City Paper is not for tourists
On Feb. 11, 1964, at approximately 3:04 p.m., the Beatles entered D.C. to later play before a sold-out crowd at the Washington Coliseum. Only a few months earlier, the group had been largely unknown in the United States. But on this cold February day, D.C. fans braved 8 inches of snow to hear the band play the first live concert in the United States.
For those not as bold, CBS filmed the set and released it later as a closed-circuit concert in theaters. Much later, this would be re-released as “Live at the Washington Coliseum, 1964,” lauded by fans one of the highest quality recordings of their concerts.
Before the concert, the group gave a light and jubilant press interview in the cavernous Washington Coliseum, located adjacent to the Union Station rail yards. When asked what they thought of then-President Lyndon Johnson, Ringo Starr quipped: “We don’t know. We’ve never met the man… (pause) Does he buy our records?”
Later, as it came time to play, the concert was over capacity by about 1,000 people according to some estimates. But even with a small stage about the size of a boxing ring, both the audience and the performers were delighted to be there. Every few songs, in fact, the band oriented their setup to face a new part of the crowd. In return, audience members squealed, screamed, and threw jelly beans onto the stage. (Earlier in the week, the Beatles mentioned their fondness for the candy in a New York interview.)
Now known as Uline Arena, the Washington Coliseum has seen better days. At one point, it was a waste management site and today it is used for parking. Renovation plans for this historic site have languished for quite a while. But 47 years ago today, it hosted one of world’s best musical acts ever.