From an associate’s account of the event…
It happened TODAY, February 11, 1964. I saw The Beatles 57 years ago at their very first U.S. concert. Yes, I know, their first TV show in the U.S. was Ed Sullivan, February 9, 1964, where a record audience of 73 million viewed them and musical history was made. But they rode a train to Washingon D.C.two days later to play one gig at the Coliseum. Only 7,000 fans attended that show and one of those lucky kids was me.
I was 16, attending high school in Arlington, VA, across the river from Washington D.C. My best friend, Reg, told me he saw a full page ad in the newspaper to see The Beatles. Tickets were $4 and immediately sold out. Two nights later Reg’s dad drove us to the concert. It had been a “snow day” with all schools closed, but somehow that didn’t stop 7,000 people. Also on the bill were the Caravelles, the Chiffons, and Tommy Roe, with his hit “Sheila”.
But Tommy Roe never came out. Apparently he was sick and was replaced at the last minute by an unknown singing duo. They looked out of style with their pompadours, nothing like the current English trend. We thought “Who are THESE greasers?” But within minutes we asked “Who ARE these guys – they’re fantastic!” It was the Righteous Brothers. Next were the Caravelles, two English girls singing their sweet hit, then the Chiffons singing their r&b hits. Then the announcer introduced The Beatles and the place went nuts. It was a fast 35 minutes of pure pandemonium, about 12 songs.
The Beatles played on a stage completely surrounded by fans. They moved their own equipment a few times between songs so they could face different directions. Girls threw jelly beans at them and I saw an entire bag of jelly beans bounce off Ringo’s drum. (They had told a reporter that their favorite food was jelly beans). After the show Reg and I picked up a few squashed jelly beans from the stage. I took them to school the next day and gave them to some girls. What was I thinking?!
We passed souvenir sellers as we walked out. One had a large barrel filled with blue stick pin buttons with “I love Beetles” printed on them. I told the guy he made a spelling mistake, and he winked and said “I know”. Later I realized that of course he spelled it that way so he couldn’t be sued. I’ve often thought I should have bought one – it would probably be worth more now than the real item!
Living so close to Washington D.C. I had already witnessed two life-changing events in less than six months. In August, 1963, I heard Martin Luther King deliver his “I Have A Dream” speech, and three months later I stood in line to view President Kennedy’s casket lying in the Capitol. And now, just another three months later, The Beatles.
Riding home with Reg and his dad, I remember wondering aloud if I should save my ticket stub. Would it be worth anything one day? I never did, but my pal Reg was smarter, and here is his stub from exactly 57 years ago.
Check out The Beatles at Washington D.C. Coliseum, February 11, 1964:
The quality isn’t much, but it is a raw recording of that historic first show…