nobody movie_In 1964, The Beatles attracted thousands of fans in Seattle


A LONG-TIME best friend would sometimes ask an icebreaker question at group dinners: “What was your first concert?” One by one, everyone mentioned fond memories of musicians and venues. In the last corner, my friend stunned everyone with three words:

“Beatles, 1964, Coliseum.”

The show was an instant Seattle legend. The third of 24 cities on the Beatles’ first North American tour, the August 21 stop at today’s Climate Pledge Arena drew a sell-out crowd of 14,045. They were mostly young teens, reportedly “20:1” girls for boys, who paid just $3, $4, or $5 each to contribute and/or endure waves of almost non-stop deafening screams that lasted the half-hour , 12-song set.

This “Beatlemania” and the controversy surrounding it typified the entire tour, with reporters invoking the swoons historically instigated by the likes of Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and even silent filmmaker Rudolph Valentino.

What added a distinct Seattle touch to the Beatles’ visit was their overnight stay at the waterfront Edgewater Inn, then two years old. From Room 272, the “Moptops” leaned out of a window and famously posed with fishing poles over Elliott Bay.

Did you catch something? No, they agreed at a press conference. Drummer Ringo Starr said dryly, “Somebody across the bay kept yelling, ‘There’s no fishing here.’ ”

Adorably, 11-year-old Sandy Fliesbach, who was attending a wedding at the Edgewater, cast her own line a floor above them. She wrote a note on hotel stationery looking for autographs from the Fab Four and dropped them out of her window with ribbons made from opened gifts. She whistled and someone downstairs swiped the note. A minute later it came out the window again and Sandy rolled it up. All four had signed it. Hundreds of fans who sang outside the inn’s temporary plywood and barbed wire barricade weren’t so lucky.

Two years later, the Beatles returned to the Coliseum for two shows. After the group broke up in 1970, John Lennon never had another gig in Seattle (he was shot dead in 1980). George Harrison played at the Coliseum in 1974 (he died in 2001). Starr and Paul McCartney have performed here in several separate incarnations, with the latter’s Wings group giving their first concert at the old Kingdome in 1976.

Amazingly, the still boyish McCartney, who is just six weeks away from turning 80, will play the Climate Pledge on May 2nd and 3rd. Maybe he would twist a 58-year-old crack of parodist Allan Sherman (“Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah”), who played at the Opera House and stayed at the Edgewater during the Beatles’ Seattle stint in 1964, and yell about a 58-year-old crack:

“The Beatles are really quite unpopular, but no one knows that yet.”

Beatles, 1964, Colosseum – just the facts

Set List: “Twist and Shout”, “You Can’t Do That”, “All My Lovin'”, “She Loves You”, “Things We Said Today”, “Roll Over Beethoven”, “Can’t Buy Me” . Love”, “If I Fell”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, “Boys”, “A Hard Day’s Night”, “Long Tall Sally”.

Sound: The Beatles’ set, measured by acoustics expert Robin Towne, was 95+ decibels for 60% of the show and 100+ decibels for 30%. (Maximum exposure without earplugs, say in an industrial facility, has been recommended at 85 decibels.)

Bucks: The show grossed $64,000. The Beatles were supposed to make $25,000 or 60% of gross, whichever was higher, so after $7,000 in taxes they got $34,200. Deducting warm-up act fees, her take-home was $32,000 ($297,000 today).

Warm-up acts: Bill Black’s combo, The Exciters, the Righteous Brothers and Jackie DeShannon. (Smash hits for the latter two came later.)

Security: At the Coliseum were 50 Seattle police officers, 4 King County legislators, 14 firefighters, 6 armed forces police officers and 100 Navy volunteers from Pier 91.

Health: There were 2 teenagers in the hospital; 35 others received first aid. On hand were 5 ambulances, one of which took the Beatles back to the Edgewater.

Souvenirs: After the Beatles left Seattle, their carpet from Room 272 at the Edgewater was cut into 2-inch squares which were sold at MacDougall’s department store for $1 each to benefit Children’s Orthopedic Hospital.

Airwaves: The Beatles had five songs on KJR-AM’s Fabulous 50 the week of their Seattle show.

Silver Screen: During the show, The Beatles’ first film, A Hard Day’s Night, played at the Paramount Theater.

Sources: The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archives

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