Nick Thomas Tinseltown Talks
Producing a book showcasing her favorite band was a dream come true for lifelong Beatles fan Laurie Jacobson. A celebrated author of five previous Hollywood books, her latest effort did require the assistance of others.
In “Top of the Mountain: The Beatles at Shea Stadium 1965,” released on Aug. 1, Jacobson meticulously weaves first-person interviews and quotes from dozens of writers, agents, producers, photographers, fans, friends and celebrities such as Meryl Streep and Whoopi Goldberg who have come together to convey the compelling story behind the historic New York Beatles concert .
Jacobson didn’t merely recount a day in the life of the Fab Four’s milestone 30-minute show that featured a 12-song set before some 56,000 screaming fans from the twist and shout generation. She describes the long and winding road leading up to the Aug. 15 event and, in the end, its influence on music history as the first pop concert performed in a major American sports stadium – shattering attendance records.
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“I spent close to seven years gathering information and amazing photos — hundreds never seen before,” explained Jacobson from her home in Northern California.
Jacobson was just 10 when the Beatles began consuming her adolescent world.
“Like so many others, I saw them on ‘Ed Sullivan’ and was immediately hooked,” she recalled. “Those smiles, that hair. I ran right out to buy their 45 of ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and went bonkers with posters and magazines — anything Beatles.”
Although unable to attend the famous Shea event because she lived in St. Louis, almost exactly one year later her parents provided a ticket to ride the wave of Beatlemania still sweeping the country when the group came to town on their final US tour.
“It was threatening rain,” she remembered. “So, they dispensed with the opening acts and straight away introduced the Beatles. I watched in silent wonder, teary-eyed, knowing this was my moment with them. I wanted to soak in every detail and memorize every move. I honestly don’t remember a thing about the crowd, just them. Nine 3-minute songs and it was over. The rain was falling, and my parents whisked me away.”
Barely a teen, Jacobson let it be known to all that this girl had joined the ranks of devoted Beatles collectors while embracing their musical revolution that sparked the so-called 1960s British invasion. Sure, some disapproving parents across the country were declaring it’s all too much — cringing at the group’s mop-top hairstyles, their raucous music inciting its liberating social influence, and the near-hypnotic effect on their adoring teenage fans — but hers were understanding.
“They supported it 100% and often surprised me with Beatles items which I cherished and still have,” said Jacobson, who maintains a collection that includes dolls, models, T-shirts, a yellow submarine, rare albums and books, posters, buttons , ticket stubs and several decades worth of scrapbook clippings.
With the Beatles touring days waning in ’66, the previous year’s sellout Shea Stadium concert remained the most memorable, not only for fans but for the band as well.
“Biggest crowd they ever played and biggest paycheck, too,” noted Jacobson. “You can see on their faces when they step onto the field — the moment they become aware of their power.”
For her book’s title, the author even paraphrased something John Lennon later remarked in 1971 about the Shea concert: “I saw the top of the mountain on that unforgettable night.”
For those who lived through the ’60s, the Beatles provided musical diversion to help survive the ever-tightening social, cultural and political chains crushing the country. Today, in a post-Beatles world seemingly also inundated with disturbing national and global issues, baby boomers can still, if only briefly, get back that uplifting spirit their music provoked.
“It was so much more than their music for us – they changed the way we looked, the way we thought, and for many, the paths we chose,” explained Jacobson. “Our memories are full of love and emotion, and we have passed that on to our children and their children. I’d like readers to experience the pure joy at the peak of Beatlemania when optimism ruled and anything was possible.”
Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery, in Alabama, and has written features, columns, and interviews here, there, and everywhere for numerous magazines and newspapers. See getnickt.org.