Michael Ochs Archives/Getty ImagesToday marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles‘ historic first concert at New York City’s Shea Stadium. The August 15 show, which kicked off the band’s 1965 North American tour, took place at the height of Beatlemania and was attended by more than 55,000 people, making it the largest outdoor concert ever held at the time.

“It showed that this type of large-scale concert was certainly possible,” Beatles historian and author Bruce Spizer tells ABC Radio regarding the event’s significance, while noting that the concert grossed a then-record 300,000-plus dollars.

In the 1996 documentary The Beatles Anthology, Paul McCartney says of the concert’s scope, “I mean, now it’s kind of a big crowd even, 56,000, but then it…seemed like millions of people.”

The Beatles arrived at the show via helicopter, which dropped them off at a heliport at the New York World’s Fair grounds next to Shea. The band then was brought to the stadium in an armored Wells Fargo vehicle, and Ed Sullivan did the honors and introduced the Fab Four.

The band performed on a stage set up at the second base area of the ballpark, while the concertgoers were confined to the stands, leaving a lot of distance between the group and the attendees. As was common at live Beatles shows, the screams of the overexcited fans all but drowned out the music.

In The Beatles Anthology, Ringo Starr recalls how overwhelming the feeling of playing in front of the Shea crowd was, noting that it had a particularly noticeable effect on John Lennon.

“If you look at that footage and you see how we are acting, or reacting to the place, it’s very big, it’s very strange,” he says. “I feel that on that show, John cracked up. I mean, he just went mad. Not mentally ill, I mean just got crazy…If you see him, he’s playing the electric piano with his elbows, and it was a really strange thing.”

Spizer tells ABC Radio that despite the roar of the crowd and inadequate amplification, he feels that The Beatles’ performance was quite good.

“They still sounded really tight, and they seemed to be playing together as a unit,” he points out, “which, of course, a lot of that was from years of experience of playing together.”

The Beatles kicked off their 12-song set with a raucous rendition of “Twist and Shout” and went on to play such other classic tunes as “She’s a Woman,” “I Feel Fine,” “Ticket to Ride,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!”

The concert was filmed for a TV special called The Beatles at Shea Stadium, which premiered in the U.K. in March 1966 but wasn’t shown in the U.S. until January 1967. Spizer says when watching the program, “you can see how excited [The Beatles] are by [the experience], and the excitement carries on throughout the entire concert.”

The Beatles played Shea Stadium once more, in August 1966 during their last tour. Then, on July 18, 2008, McCartney helped bid farewell to the ballpark when he was a surprise guest at Billy Joel‘s The Last Play at Shea — the final concert held at the venue before it was demolished.

Here’s the set The Beatles played at their August 15, 1965, Shea Stadium show:

“Twist and Shout”
“She’s a Woman”
“I Feel Fine”
“Dizzy Miss Lizzy”
“Ticket to Ride”
“Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby”
“Can’t Buy Me Love”
“Baby’s in Black”
“Act Naturally”
“A Hard Day’s Night”
“I’m Down”

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