A LONG-AGO best friend sometimes offered a question at group meals as an icebreaker: “What was your first concert?” One by one, all would mention fond memories of musicians and venues. Taking the final turn, my friend would stun everyone with three words:

“Beatles, 1964, Coliseum.”

The show was an instant Seattle legend. The third in 24 cities of the Beatles’ first North American tour, the Aug. 21 stop at what today is called Climate Pledge Arena drew a sellout throng of 14,045. They were mostly young teens, reportedly “20:1” girls to boys, who each paid just $3, $4 or $5 to contribute and/or endure waves of nearly continuous earsplitting screams that all but drowned out the foursome’s half-hour, 12-song set.


This “Beatlemania” and attendant controversies typified the entire tour, reporters summoning the swoons historically incited by the likes of Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and even silent-film’s Rudolph Valentino.

What gave the Beatles’ visit a distinctly Seattle touch was their overnight at the waterfront Edgewater Inn, then 2 years old. From Room 272, the “moptops” leaned out a window and famously posed with fishing poles over Elliott Bay.

Did they catch anything? No, they agreed at a news conference. Drummer Ringo Starr deadpanned, “Someone on the other side of the bay kept shouting, ‘There’s no fishing here.’ ”


Endearingly, one floor above them, 11-year-old Sandy Fliesbach, attending a wedding at the Edgewater, cast her own line. On hotel stationery she wrote a note seeking the Fab Four’s autographs, lowering it out her window with ribbon from opened gifts. She whistled, and someone below pulled in the note. A minute later, it came back out the window, and Sandy reeled it in. All four had signed it. Hundreds of fans chanting outside the inn’s temporary plywood and barbed-wire barricade were not so fortunate.

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

Astoundingly, the still-boyish McCartney, just six weeks shy of 80, will play Climate Pledge on May 2-3. Perhaps he would twist and shout over a 58-year-old crack by parodist Allan Sherman (“Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah”), who played the Opera House and bunked at the Edgewater during the Beatles’ 1964 Seattle stay:

“The Beatles are really quite unpopular, but nobody knows it yet.”

Beatles, 1964, Coliseum — 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 acoustic expert Robin Towne, was 95+ decibels for 60% of the show and 100+ decibels for 30%. (Maximum exposure without earplugs, such as at an industrial plant, was recommended as 85 decibels.)

Bucks: The show grossed $64,000. The Beatles were to earn $25,000 or 60% of the gross, whichever was greater, so after $7,000 in taxes, they were paid $34,200. Minus fees for warm-up acts, their 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, 4 King County deputies, 14 firefighters, 6 Armed Forces police and 100 Navy volunteers from Pier 91.

Health: Hospitalized were 2 teens; 35 others received first aid. On hand were 5 ambulances, one of which carried the Beatles back to the Edgewater.

Souvenirs: After the Beatles left Seattle, their Room 272 rug at the Edgewater was cut into 2-inch squares that sold for $1 apiece at MacDougall’s department store 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: Playing the Paramount Theatre during the show was the Beatles’ first film, “A Hard Day’s Night.”

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