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.”