Now a humble parking lot, the Washington Coliseum has seen a lot in its days. Malcolm X once spoke there, circus lions jumped through hoops there — and on 11 February, 1964, The Beatles played their first-ever U.S. concert there.
Photographer Mike Mitchell was photographing that day.
He was 18 years old, he recalls in an interview with NPR’s Scott Simon, and couldn’t afford a flash for his camera.
He took concert photos using only the available light.
“I had to take my cues from what the light was doing,” Mitchell said. “And the light was very kind.”In the 50 years since that day, a lot has changed.
The building fell into disrepair after being sold, and for 10 years was a transfer station for Waste Management”.
The Coliseum for a very long time was a vacant shambles compared to its former glory. (NPR).
Still, on any given day, beautiful shafts of light can been seen spilling through the circular windows in the vaulted ceilings onto the abandoned clusters of stadium seating lurking in dark corners along the walls.
Yes, 18 June 1964 was the date my two sisters and I caught the bus from Matraville to Rushcutters Bay, Sydney town, to see The Beatles – “see” being the operative word, because they were very hard to hear above the incessant screaming – mostly from the girls, of course.
The supporting acts – Johnny Devlin, Johnny Chester, The Phantoms, Alan Field and Sounds Incorporated (an instrumental band) warmed up the Sydney Stadium crowd to mixed reactions – but at least you could hear them.
That all changed when The Beatles were introduced!
My sisters were either side of me, one screaming for Paul, the other for George. The Beatles played 12 songs – their time on stage was around 35 minutes.
The Sydney Stadium (known as the Old Tin Shed) was built in 1908 and used predominantly as a boxing venue.
It had tiered wooden seats and was hot as hell. It was occasionally used for music concerts.
Reports stated Frank Sinatra hated performing there and Bob Dylan almost passed out in the oppressive heat.
It had a revolving stage, where it would move around about halfway before rotating back, giving most fans a reasonable look at the artist.
The photo below is from the 18 June concert. Part of the meagre PA system is visible next to John – a far cry from the huge PAs pumping out megawatts these days by artists.
. . . but we came away from the concert saying how fab The Beatles were, but deep down we knew we had barely heard them.
At least we can say “we were there”!
The official program is now a collector’s item and can fetch some decent money in mint condition.
Yes, I still have mine, but I wish I had also kept the tickets.
The Beatles’ music, to me, is still just as fresh today as it was back then – is still played frequently on the radio – and still recorded by many artists around the world.
I challenge anybody to name an artist of today whose music they think will still be popular and played regularly 50 years from now. Come on, name one – there is no solo artist or group to touch the talent or popularity of The Beatles – there never has been and, probably, there never will be.
One thing’s for sure – I know I won’t be around in 50 years time to hear any of today’s artists’ or groups’ music which may be played on the radio – or whatever the listening apparatus will be then!
Jean-Marie Périer was at the heart of the pop explosion of the 1960s, capturing homegrown stars such as Jacques Dutronc and Johnny Hallyday – along with The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Miles Davis – for the French magazine Salut les Copains.
The Beatles, Paris, 1964
Périer left the magazine Salut les Copains in 1974, and largely gave up photography to pursue a career in filmmaking.
A COLLECTION OF COMIC BOOK APPEARANCES: Is a book featuring a collection of some two hundred cartoon strips dedicated to the Beatles, many of which are extremely rare and now inaccessible.
Many years after their break up, the Beatles still remain the biggest phenomenon of music and mass culture in the world of entertainment
The book for the first time investigates and documents the interest that cartoonists, publishers, and enthusiasts have shown in their special relationship with the universe of comic strips:a rich and variegated relationship with thousands of publications, in every part of the world, and a production that continues to the present day.
In some stories the Beatles are the protagonists, in others they make cameo appearances, while others feature their lyrics transformed into comic strips.
On 4 November, 1963, at the outset of another marathon British tour, the Beatles were the main attraction at a Royal Command Performance in London.
With the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret looking on, John Lennon famously asked for the crowd’s help: “The people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands, and the rest of you, If you’d just rattle your jewelry.” (He’d actually threatened to say, “rattle your f**king jewelry.”)
With that, the band launched into their closing number, a blistering version of “Twist and Shout. “
The next day, British newspapers were beside themselves. The show was broadcast in Britain on November 10, bringing the Beatles to yet another enormous television audience.
In America, the news media took notice. “Thousands of Britons ‘Riot’ – Liverpool Sound Stirs up Frenzy,” headlined the Washington Post.
Time magazine described Beatlemania in vivid detail in an article headlined “The New Madness.” That same week, NBC and CBS dispatched crews to cover the Beatles performing on Saturday 16 November at the Winter Gardens Theater in Bournemouth.
NBC was the first on the air the following Monday with its report by Edwin Newman. CBS aired a story on its morning show later that week (with a script by correspondent Alexander Kendrick that was suspiciously similar to Edwin Newman’s).
It went on: Variety ran a story headlined “Beatle Bug Bites Britain.” The New York Times Magazine weighed in with “Britons Succumb to Beatlemania.” (“Their music is basically rock ‘n’ roll, but less formalized, slightly more inventive.”) Life magazine ran a photo of the Beatles meeting Prince Margaret.
And on 10 December, more than three weeks after NBC, the CBS Evening News ran its Beatles story.
It should be said that all this American news coverage, including NBC’s, took the same bemused, patronizing approach – dismissing the Beatles as a passing fad perpetuated by throngs of hyperactive teenage girls.
The focus was on haircuts, noise and frenzy, while little attention was paid to the music itself. The mainstream media (circa 1963) knew something was happening, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, but it didn’t really know what it was.
It wasn’t until later that most people were able to see this moment clearly as the beginning of a huge generational shift and a sea change in popular culture.
What the news coverage DID do was raise awareness of the Beatles, and that fed the growing appetite for their music among American record-buyers.
Up until then, their hits in Britain had tanked here. But things had changed, and the assassination of President Kennedy, just four days after NBC’s report, left Americans hungry for something to feel good about.
And so the spark of Beatlemania jumped the Atlantic and set fire to a huge American audience.
The Beatles’ next single – “I Want To Hold Your Hand” – was promised for American release in January. But demand was so great that it was pushed up to 26 December.
The song exploded onto U.S. airwaves, charting for 15 weeks, including a phenomenal seven weeks at Number One.
On 7 February, 1964, when John, Paul, George and Ringo landed at New York’s newly renamed John F. Kennedy Airport, the Beatles were at the top of the charts – just where they said they would be.