Marc Weinstein may have had the best seat in the house for the Beatles’ 1965 Shea Stadium concert. He photographed the legendary show from the front of the stage. It wasn’t his first photo encounter with them: He’d also taken pictures of their Baltimore concert in 1964.
Getting to the Shea Stadium stage was easy, he says, was easy, especially considering he had no photo credentials.
“I went to the ticket taker and I gave him my tickets and everybody was taking the elevator up,” he told us on the phone. “But I knew I wasn’t going to go to my seat. So somehow, I had to get to the locker room. And I looked around and I saw the stairway going down to the locker room. So I said, ‘Well, I’ll take a stairway down.’
“And I went down to the lower concourse and it was like a big cavern. It was empty. Nobody was there and I started walking around and opening up the doors. And everything was locked up. I went to the left and everything was locked up and I went … to the left. And I kept opening doors and nothing was open. And I could see the left field skylights,” he said.
Finally, he found an open door.
“And I pulled it back a little bit. And, oh my goodness, it was a locker room full of policemen. And I shut the door and I got myself together and I said, ‘Oh, oh, what am I going to do?’
The answer was fool security.
“(I) had my press pass that was a phony press pass I made up. When I walked in there and I walked up to the first police officer I saw and … I said (puts on English accent), ‘Excuse me, sir, I’m with the Beatles entourage and I got separated from the group. Can you help me to the stage, please?’ And he looked at me and he said, ‘Sure, follow me.’ And I was stunned. (Laughs.) He ate the whole thing. He started, ‘Hey, guys, move out of the way. This guy is with the group. I’m taking him out there.’ And I just followed him.”
“It was like the Red Sea parting before me,” he continued. “I couldn’t believe it. There was like police officers from all over the place. It was full of police officers. And I saw the little three steps up to the left field. And I saw the skylight. It was like my body was electrified. Just could not believe it.
“And he took me out to the left field gate. And the guy that was the left gate keeper, he told them to let me out in the field. And I just absolutely .. ” He paused. “I’m just getting electrified just talking about it.” Then, he continued, ” … and I looked around and said, ‘Oh my goodness. The whole stadium. Girls started screaming in the left field stand. They thought I was Ringo. I was wearing a suit similar to the ’64 concerts. And being Jewish, I had a big nose, you know? And I looked around and they died down because I wasn’t Ringo. But, oh my goodness, as soon as my feet hit the grass, I was just electrified. Then I walked out to the stage.”
Weinstein had a plan to avoid being detected. “I just blended with everybody there. I acted like I belonged. … I had a method of operation. I just acted like I belonged. Anybody in authority I would look the other way,” he said.
While there, he met Brian Epstein (and got his autograph), and also Ed Sullivan, but not the Beatles. “No, I never got to meet them,” he said. “They just ran out there. They just got out there so fast that nobody ever got to see them. And they got off as fast as they got on.”
He said hearing the concert, even from that great a vantage point, was impossible.
“It was so noisy and loud I just barely heard anything. The closest I ever got was there was one part when they did ‘I’m Down.’ And (John) ran over to the organ and I ran over there, too. There was a folding wooden chair right next to the stage there. And I said, ‘I wonder if I can get up on that chair and take a picture of John?’ And I meekly got up on the chair and, sure enough, got a full frame shot of John from the elbow up. You know I bet you I could have taken one more step and gotten up on the stage myself, but I just didn’t want to take the chance, so I just left it at that.”
He says the Beatles paid little attention to him. “In going over the pictures, George was the only one looking into the camera. I kind of wondered if he was wondering who I was. But he was always looking into the camera. … I didn’t know whether he was questioning what was going on or what.”
I appreciate the raw reality of everyday life, the fleeting beauty of those in-between moments, and I do my very best to take every picture with that in mind. I want my viewers to relate to my photographs through recognition of and familiarity with the situations, the emotions, and the energy so much that they wonder if they are looking at a picture of someone they know.