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Sounds at Shea echo through the years

Portland brothers say New York concert made big impression


by: COURTESY OF ROSS HAMILTON - Ross Hamilton's Polaroid photo - now digitized - shows the layout for the Beatles epic 1965 concert at Shea Stadium in New York. I love the simplicity of the photo, the longtime photojournalist says.The Hamilton brothers of Portland — both longtime media members in the city — share the same memory as preteen kids watching The Beatles in their first big venue at 55,000-seat Shea Stadium in New York City on Aug. 15, 1965.

“I can still hear the noise,” says Don Hamilton, a former newspaper reporter who now serves as spokesman for Oregon Department of Transportation. “And the screaming grew. Whatever the scream had been, it doubled when they came running out onto the field. I can still hear it in my mind.”

Says Ross Hamilton, a former photographer with The Oregonian: “We were all there — two younger brothers and sister, dad and mom who was six months pregnant. We ended up leaving after four or five songs, because the noise and intensity of it freaked out our pregnant mother. I remember not protesting that much ... With 55,000 there it was like a jet engine taking off. Frighteningly loud. ... I remember thinking to myself, ‘I can’t believe I’m in the same place as The Beatles.’ It was less a musical concert than a musical event, one of the most intense, memorable experiences of my life.”

The Beatles heralded in the era of stadium concerts with their Shea appearance, which came one week before John, Paul, George and Ringo played at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum on their second North American tour. The Shea stage sat at second base on the baseball diamond, meaning fans could only see from many yards away. A line of speaker columns surrounded the baseball infield to shoot the sound to the masses. Ross Hamilton took a Polaroid photo and, soon after, sold the first image of his career — to the teenage girl sitting next to him, for $1. He took another shot and kept it for himself.

The Hamiltons watched from the third deck and “you just got whiffs of the music,” Ross Hamilton says. “You could tell when they started it was ‘Twist and Shout.’ ”

Don Hamilton says: “They were like stick figures on the stage, and I could tell one of them was left-handed” — Paul McCartney.

The brothers grew up in New York state, and lived in Rochester at the time The Beatles touched down at JFK Airport in New York City and appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964. Beatlemania was palpable, they say; after the Fab Four sang “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You” and other songs, young people changed forever. Girls had heartthrobs, boys had idols.

“I was a huge fan,” Don Hamilton says. “Every album that came out was a huge event. It was fascinating and intriguing to hear what they were up to. ...

“The excitement generated by The Beatles was translated to other bands. Such a rich trove of music that suddenly started.”

Young boys all around the nation started playing guitars once they saw The Beatles. “Guys were interested in them, because they were cool,” Ross Hamilton says. He already had learned to play guitar, listening to folk music and the likes of Del Shannon and The

Shirelles. But he strummed The Beatles’ tunes and, later, The Rolling Stones, and started a band.

“(The Beatles) hit like a ton of bricks,” he says. “They were profoundly important, among the greatest composers of the 20th century. It’s important stuff and very sophisticated stuff.”