Beatlemania Now Concert Recalls Band's Historic D.C. Debut

Beatlemania Now Concert Recalls Band's Historic D.C. Debut

When The Beatles splashed onto the American scene on February 7, 1964, at JFK International Airport and, two days later, on “The Ed Sullivan Show”–love was in the air, evidenced by all the screaming girls, Baby Boomers all!

Two nights later, The Beatles performed in Washington, D.C. at the Coliseum, a boxing arena, after wending their way from New York to Washington by train–instead of plane.  It was their first North American concert. Carnegie Hall would come the next day.

Just like this week, 50 years later, love (and snow) was in the air in the Nation’s Capital.

The other night at the old coliseum, an empty arena poised to be restored by developer Doug Jamal, it was exactly as it was 50 years ago. Singer Tommy Roe performed the same warm-up act as he did then, featuring Sweet Pea and other favorites.

Then, at 8:31 p.m. on February 11, 2014–50 years to the exact moment the Beatles began their first concert in the States–“Beatlemania Now” appeared on stage, playing Roll Over Beethoven, followed by all the other songs from 50 years earlier, each played in the exact order as the Beatles performed them:

Beatlemania Now

Roll Over Beethoven, From Me to You, I Saw Her Standing There, This Boy, All My Loving, Please Please Me, Til There Was You, She Loves You, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Twist and Shout, and Long, Tall Sally. 

One thing that was missing, said one fellow, who attended the original concert, was all the screaming girls–their shrieking voices and swooning faces. That, he said, was one of his most vivid memories.Still, there was a sort of pixie dust of “magical mystery tour” to it all.

One man, trim and fit–suggesting a successful corporate lawyer or lobbyist, who had been dreaming of this concert for weeks, even months–was dressed in perfect Beatles ’60s garb; another, having packed on dozens of extra pounds in the intervening years, proudly sported an “I was at the Washington Coliseum… February 11, 1964” T-shirt.

Later, the band played a melody of Beatles’ recording touchstones, dressed in classic Beatles garb, historic images and figures paralleling their music, flashing on a screen in the background.

First, it was songs from the albums for Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour. Then, Revolution, Here Comes the Sun and other iconic moments and songs in their decade together, of course, including All You Need Is Love.

As we close this whirlwind week commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the British Invasion–including CBS’s The Beatles: The Night That Changed America–A Grammy Salute, the DC commemorative concert and Carnegie Hall–All You Need Is Love seems a fitting Valentine to cap it off.

The Beatles first performed this simple yet regal song, written by John Lennon (credited to Lennon-McCartney), on June 25, 1967 via satellite for the over 150 million in 26 countries who were tuned in to Our World that night–the first live global television link.

This BBC commission was to be the United Kingdom’s contribution to the show; thus the regal set-up.But the message was pure Beatles–unvarnished, brash, brassy and beautiful.So much love!

Ironically, the saint Lennon was named after, John the Evangelist, also “believed in Love.”  A higher love–the same love the Beatles ultimately aspired to.

(Photo credit: David T. Boddie)

Mary Claire Kendall is currently writing a book about legends of Hollywood, focused on stories of recovery, for publication in 2015. She will be on the red carpet at the Oscars interviewing the stars.