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Paul McCartney and John Lennon on stage at the Coliseum. Photo copyright © Timothy Eagan.

Paul McCartney and John Lennon on stage at the Coliseum. Photo copyright © Timothy Eagan.


This NOT Just In: The Beatles In Seattle

Feliks Banel

The first wave of the British Invasion hit the shores of the Pacific Northwest with the arrival of Beatles on August 21, 1964.


It was one of the most exciting moments in 20th century pop culture history. The Beatles' arrival in New York and their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964 is an indelible moment for millions of baby boomers.

Ed Sullivan: "You're gonna twice be entertained by them, right now and again in the second half of our show. Ladies and gentleman, The Beatles!"

Not as well remembered is how Beatlemania played out in other cities around the US. The Beatles came back to America that summer a half century ago for what many regard as their biggest and best tour ever — 34 shows in 32 days. It began with a concert in San Francisco. After two shows in Las Vegas, The Beatles headed for Seattle on August 21, 1964.

Miami radio reporter Larry Kane was along for the ride. He had his tape recorder rolling as the charter plane descended toward Sea–Tac.

Kane: "This has been a most pleasant trip. We are now looking at some of the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen. Snow–capped mountains. All of that snow's gonna melt when The Beatles arrive at Seattle airport."

The plane landed, but police kept 2,000 boisterous fans watching from a distance as the four famous passengers emerged.

Kane: "They did not bring them near the kids who were over in the other corner of the airport, and they are not taking any chances. John, Paul, George and Ringo here at the Seattle Airport where everything is docile at this time."

The fans were so far away the reporter's microphone couldn't pick up the sound of their screams. But all that changed when The Beatles got to their hotel.

Kane: "We're out here in front of the Edgewater Inn Hotel on Elliott, on Elliott Bay, and listen to this — "

Crowd: "We want The Beatles! We want The Beatles! We want The Beatles!"

Kane: "Did you all see The Beatles?"

Fans: "Yeah!"

Kane: "What'd you think of them?"

Fans: "They're great!"

Kane: "We've been traveling with them all across the country and this is one of the wildest receptions we've received. Are you proud of it?"

Fans: "Yeah!"

Kane: "Who's your favorite Beatle?"

Fan: "Paul"

Kane: "Why?"

Fan: "'Cause he's cutest!"

The band spent several hours basically trapped inside the Edgewater, where they famously fished from the window of their suite. Though they didn't catch anything, the notion of The Beatles casting lines into Elliott Bay from the Edgewater is one of the city's most enduring legends. But the fishing expedition came to an end, and the band headed to Seattle Center for a pre–concert press conference.

One reporter asked Paul McCartney about life after The Beatles.

Reporter #1: "What would you like to do?"

McCartney: "I don't know. Probably John and I will carry on songwriting."

John Lennon: "I'm not doing it with you."

McCartney: "Are The Beatles breaking up? (crowd laughs) I don't know, you know?"

That was John Lennon saying that he wouldn't carry on songwriting with Paul. Another question was about a local star that rose to international fame two years earlier at the World's Fair.

Reporter #2: "Did you see the Needle at all, Paul?"

Paul: "Yeah, the Space Needle."

Reporter #2: "Did you go up?"

Paul: "No, (crowd laughs) but I saw it."

George Harrison: "It looks better from the ground."

That was George Harrison saying that the Space Needle looks better from the ground. A few minutes later, the kidding came to an end as Seattle DJ Pat O'Day said it was time to go.

O'Day: "Yes, thank you everybody. It's eight minutes to show time. We will have to break it up now. Thank you very much."

Over in what was then called the Coliseum, 14,000 fans were waiting. Then, The Beatles took the stage.

Sound: Crowd Screaming

The band opened with "Twist and Shout." The audience was so loud you could barely hear the music, but nobody seemed to mind.

The Fab Four played for half an hour. After the concert, it was time for The Beatles to try and get back to the Edgewater. But ardent fans were waiting outside the Coliseum, and a mob even crushed the roof of an empty limousine that had been sent out as a decoy.

Fortunately, The Beatles had a trick up the sleeves of their matching coats that had worked the day before in Las Vegas. The four moptop lads eventually made it back to the Edgewater unmolested — unnoticed, even — in the back of an ambulance.

I'm Feliks Banel for This NOT Just In.

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