So you're 17 years old, you're all duded up in your lucky 4-year-old bar mitzvah suit, and you've finally arrived at Shea Stadium in New York City, having just stepped off a Greyhound bus out of Baltimore. With two ancient cameras and two empty camera bags already hanging from your neck, you dig out your fake press pass and add it to the mess before you pass through the gates, ticket in hand. You're here to see the Beatles, but you won't be dutifully making your way to the seat specified on your ticket stub. Nope. You wade through the crowd of squealing jerks, take the stairs to the lower concourse, naturally, and work a dozen or so doors before you stumble into a locker room full of New York City cops.
And on that Sunday, August 15, 1965, Marc Weinstein kept his cool. As the cops grimaced, he heard himself speaking to the closest one in a British accent even faker than his press pass: "Excuse me, sir. I'm with the Beatles' entourage and I got separated from the group. Would you take me to the stage, please?"
Weinstein's exhibition of the photos he took that night, "The Beatles @ Shea '65," is currently on view at Soho, 517 South Main.
So, needless to say, the cop bought it. "Sure. Follow me," he said, escorting Weinstein to the grassy playing field. And as the lone kid began to make his way toward the stage at second base to join the legitimate stage crew, some of the 55,000 ravenous fans must have mistook him for Ringo, what with the big nose and all, because they let out a roar, though it soon fizzled. "I was electrified," says Weinstein, now a retired photojournalist living in Yuba City, California. "It's a moment frozen forever in my mind."
And frozen forever in time are the Beatles that day as captured on film by Weinstein: In the collection's signature piece, it looks as if a song has just ended and John, standing at his organ and laughing, turns to an unabashedly grinning George, whose guitar must still be reverberating with the last note; in another, Paul, knees bent in either a nod to Chuck Berry or absolute ecstasy, points his bass to the sky. These are only two of the countless photos Weinstein took that day, classic at first glance, yet they've never been seen before, never been disseminated throughout the pop culture landscape the Beatles strode so mightily. Why?
"That's the primary question posed to me," says Weinstein. "There were several factors which kept these images in the dark. First, before I met my partner, Ronna Zinn, no one I showed them to over the years really took enough interest in the photos to pick up the ball. Second, the Beatles nostalgia didn't seem to mature until the Baby Boomers did. But now I'm able to protect the images and enhance their quality in a manner that would have been impossible 10 or 20 years ago."
After he made it to the stage on that warm August night almost 37 years ago, Weinstein could barely contain his excitement enough to keep his head, but previous experience photographing the Fab Four and other seminal bands at shows he had attended in Baltimore the year before prepared him. "By that time, I had also photographed the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five, and many others," says Weinstein. "I had perfected my 'method of operation': Get there very early, wear a suit, and act like you belong."
It must have come easy, because Weinstein's photos attest to a seasoned hand. As the Beatles hit the stage and went into an appropriately wild rendition of "Twist and Shout" to jump-start the show, the crowd went bananas and Weinstein began circling the stage, nailing great shots and managing to get eye contact even from camera-wary George. "At one point," Weinstein recalls, "the Beatles' staff photographer, Robert Whitaker, ran out of film, and I actually gave him one of my rolls. I only did it to possibly make a future connection with the Beatles. A couple of weeks later, I sent some shots to Whitaker, reminding him of who I was. Instead of hearing back from him, I received a letter from Tony Barrow, the Beatles' publicist, and some 'autographed' photos of the boys."
Figures. But no matter -- Weinstein walked away that day with the seeds of a world-class collection coiled up in film canisters. He currently works from home organizing exhibitions of his photographs and selling them over the Internet, while partner Zinn is busy marketing the collection here in Memphis. Besides opening an office in the U.K. for European sales, Weinstein and Zinn plan to take "The Beatles @ Shea '65" to the 2002 International Dutch Beatles Convention in the Netherlands. The collection is tentatively scheduled to remain at Soho through March. On February 25th, the gallery and boutique will host a party in honor of George Harrison's birthday. For details, call Soho at 521-0999. To view select images of the collection online, go to www.allBeatles.net.