Live: Washington Coliseum, Washington, DC

The Beatles traveled from New York to Washington, DC early on this 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.
Murry the K
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' first US concert was watched by a crowd of 8,092 fans, most of whom were girls. 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.
George Harrison
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.
John Lennon, 1970
Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner
Also on this day...

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5 responses on “Live: Washington Coliseum, Washington, DC

  1. brian

    To see clips of this historic concert is pure heaven as The Beatles are showered in adoration from their newly cultivated American fans. But… when is Apple Corps. going to obtain use of the pristine CBS master videotape of this entire show for dvd release?! You can see a short tantalizing clip of it in Anthology and it looks like it was caught on camera just yesterday it’s so crip and clear. I’d lay down the money for it in a heartbeat so come on folks at Apple, please get on this!

  2. Large Lee

    Neither The Chiffons or Tommy Roe performed at this show. Both were unable to make it because of the massive snowstorm the day before.

    The only originally scheduled act to show up were The Caravelles. Also opening up that night were Jay & The Americans and The Righteous Brothers.

  3. Bill

    WWDC was not the first US radio station to play a Beatles record. That honor goes to Chicago’s WLS & legendary DJ Dick Biondi, who aired an original Vee-Jay (with the mis-spelled ‘Beattles’) pressing of “Please Please Me” on his 9-Midnight show soon after its original US release in early 1963. It even made the local charts, on the WLS ‘Silver Dollar Survey’ (Biondi was also the featured DJ on that week’s survey).

  4. seniorearthcorrespondent

    For me, the weekend that the Beatles landed in the USA was very personal for more than the usual reasons. In retrospect the entire affair remains bittersweet because I lost a family member.
    For two months the U.S. had remained in mourning after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy a few weeks earlier on November 22, 1963. Although I was a bit too young at the time to realize the full effects of what was happening in America. I now understand that the death of JFK meant also the death of a dream for much of the youth of the age. Shock and disbelief were the initial reactions of all, followed by a new dark paranoia for much of the newly disaffected youth, a fear fueled by disgust and distrust, and cold uncertainty.
    On Friday, February 7, 1964, there seemed to be some relief on the way as I watched the Fab Four (on our small black and white TV set in Raceland, Kentucky) land in America. For weeks I had been seeing ads on TV stating that “The Beatles Are Coming!” even though I had no idea what a “Beatle” was.
    The Fab Four touched down in America, launching the “British Invasion,” all three networks covered their frenzied arrival at JFK Airport where over thousands of fans (estimates run between 3,000 to 4,000) smiled, waved, swooned, and screamed. Many held signs professing their undying love, others offered tokens of love letters, candy, flowers, and photos. It was real and genuine hysteria, and not a publicity stunt, making it a true media event that was also real, unlike much of today’s scripted “reality” shows and staged events.
    It stands as an historical day not just for music, but culturally for the way that all things English would affect the US youth.
    Accompanying them was producer Phil Spector who would later work both with them on LET IT BE and with John for some solo material; and Brian Epstein, the group’s personal business manager and impresario who taken them out of the sweaty, gritty beer-halls of Germany and Liverpool and groomed them for the world stage by making good on his promise to take the lads to the States after they landed their first US #1 hit. The brisk sales of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” helped to make it all possible.
    They made a few humorous remarks to the press and were whisked away to their hotel for the remaining day.
    On the following morning of Saturday, February 8, 1964, a televised press conference was held with THE BEATLES in the Baroque Room at New York’s Plaza Hotel during which the lads’ warm personalities playfully and quick-wittedly quipped and joked, helping to charm their way into the hearts of their interviewers and America at large. Later, they rehearsed (un-televised) for their first of two consecutively scheduled Sunday night headline appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show.
    That same Saturday morning, my grandfather John Milt Davidson Sr. did not wake up for breakfast. Grandma (beside him in the photo) had died just before I was born so he had been staying with us for a while. My Mother checked on him and had to tell my Dad that he was unresponsive and cold to the touch.
    In a panic, Dad rushed into the bedroom where Grandpa slept and realized that his father and namesake had passed away quietly in his sleep after having turned 84 on January 22.
    Oblivious to what was happening, I was quickly pushed in front of the TV while they called an ambulance and tried to deal with the situation without upsetting me.
    I recall being absorbed by the Beatles’ interviews, but when a big white truck pulled into the driveway and two men dressed in all white carried a white cot with a white sheet into Grandpa’s bedroom only to bring it back out with him on it a few moments later covered by the white sheet, I was shocked and ran into my Mother’s arms.
    I asked my Dad “Where are they taking Grandpa?” and I’ll never forget his red-eyed answer: “They’re taking him to heaven, son.”
    I immediately thought that the men must be angels and I asked my parents if I could go with them.
    Dad replied, “You’ll see him again someday if you stay a good boy.”
    Grandpa had been especially fond of me. At Christmas he would hide an extra bag of nuts in the top of his bedroom closet along with an old glass pop bottle to crack them open with.
    He and Dad would take turns reading to me and sometimes we’d just listen to the radio together if there was nothing on the tube, an event Mom and Dad often enjoyed as well having been raised on radio themselves.
    That day is now and forever burned into my memory, but it would be years later (I wasn’t quite three yet with my birthday being in May) before I realized the symbolism of it all: my Grandpa’s generation was giving way to the next.
    Now, 50 years later, Mom and Dad are gone too, and only Paul and Ringo remain of the mop tops, but I must say that they ALL had a profound effect on this music lover.
    Thanks for letting me share my memories.

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