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This week in history: The Beatles rock out at Comiskey Park

Fans exploded with excitement as The Beatles took to the stage at Comiskey Park on Aug. 20, 1965. Here’s a look back at that unforgettable concert.

Beatles play at Comiskey Park in Chicago on Aug. 20, 1965
The biggest act of the decade — maybe even the century — the Beatles played to an enthusiastic crowd at Sox Park on Aug. 20, 1965.
Photo by Jack Lenahan/Chicago Sun-Times

As published in the Chicago Daily News, sister publication of the Chicago Sun-Times:

Every rock band has its die-hard fans, but few fans could match the fervor, excitement and utter devotion that Chicago’s Beatles worshippers showed when the band arrived for a Comiskey Park concert in 1965.

Just one year earlier, Beatlemania arrived in the U.S. in February 1964 when the Fab Four — John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison — performed on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” More than 73 million people across more than 23 million households tuned into the show, according to Mark Lewisohn, author of “The Complete Beatles Chronicle: The Definitive Day-By-Day Guide To the Beatles’ Entire Career.”

Whatever it was about the band — the music, that long hair, the accents — teenagers, especially girls, became obsessed with the lads from Liverpool.

Now for this performance on Aug. 20, 1965, the Chicago Daily News sent reporter Betty Flynn to follow the band and document the Beatlemania taking of the teens of Chicago.

“In just 24 hours,” Flynn wrote, “the Beatles tore through Chicago, shattering many teenage hearts, shredding some adult nerves, and, apparently, enjoying every minute of it.”

Thronged by fans at every step, the Beatles left the O’Hare Sahara Inn at 2:50 p.m. by sneaking out a side corridor and into a station wagon parked in an alley, Flynn reported. “Outside, the police told the girls, some of whom had waited since 4 a.m., the demigods had left.”

The Beatles performed at the International Amphitheater the previous year, and none of that enthusiasm had waned. At Comiskey Park, fans went wild when the band, “wearing khaki army-like jackets, [raced] onto their stage atop second base,” the reporter observed.

“I can’t believe it, George, I love you, George, oh George,” Flynn heard one blonde fan “with glasses and a bad complexion” shriek with a voice “already sounding sandpaperish.”

Flynn mentioned only one song the Beatles played, “Ticket to Ride.” Instead, she focused on the ecstasy going on in the crowd.

“Every movement brings another shriek of pain, of joy, of frustration,” she wrote. “Paul rocks back and forth, brisk and steady, then switches to a knees-up-and-down movement. Suddenly, he lifts the end of his guitar twice, quickly, into the air. There is madness in the stands.”

Later at a press conference between shows, McCartney answered most of the questions, Flynn said. Someone asked: How was the Chicago security? “It was so good this year we couldn’t get our friends in,” McCartney joked.

Another asked what would happen when the band’s fame fades. “We’ve no idea ... it doesn’t matter though,” McCartney answered.

Did they mind when their fans kept screaming during performances? “We’ve proved we can be heard over the screaming,” McCartney said. “The people paid to get in. Who are we to say what they should do when they get in?”

Then one reporter asked Starr directly, “Why doesn’t Ringo smile?”

“It’s just the face,” he said seriously. “I’m quite happy inside.”