With the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ phenomenal concert at Shea Stadium on Aug. 15, there’s naturally a lot of focus on what happened at the show. But after a Beatles Examiner interview this week with Dave Morrell, author of “Horse Doggin’ Volume 1” and the forthcoming “1974 – The Promotion Man – New York City – Morrell Archives Volume 2” that’ll be out in October, and Ron Furmanek, who restored and remixed “The Beatles at Shea Stadium” TV special and many other Beatles projects, maybe it’s also timely to discuss what you may not see or hear.
One thing, assuming the Beatles ever allow it, is the full and remastered Shea Stadium TV special. Though it was supervised by Ed Sullivan’s company, it wasn’t originally shown on CBS, Sullivan’s network, but instead on ABC. Morrell says that was a byproduct of John Lennon’s remarks about Jesus.
“Sullivan put the money out, and believe it or not, it wasn’t shown on CBS, the home of Ed Sullivan. It was shown on ABC in January of 1967. The reason is because of John’s comments about Jesus and people falling off the ’66 tour, and Sullivan wasn’t comfortable.” “It was a hard sell after the uproar in ’66,” Furmanek said.
Morrell says the remastered Shea Stadium looks absolutely fantastic. Unlike many films of live shows at the time that were shot on 16mm film, Shea was shot on 35mm and it shows.
“’Monterey Pop,’ one of the great movies, was actually shot in 16mm and blown up to 35 mm. ‘Woodstock,’ which looks so great and magnificent, was shot in 16mm and blown up to 35mm. The same with the Bangla Desh film, shot in 16mm and blown up to both 35mm and 70mm! But what the world doesn’t know is that when Sullivan Productions filmed The Beatles at Shea Stadium, they filmed them in luxurious, perfect, high quality 35mm,” Morrell said. “And it’s probably the first rock movie to be treated with 35mm. So the quality that the world hasn’t seen yet, and we have to offer, and Ron restored for Apple is magnificent.”
“A few years ago, my work got bootlegged,” Furmanek said. “There’s a DVD of the whole thing, my restoration with my end credits and everything. My Shea restoration from ’91 that came out. I don’t see Apple putting it out. Not the whole film.”
And even though George Martin had recorded the Beatles previously at the Hollywood Bowl, he was not in charge of the audio recording at Shea Stadium, Morrell said. “They used a guy named Bob Fine who is one of the most respectable, well-known producers.” Furmanek said he worked with Mercury Records on many of their Living Presence releases.
“Sullivan used Clayco (M. Clay Adams” company) to film it,” Furmanek said. “When I started the restoration project, all that were in the vaults were the final TV special 35mm film mono optical audio tracks, which wouldn’t do! I went to meet Mr. Adams in 1987 and that’s where I found all of the original tapes. He still had them all safely stored in his basement. Anytime Sullivan Productions did outside filming, they would have M. Clay film it and Bob Fine would do the audio.”
Morrell was also bubbling about two tracks from the show, “Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby” and “She’s a Woman,” which weren’t included in the original film. Furmanek mixed the two tracks in stereo for the Shea remaster project and a sample of the track sounds fantastic.
“They were ready to go for the ‘Anthology’ album and they put one of them on there and they squished it down to mono,” Furmanek said. “They didn’t give me a mixing credit and they did not give Bob Fine a credit for actual producer.” The track he’s referring to was “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby” and the stereo version has much more depth and clarity than the mono version on “Anthology 2.”
Morrell talked about their younger days when John Lennon used to come into the record store where Furmanek worked. “Ron was a teenager and he was working in Greenwich Village, New York, in an oldies store. So Ron knew more than any kid these oldies, these doo-wops, these early rock ‘n’ roll records.” “Well, I grew up on that stuff,” Furmanek said, “before the Beatles even hit the United States, I already had a box of 50 hit records in my collection.”
“And then John Lennon walks into the store,” Morrell said, “and he’s looking for records. And Ron’s behind the counter giving John the best picture sleeve that wasn’t bent, the best record out of all 10 he might have had. Ron would pick John the best ones, a ’50s original pressing instead of a 1971 reissue!”
Morrell also talked about a night they shared in Lennon’s apartment. “Ron and I are in John’s apartment,” Morrell said, “and you gotta realize that a week earlier that John was on WNEW with a stack of oldies on the Dennis Elsas show walking everybody through these oldies he grew up on. He’s finishing the ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ album. We’re in his apartment. And he’s asking Ron what else he’s got and Ron whips out Elvis’ debut in 1956 on the Dorsey show.
“And John’s doing somersaults over the energy of Derek Taylor being there, his friend, Dave who had had met before now a promotion man who’s accepted and Ron, who he’d sold the records to, and without Yoko being in the room, this intense conversation about old records in the early Beatles days and where it all came from was the center of this universe we got to share with John.”
Furmanek commented on the unearthing of new Lennon video this week. “It’s pretty amazing this stuff can be found all these years later,” he said.
Why didn’t Capitol ever release a CD for the Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl? “The only thing I could say is because it’s controlled by Apple and the Beatles 100% now,” Furmanek said. “When that came out, all of the legal doings between Beatles and EMI weren’t quite worked out yet. That’s the same reason they were able to put out titles like “Rock & Roll Music,” ‘Rarities,’ ‘Reel Music,’ ‘Love Songs,’ ‘Beatles Ballads,’ etc, etc.”
Will we ever see “Shea” shown on television again? “That would be great. One never knows,” Furmanek said.
Some excerpts of Furmanek’s true stereo mixes of the Shea Stadium show will be featured Sunday on Chris Carter’s “Breakfast With the Beatles” on KLOS-FM in Los Angeles. The show, which will also have Morrell, John Pizzarelli (who has a new album of McCartney covers) and Vince Calandra who worked on the Sullivan show (and famously stood in for George Harrison when he was ill during the Sullivan rehearsals) and also worked on the Shea show as guests, runs from 9 a.m. until noon PT. The show will be streamed through the radio station’s website.
“I didn’t know what a multi-track tape was when I was eight years old,” Furmanek said. “I’m honored to be working with this great stuff. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that
you’re actually holding a tape in your hand and you can say ‘I bought this record when it came out.’”
Maybe the best thought on all of this comes from George Harrison by way of Furmanek. “One night I was at a recording session with George, Joe Brown, and Jools Holland for the song ‘Between the Devil & The Deep Blue Sea.’ This was while I was smack in the middle of working on Shea at Abbey Road. I told George it was a really rough project to do, and he told me, “It was rougher being there and doing it live.”