic clawed hands impression and stomps his feet. (But that was a regular part of John's routine in those pre-politically correct times.)

During the closing number, as Paul sang "I'm Down," John went over to play the electric organ. Lennon started playing the organ with his elbow and laughing devilishly. The normally staid and conventional Paul is seen doing a full 360-degree spin, in seemingly pure exhilaration. Even the usually stone-faced George laughed out loud at John's antics.

In between the "Twist and Shout" and "I'm Down" bookends, George and Ringo each performed their obligatory solo turns. John and Paul rotated and sang lead in the other ten songs.

Thus, the band played on.

And then, the most amazing 30-minutes of condensed music ended in a flash, and the Fab Four tromped off the field, exhausted.

The concert pulled in a then-record gross of $304,000, of which the Beatles would receive half. It was noted, at the time, as the biggest grossing event "in the history of show business." (Tickets sold for the ridiculous prices of $4.50, $5.00, and $5.75.)

Many years later, John Lennon ran into Sid Bernstein, the producer of the Shea Stadium concert. As they happily reminisced about the Shea concert, John looked at Sid with a twinkle in his eye and said, "We reached the top of the mountain, Sid."


Eddie Deezen has appeared in over 30 motion pictures, including Grease, WarGames, 1941, and The Polar Express. He's also been featured in several TV shows, including Magnum PI, The Facts of Life, and The Gong Show. And he's done thousands of voice-overs for radio and cartoons, such as Dexter's Laboratory and Family Guy.

Read all Eddie's mental_floss stories.

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5 Killer Pieces of Rock History Up for Auction Now (Including Prince’s Guitar)
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Karrah Kobus/NPG Records via Getty Images

If you’ve ever wanted to own a piece of rock history, now is the time. A whole host of cool music memorabilia from the 20th century is going up for sale through Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles as part of its “Icons and Idols” sale. If you’ve got the dough, you can nab everything from leather chairs from Graceland to a shirt worn by Jimi Hendrix to never-before-available prints that Joni Mitchell signed and gave to her friends. Here are five highlights from the auction:

1. ELVIS’S NUNCHUCKS

Elvis’s nunchucks
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

Elvis’s karate skills sometimes get a bad rap, but the King earned his first black belt in 1960, and went on to become a seventh-degree black belt before opening his own studio in 1974. You can cherish a piece of his martial arts legacy in the form of his nunchaku. One was broken during his training, but the other is still in ready-to-use shape. (But please don’t use it.) It seems Elvis wasn’t super convinced of his own karate skills, though, because he also supposedly carried a police baton (which you can also buy) for his personal protection.

2. PRINCE’S GUITAR

A blue guitar used by Prince
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

Prince’s blue Cloud guitar, estimated to be worth between $60,000 and $80,000, appeared on stage with him in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The custom guitar was made just for Prince by Cloud’s luthier (as in, guitar maker) Andy Beech. The artist first sold it at a 1994 auction to benefit relief efforts for the L.A. area’s devastating Northridge earthquake.

3. KURT COBAIN’S CHEERLEADER OUTFIT

Kurt Cobain wearing a cheerleader outfit in the pages of Rolling Stone
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

The Nirvana frontman wore the bright-yellow cheerleader’s uniform from his alma mater, J.M. Weatherwax High School in Aberdeen, Washington, during a photo shoot for a January 1994 issue of Rolling Stone, released just a few months before his death.

4. MICHAEL JACKSON’S WHITE GLOVE

A white glove covered in rhinestones
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

A young Michael Jackson wore this bejeweled right-hand glove on his 1981 Triumph Tour, one of the first of many single gloves he would don over the course of his career. Unlike later incarnations, this one isn’t a custom-made glove with hand-sewn crystals, but a regular glove topped with a layer of rhinestones cut into the shape of the glove and sewn on top.

The auction house is also selling a pair of jeans the star wore to his 2003 birthday party, as well as other clothes he wore for music videos and performances.

5. WOOD FROM ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS

A piece of wood in a frame under a picture of The Beatles
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

You can’t walk the halls of Abbey Road Studios, but you can pretend. First sold in 1986, the piece of wood in this frame reportedly came from Studio Two, a recording space that hosted not only The Beatles (pictured), but Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, and others.

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Pop Culture
How Jimmy Buffett Turned 'Margaritaville' Into a Way of Life
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Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Few songs have proven as lucrative as “Margaritaville,” a modest 1977 hit by singer and songwriter Jimmy Buffett that became an anthem for an entire life philosophy. The track was the springboard for Buffett’s business empire—restaurants, apparel, kitchen appliances, and more—marketing the taking-it-easy message of its tropical print lyrics.

After just a few years of expanding that notion into other ventures, the “Parrot Heads” of Buffett’s fandom began to account for $40 million in annual revenue—and that was before the vacation resorts began popping up.

Jimmy Buffett performs for a crowd
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

“Margaritaville,” which turned 40 this year, was never intended to inspire this kind of devotion. It was written after Buffett, as an aspiring musician toiling in Nashville, found himself in Key West, Florida, following a cancelled booking in Miami and marveling at the sea of tourists clogging the beaches.

Like the other songs on his album, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, it didn’t receive a lot of radio play. Instead, Buffett began to develop his following by opening up for The Eagles. Even at 30, Buffett was something less than hip—a flip-flopped performer with a genial stage presence that seemed to invite an easygoing vibe among crowds. “Margaritaville,” an anthem to that kind of breezy attitude, peaked at number eight on the Billboard charts in 1977. While that’s impressive for any single, its legacy would quickly evolve beyond the music industry's method for gauging success.

What Buffett realized as he continued to perform and tour throughout the early 1980s is that “Margaritaville” had the ability to sedate audiences. Like a hypnotist, the singer could immediately conjure a specific time and place that listeners wanted to revisit. The lyrics painted a scene of serenity that became a kind of existential vacation for Buffett's fans:

Nibblin' on sponge cake,
Watchin' the sun bake;
All of those tourists covered with oil.
Strummin' my six string on my front porch swing.
Smell those shrimp —
They're beginnin' to boil.

By 1985, Buffett was ready to capitalize on that goodwill. In Key West, he opened a Margaritaville store, which sold hats, shirts, and other ephemera to residents and tourists looking to broadcast their allegiance to his sand-in-toes fantasy. (A portion of the proceeds went to Save the Manatees, a nonprofit organization devoted to animal conservation.) The store also sold the Coconut Telegraph, a kind of propaganda newsletter about all things Buffett and his chill perspective.

When Buffett realized patrons were coming in expecting a bar or food—the song was named after a mixed drink, after all—he opened a cafe adjacent to the store in late 1987. The configuration was ideal, and through the 1990s, Buffett and business partner John Cohlan began erecting Margaritaville locations in Florida, New Orleans, and eventually Las Vegas and New York. All told, more than 21 million people visit a Buffett-inspired hospitality destination every year.

A parrot at Margaritaville welcomes guests
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Margaritaville-branded tequila followed. So, too, did a line of retail foods like hummus, a book of short stories, massive resorts, a Sirius radio channel, and drink blenders. Buffett even wrote a 242-page script for a Margaritaville movie that he had hoped to film in the 1980s. It’s one of the very few Margaritaville projects that has yet to have come to fruition, but it might be hard for Buffett to complain much. In 2015, his entire empire took in $1.5 billion in sales.

As of late, Buffett has signed off on an Orlando resort due to open in 2018, offering “casual luxury” near the boundaries of Walt Disney World. (One in Hollywood, Florida, is already a hit, boasting a 93 percent occupancy rate.) Even for guests that aren’t particularly familiar with his music, “Jimmy Buffett” has become synonymous with comfort and relaxation just as surely as Walt Disney has with family entertainment. The association bodes well for a business that will eventually have to move beyond Buffett’s concert-going loyalists.

Not that he's looking to leave them behind. The 70-year-old Buffett is planning on a series of Margaritaville-themed retirement communities, with the first due to open in Daytona Beach in 2018. More than 10,000 Parrot Heads have already registered, eager to watch the sun set while idling in a frame of mind that Buffett has slowly but surely turned into a reality.

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