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The Beatles Near Death at Portland, Ore. 1965

Updated on August 29, 2010

 The pinnacle of sorts for The Beatles was reached in August 1965 at Shea Stadium when they landed by helicopter in a sea of hysteria from 56,000 screaming 10-15 yr. olds. John was already 25, as was Ringo. George was 22. They played 30 minutes and rock music changed forever. They earned $100 a second, but their share of the $304,000 was $180,000. No band had ever played in front of such an audience that large and The Beatles were not far off either. They could not even hear themselves over the shrieking screams of the fans despite their 50 100 watt Vox amps! As John joked, "we could not hear what key we were in", "could not hear ourselves sing", "much of the time we were messing around". Yet, nothing captured the moment better when Paul screamed out, I'm Down, John played organ like Jerry Lee Lewis and the boys were in their element amidst adoring fans. The footage is eternal.

After Shea, the 1965 American tour went West and it was in Portland, near death nearly ended all of their lives (and the Beach Boys) as their private jet approached at 8000 feet. Someone looked outside and saw billowing flames. The person immediately went to the cockpit and the pilots were already seriously worried, "oh shit", was their verbal response. Black smoke and jerkiness alerted The Beatles something was seriously amiss. John was the first to rush to the window and he freaked out by not thinking and trying to open the emergency doors to escape! Escape where at 8000 feet? Paul and others managed to pull John away from the door when George panicked and had to be sequestered. With John and Paul sitting next to one another, both were morbidly silent. John no doubt thought about the Buddy Holly airplane crash that killed him. The plane flew on one engine and keeping it level was not an easy task. The aircraft descended gradually yet as the airport came into view, one could see workers on the ground prepping for the worse with use of foam and fire retardant. Ringo was as white as a ghost. The flames from the engine did not decrease and worries about the aircraft exploding were real. The aircraft skidded into a landing resting on a sea of white foam. For a short time, it was silent.

Suddenly, John, stood up and announced in a joking manner: "Beatles, women and children off first". Typically, John. Hiding true fear or feelings with humor. 


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    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      The history of music would have been altered in unimaginable ways if that plane had not landed safely. They were lucky that day, and so was the world.