Shea Stadium, Queens, NY Page 2

Among the crowd, hunkered down in the away team's dugout, were Rolling Stones Mick Jagger and Keith Richards who were in town lounging around on future manager Allen Klein's luxury yacht, while a dozen cameras captured the event for posterity and an ABC TV special shown early the following year after the band had secretly re-recorded the songs in a London studio to provide an acceptable soundtrack.


No Going Back
Viola! Stadium rock! There was no going back. Sid was in his element now. He put The Young Rascals into Shea in June '66, promoted a Batman gig there too – actors Adam West and Riddler Frank Gorshin hamming it up for a sparse crowd before doing solo crooning spots in civvies – and The Beatles returned on the 23rd of August '66 as part of their third US tour.

By now, though, the band was under heavy manners after Lennon's 'Bigger Than Jesus' debacle and 11,000 tickets remained unsold for the show that also featured The Remains, Bobby Hebb, The Cyrkle and The Ronettes.

The Beatles never toured again, but the box office record they set at their Shea debut remained unchallenged until July 1971 when a band pretty much forgotten now sold out the venue in 72 hours flat.


That band was Grand Funk Railroad, a power trio from Flint, Michegan headed up by guitarist Mark Farner who were obviously loved by the people but derided by the press. Their Machiavellian manager Terry Knight had arranged a press conference to announce the gig and invited 150 journalists. Six turned up. Still, the band shifted all 55,000 tickets via the venue box office (no mail order involved!) and the gig, supported by the group Humble Pie, set the new record.

Other notable Shea shows include the Summer Festival Of Peace, which took place in August 1970, an all-day fundraiser organised by Peter Yarrow of the folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary to raise funds for anti-Vietnam war political candidates.

The line-up was pretty awesome – Creedence Clearwater Revival, James Gang, Miles Davis, Sha Na Na, Johnny Winter, Poco, Steppenwolf and Janis Joplin who showed up to jam with her old buddies Big Brother & The Holding Company. It was to be one of Janis' last shows – she OD-d two months later.


Also on the bill was Paul Simon, doing a solo stint because Art Garfunkel refused to join him, but the sound was no good, the 15,000 strong crowd couldn't hear and the singer was reportedly booed off after three numbers.

Another act who found Shea rough going were Jethro Tull who headlined in July '76. Although the band had 'Tullvision' installed – one of the earliest uses of video screens to bring the crowd closer to the band – the sound was still shocking and often drowned out by planes coming in and out of near-by LaGuardia airport. It also poured with rain and Ian Anderson, who'd been soaked with urine from a bottle chucked at the band as they made their way to the stage, has since nominated it as his worst gigging experience ever.

Final Tour
The Who fared a bit better. They played Shea on the 12th and 13th of October 1982 in support of their largely forgotten It's Hard LP on what they announced at the time would be their final tour.

In homage to The Beatles, they played 'I Saw Her Standing There' and 'Twist & Shout'. The support act were The Clash who, according to many, blew Townshend and his old-timers offstage.


The Police also acknowledged the Fabs when they played Shea in August '83. Supported by REM and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, they were on their Synchronicity jaunt, and jetted in from a mansion in Bridgehampton, Sting announcing: 'We'd like to thank The Beatles for lending us their stadium.'

Simon eventually reunited with Garfunkel at Shea during the same month as part of the duo's first tour together in 13 years,

The Rolling Stones brought their Steel Wheels extravaganza to the stadium for six nights in October 1989 on a 36-city tour that saw them guaranteed $70 million upfront by new promoter Michael Cohn, and Bruce Springsteen arrived with The E Street Band for three nights in October 2003 at the end of a 14-month, 82 city tour in support of his 12th studio album, The Rising.


The shows were not without controversy. Bruce had been granted a boat escort to the first gig by the NYPD but after he chose to perform 'American Skin (41 Shots)', a song critical of the shooting of Amadou Diallo by four cops in a case of mistaken identity that had occurred in 1999, New York's finest withdrew their escort as protest. Security was only reinstated after Mayor Bloomberg intervened.

The show closed with a guest appearance by Bob Dylan who joined Bruce for a rousing rendition of his 'Highway 61 Revisited' but the writing was on the wall. Shea was earmarked for demolition to create parking space for the swankier Citi Field Stadium, the new home of the Mets.


316classicvenue.lastplay250.jpgBut before the hammers fell, there was The Last Play At Shea, a grand finale over two nights in July 2008 headlined by Billy Joel and documented for a film of the same name. It featured such guests as Roger Daltrey, Tony Bennett, Don Henley, Steven Tyler and Paul McCartney, who closed the thing down with an emotional 'Let It Be'.

Only Regret
Shea was rubble by the summer of 2009. Sid Bernstein passed away four years later at the ripe old age of 95. His only regret? He never managed to get The Beatles to reform, no matter how many millions he offered and how many good causes he proffered. The man lived and died a trier.