The Beatles’ first US concert was watched by a crowd of 8,092 fans at the Washington Coliseum in Washington, DC.
The band had traveled from New York to Washington, DC early in the day by rail, as an East Coast snowstorm had caused all flights to be cancelled.
A special sleeper carriage was attached to the Congressman, the Pennsylvania Railroad express train. The carriage was called The King George, and was already full with press people by the time The Beatles boarded.
Originally, we were going to fly to Washington, but, because of the heavy snow storm that I was told was coming, I advised Brian Epstein to make special arrangements to get a special train to take us to Washington. We went down to Washington and had a lot of fun on the train but we almost got killed when we got off the train. Some 10,000 kids had broken through the barriers. I remember being pinned against a locomotive on the outside, and feeling the life going out of me. I said to myself, ‘My God! Murray the K dies with an English group!’ George looked at me and said, ‘Isn’t this fun?’ I did my show that night direct from their dressing room.
The Beatles Off The Record, Keith Badman
Upon arrival at Washington’s Union Station The Beatles were greeted by 2,000 fans who braved the eight inches of snow on the ground. They gave a press conference before visiting WWDC, which had been the first US radio station to play a Beatles record.
The group and their entourage checked in at the Shoreham Hotel, where they took the entire seventh floor to avoid fans. One family refused to be relocated so the hotel staff cut off the hot water, electricity and central heating, telling them there was a power failure and they had to move.
The Beatles’ concert that night was at the Washington Coliseum, a boxing arena. Upon their arrival at the venue the group held a press conference.
Also on the bill at the Coliseum were The Chiffons and Tommy Roe. However, The Chiffons were unable to make it due to the previous day’s snowstorm. Instead, the opening acts were Jay & The Americans, The Righteous Brothers and Tommy Roe.
The Beatles took to the stage at 8.31pm, and performed 12 songs: Roll Over Beethoven, From Me To You, I Saw Her Standing There, This Boy, All My Loving, I Wanna Be Your Man, Please Please Me, Till There Was You, She Loves You, I Want To Hold Your Hand, Twist And Shout and Long Tall Sally.
The group were performing in the round, and Ringo Starr’s drum riser was turned 180 degrees after the third song by Mal Evans, to allow the audience behind them to watch the performance. This was repeated again after I Wanna Be Your Man, and following She Loves You they turned 45 degrees.
In addition to this somewhat awkward set-up, George Harrison’s microphone wasn’t working during the opening song, and he was given a faulty replacement. It didn’t dampen the audience’s appreciation, however; they responded with typical screams of Beatlemania, causing one of the 362 police officers present to block his ears with bullets.
Many of the fans pelted The Beatles with jelly beans, after a New York newspaper had reported The Beatles discussing their liking for them.
That night, we were absolutely pelted by the fuckin’ things. They don’t have soft jelly babies there; they have hard jelly beans. To make matters worse, we were on a circular stage, so they hit us from all sides. Imagine waves of rock-hard little bullets raining down on your from the sky. It’s a bit dangerous, you know, ’cause if a jelly bean, travelling about 50 miles an hour through the air, hits you in the eye, you’re finished. You’re blind aren’t you? We’ve never liked people throwing stuff like that. We don’t mind them throwing streamers, but jelly beans are a bit dangerous, you see! Every now and again, one would hit a string on my guitar and plonk off a bad note as I was trying to play.
The Beatles Off The Record, Keith Badman
Brian Epstein had allowed CBS to film The Beatles’ performance, which was shown by the National General Corporation in a telecast in US cinemas on 14 and 15 March 1964. The performance has since been released on DVD, and extracts were included in Anthology.
After their performance The Beatles attended a reception at the British Embassy, at the invitation of Lady Ormsby-Gore. They gave out raffle prizes – signed copies of Meet The Beatles! – at the end of a dance to benefit the National Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and mingled with the assembled dignitaries.
However, they left in disgust after one of the guests cut off a lock of Ringo’s hair from behind his left ear. The Beatles walked out and told Brian Epstein never to subject them to such an occasion again.
People were sort of touching us as we walked past, that kind of thing. Wherever we went we were supposed to be not normal and we were supposed to put up with all sorts of shit from lord mayors and their wives and be touched and pawed like A Hard Day’s Night only a million more times. At the American Embassy, the British Embassy in Washington, or wherever it was, some bloody animal cut Ringo’s hair, in the middle of… I walked out of that. Swearing at all of them and I just left in the middle of it.
Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner
Also on this day...
- 2010: All You Need Is Love to be released as a Beatles Rock Band download
- 1970: Plastic Ono Band perform Instant Karma! on Top Of The Pops
- 1970: New York première of The Magic Christian
- 1970: Recording, mixing: I’m A Fool To Care by Ringo Starr
- 1968: Recording, mixing: Hey Bulldog
- 1966: UK single release: Woman by Peter And Gordon
- 1965: Ringo Starr marries Maureen Cox
- 1963: Recording: Please Please Me album
- 1962: Live: Casbah Coffee Club, Liverpool
- 1961: Live: Cassanova Club, Liverpool
- 1961: Live: Lathom Hall, Liverpool
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.