Fifty summers ago, if you were a Seattle teenager, you knew exactly where you wanted to be Friday, Aug. 21, 1964.
That’s because the Beatles, who had become world-famous a few months earlier, were going to play that night at the two-year-old Seattle Center Coliseum (now KeyArena), built for the World’s Fair.
Yes, half a century has passed since the Fab Four stepped onto that Emerald City stage.
On that first tour, much of the commentary revolved around hysterical girls who drowned out the music and the elaborate security strategies the band undertook to avoid being torn to shreds. (They ducked out of the Coliseum in an ambulance.)
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Consequently, a lot of the visual legacy focuses on crowds, cops and cars — not the band.
However, there was one teenager at the Coliseum that day who also happened to be a budding young photographer. For decades, the crisp, lively photos taken of the 1964 Beatles concert by the late Timothy Eagan (not to be confused with the New York Times columnist Timothy Egan) have been mostly hidden from view.
But thanks to a deal struck this spring between the Museum of History & Industry and Eagan’s brother, Mike, a pop-up exhibit of those photos has sprouted in the MOHAI atrium. The negatives of the entire collection will also reside at the museum. The show features nine black and white images Eagan took that night, some of which have never been seen by the public. They are spectacular.
“Tim was 19 years old,” recalled Eagan, who recently retired from a long career in communications. “A family friend, Ed Donohoe, was the editor of Washington Teamster. Tim was not a big Beatles fan, but he was so passionate to learn photography, he jumped at the chance to photograph the concert. He was there, at the front of the stage, for the whole show, not impeded by a cordon of police. He shot a total of about 80 photos.”
The Eagans had grown up on Queen Anne, where Timothy attended St. Anne’s, then later, Seattle Prep. Five years after the Beatles show, Eagan became a staff photographer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, but in 1972 went to New York to freelance and to work for Woodfin Camp & Associates. One of his first jobs was shooting the back cover of the second Whole Earth Catalog, the hippie consumer bible.
When Timothy Eagan died of AIDS in 1993, Mike contacted his brother’s agent to ask about the concert photos.
“They said, ‘What Beatles pictures?’ They had been in a vault for 20 years.”
Securing the images, Eagan sold prints of a few of them at Legends, a Pioneer Square gallery he owned in the ’90s. A few other prints may also exist in private collections.
“On Aug. 27, 1966 — I remember, because it was my birthday — the Beatles came back to Seattle. I made some 8×10 prints and my brother went down to the concert and sold them for a dollar apiece.” That would be the band’s last tour.
A few of the Eagan photos also appeared in articles in the P-I, but most of the images at the MOHAI show have never been seen by the public.
We may be seeing more of the Eagan oeuvre, and not just of the Beatles. Two years ago, when Eagan received the rest of his brother’s work, he found photos of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, the Eagles — and of particular interest locally — the fabled 1969 Seattle Pops Festival, which featured Jim Morrison, Ike and Tina Turner, and Bo Diddley.
“My primary concern is preserving the film,” says Mike Eagan. “I’ve loved MOHAI for a long time. One of the major projects in my retirement is to continue to organizing Tim’s archive.”