Nick Thomas Tinseltown speaks
Producing a book featuring her favorite band was a dream come true for lifelong Beatles fan Laurie Jacobson. Famous author of five previous Hollywood books, his latest effort required the help of others.
In “Top of the Mountain: The Beatles at Shea Stadium 1965,” released August 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 tell the gripping story of the historic Beatles concert in New York.
Jacobson didn’t just recount a day in the life of the Fab Four’s landmark 30-minute show that featured a 12-song set in front of some 56,000 screaming fans of the twist and shout generation. She describes the long, winding road to the August 15 event and, ultimately, its influence on music history as the first pop concert held at a major American sports stadium – breaking attendance records.
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“I’ve spent almost seven years gathering incredible information and photos – hundreds of them never seen before,” Jacobson explained from his home in Northern California.
Jacobson was only 10 when the Beatles began to devour his teenage world.
“Like so many others, I saw them on ‘Ed Sullivan’ and was immediately hooked,” she recalls. “Those smiles, that hair. I immediately ran to buy their 45 copies of ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and went crazy with posters and magazines – anything Beatles.
Although she couldn’t attend the famous Shea event because she was living in St. Louis, almost exactly a year later her parents provided her with a ticket to ride the wave of Beatlemania that was still sweeping the country. when the band arrived in town for their final US tour.
“Rain was threatening,” she recalls. “So they skipped opening acts and introduced The Beatles right away. I watched in silent wonder, tears in my eyes, knowing this was my moment with them. I wanted to soak up every detail and memorize every move. Honestly, I don’t remember anything from the crowd, just them. Nine 3-minute songs and it was over. The rain was falling and my parents took me away.
Barely a teenager, Jacobson let everyone know that this girl had joined the ranks of dedicated Beatles collectors while embracing their musical revolution that sparked the so-called British Invasion of the 1960s. Of course, some disapproving parents across the countries said it was too much – cringe at the band’s mop hairstyles, their raucous music inciting its liberating social influence and the near-hypnotic effect on their adoring teenage fans – but his was understanding.
“They stood behind it 100% and often surprised me with Beatles items that I treasured 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 of clippings.
With the Beatles’ touring days coming to an end in 1966, the previous year’s sold-out concert at Shea Stadium remained most memorable, not only for fans but also for the band.
“Biggest crowd they’ve ever played and biggest payday too,” Jacobson noted. “You can see on their faces when they step onto the pitch – the moment when they realized their power.”
For the title of his book, the author even paraphrased something John Lennon remarked later in 1971 about Shea’s concert: “I saw the top of the mountain on that unforgettable night.”
For those who lived through the ’60s, the Beatles provided a musical diversion to help survive the increasingly tight social, cultural and political shackles crushing the country. Today, in a post-Beatles world seemingly equally inundated with disturbing national and global issues, baby boomers can still, if only briefly, recapture that uplifting spirit their music sparked.
“It was so much more than their music for us – they changed how we looked, how we thought and, for many, the paths we chose,” Jacobson explained. “Our memories are full of love and emotion, and we have passed that on to our children and their children. I would like readers to experience the pure joy at the peak of Beatlemania when the optimism reigned and that anything was possible.
Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama, and has written reports, columns, and interviews here, there, and everywhere for numerous magazines and newspapers. See getnickt.org.