Live: Memorial Coliseum, Portland, Oregon

In the morning of 22 August 1965 The Beatles held a press conference at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, before flying to Portland, Oregon.

Shortly before their arrival in Portland one of the four engines on their Lockheed Electra aeroplane caught fire. John Lennon was frightened enough to quickly write a few messages which he enclosed in a film canister for safety. Fortunately for all, the plane landed without further incident, and a relieved Lennon was heard to shout: "Beatles, women and children first!"

The Beatles performed two shows at Portland's Memorial Coliseum, before a total of 20,000 people. Tickets for each of the shows were priced at $4, $5 and $6. There were also a number of pink tickets for the Coliseum's upper level which were free.

The concerts took place at 3.30pm and 8pm. The Beatles' setlist featured 11 songs: She's A Woman, I Feel Fine, Dizzy Miss Lizzy, Ticket To Ride, Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby, Can't Buy Me Love, Baby's In Black, Act Naturally, A Hard Day's Night, Help! and I'm Down. Additionally, the second show opened with a truncated version of Twist And Shout.

The support acts on the bill were Brenda Holloway and the King Curtis Band, Cannibal & The Headhunters, and Sounds Incorporated.

Among The Beatles' guests backstage were Carl Wilson and Mike Love of The Beach Boys. In the audience for one of the shows was beat poet Allen Ginsberg, who wrote a poem about the event titled Portland Coliseum:

A brown piano in diamond
white spotlight
Leviathan auditorium
iron run wired
hanging organs, vox
black battery
A single whistling sound of ten thousand children's
larynxes asinging
pierce the ears
and following up the belly
bliss the moment arrived

Apparition, four brown English
jacket christhair boys
Goofed Ringo battling bright
white drums
Silent George hair patient
Soul horse
Short black-skulled Paul
with the guitar
Lennon the Captain, his mouth
a triangular smile,
all jump together to End
some tearful memory song
ancient-two years,
The million children
the thousand words
bounce in their seats, bash
each other's sides, press
legs together nervous
Scream again & claphand
become one Animal
in the New World Auditorium
--hands waving myriad
snakes of thought
screetch beyond hearing

while a line of police with
folded arms stands
Sentry to contain the red
sweatered ecstasy
that rises upward to the
wired roof.

The Beatles' contract for the show was posted on the internet in January 2013. The fifth clause in the contract received particular attention, and praise for the group. It said: "Artists will not be required to perform before a segregated audience."

The Beatles flew from Portland shortly after their second and final show in the city. Their destination was Los Angeles, where they arrived shortly before dawn. The Electra was out of action so they flew in a Constellation aeroplane.

Also on this day...

Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.

7 responses on “Live: Memorial Coliseum, Portland, Oregon

  1. Andrew

    Hi

    See my comments on the previous day. There is extremely strong (conclusive?) evidence that the band did not play Twist & Shout at the early show on the 22nd, and it’s highly likely they didn’t play it at the late show on the 22nd or on the 21st.

    Love the site. Just discovered it and I’m already addicted!

  2. Hank Unck

    It’s been nearly a half-century since I attended the 8:00PM performance of the Portland concert, but I remember clearly that they opened that performance with Twist & Shout. The reason I’m so sure of it, is because I loved that song (although not a Beatles original) and remembered being disappointed that they sang only half the song (the verse and chorus once, instead of twice through). Of course, when the next song started I hardly cared anymore. I remember hearing the first chord and notes at the start of each number – then the screaming drowned out most of the music. It was not the best (technically and acoustically) concert I’ve attended, but no concert ever surpassed it in sheer excitement.

    1. Andrew Kemp

      So I spend some time re-listening to the interviews. Here is the one supposedly from the 22nd in Portland with Jerry G. Bishop:

      JL – “It’s minor – it just means I can’t sing.
      JB – “You sang last night.”
      JL – “Yeah but not very well. I can’t do falsetto bits.”
      JB – “Is that why you cut out Twist & Shout?”
      JL – “Well that’s not falsetto. That just takes it out of me before we even start, you know? The bits in Help ‘please please help’ it always just cracks up – the end bit of Ticket To Ride and Paul keeps falling over laughing ’cause I just, there’s a wonderful noise that comes out of my throat like a..gurghh, yeah.”
      JB – “You had this before – you had a little problem with the throat last year on the tour I remember.”
      JL – “I always get one – every tour.”
      JB – “Why is that?”
      JL – “Because the tours are getting shorter. When we used to sing every night and every four hours a night in Hamburg and places I could go on and on for months cause you [his voice breaks] excuse me…”
      JB – “There he goes folks.”
      JL – “Your throat…your throat gets used to it but when you only do it every now you know and I always sing just a bit too high for me anyway.”
      JB – “I got a theory about why your throat went bad.”
      JL – “What’s that?”
      JB – “That theory is your playing for these large houses now and the tendency is when a crowd is, you know, 55,000 people to sing louder and to push harder. Do you find…?”
      JL – “You tend to do that and to sing sharp. That’s where you’ve got to sort of control yourself from shouting, trying, cause you just sing out of tune trying to sing louder.”

      Hank, this isn’t inconsistent with your recollection. Perhaps this interview was from between the two shows. Regardless it’s conclusive that the song was not played at at least one show and I think it’s most likely it was the early show on the 22nd or the 21st show (which is missing Twist & Shout on the tape). They might very well have dropped it for the first show and played it for the second, for example, or perhaps they didn’t play it on the 21st (as per the tape) and brought it back for the 22nd shows.

      I’m also posting an interview from the 28th that touches on this point as well.

      1. Hank Unck

        Andrew, you may very well be right, it’s been almost a half-century ago, and I do find that, occasionally, I “remember” long ago things that didn’t happen at all the way I “remember” them – LOL! I do seem to remember liking that song so much, that I was disappointed that they only played half of it (the 8:00 pm show) but, again, my memory may be playing tricks on me. Maybe I was hoping they would play it, and they didn’t play it at all. Nonetheless, what a wonderful thing for that Beatles concert to be my first ever rock concert. I’ve seen much more elaborate stagings, effects and pyrotechnics with concerts, since that day, but no subsequent concert was as exciting to me as that Beatles concert. I feel very lucky to have been one of the very few (compared to to their worldwide fan base) to actually have seen them in concert.

        1. Andrew

          Hank, I didn’t make myself very clear. Your account is consistent with the interview. It’s quite possible the song was played at the late show. Your recollections are very specific and I don’t think you are mis-remembering anything. Thank you for sharing it. It’s fascinating to get to the bottom of these little mysteries.

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