The 1964 Washington DC concert

Back in 2010, when the Beatles made their iTunes debut, those who ordered the complete Beatles catalogue from iTunes received a bonus gift, consisting of the full February 11, 1964 Washington D.C. concert. And before we knew it, the Beatles/Apple uploaded on a web page the full concert for free for 24 hours. It turned out that this free for all offering had the video in an even higher quality than the one you got from iTunes as a bonus. No DVD release was to follow, so the only official release is of course the iTunes bonus. But some had the technical knowhow to be able to download the other free version, the one in a higher resolution. Of course, with no physical release, this was a gift to DVD bootleg enterprises.

From The Beatles Bible:

The Beatles’ first US concert was watched by a crowd of 8,092 fans at the Washington Coliseum in Washington, DC. The band had traveled from New York to Washington, DC early in the day by rail, as an East Coast snowstorm had caused all flights to be cancelled.

A special sleeper carriage was attached to the Congressman, the Pennsylvania Railroad express train. The carriage was called The King George, and was already full with press people by the time The Beatles boarded.

Originally, we were going to fly to Washington, but, because of the heavy snow storm that I was told was coming, I advised Brian Epstein to make special arrangements to get a special train to take us to Washington. We went down to Washington and had a lot of fun on the train but we almost got killed when we got off the train. Some 10,000 kids had broken through the barriers. I remember being pinned against a locomotive on the outside, and feeling the life going out of me. I said to myself, ‘My God! Murray the K dies with an English group!’ George looked at me and said, ‘Isn’t this fun?’ I did my show that night direct from their dressing room.

Murry the K
The Beatles Off The Record, Keith Badman

Upon arrival at Washington’s Union Station The Beatles were greeted by 2,000 fans who braved the eight inches of snow on the ground. They gave a press conference before visiting WWDC, which had been the first US radio station to play a Beatles record. The group and their entourage checked in at the Shoreham Hotel, where they took the entire seventh floor to avoid fans. One family refused to be relocated so the hotel staff cut off the hot water, electricity and central heating, telling them there was a power failure and they had to move.

The Beatles’ concert that night was at the Washington Coliseum, a boxing arena. Upon their arrival at the venue the group held a press conference. Also on the bill at the Coliseum were The Chiffons and Tommy Roe. However, The Chiffons were unable to make it due to the previous day’s snowstorm. Instead, the opening acts were Jay & The Americans, The Righteous Brothers and Tommy Roe.

iTunes film

The Beatles took to the stage at 8.31pm, and performed 12 songs: “Roll Over Beethoven”, “From Me To You”, “I Saw Her Standing There”, “This Boy”, “All My Loving”, “I Wanna Be Your Man”, “Please Please Me”, “Till There Was You”, “She Loves You”, “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, “Twist And Shout” and “Long Tall Sally”.

The group were performing in the round, and Ringo Starr’s drum riser was turned 180 degrees after the third song by Mal Evans, to allow the audience behind them to watch the performance. This was repeated again after I Wanna Be Your Man, and following She Loves You they turned 45 degrees.

In addition to this somewhat awkward set-up, George Harrison’s microphone wasn’t working during the opening song, and he was given a faulty replacement. It didn’t dampen the audience’s appreciation, however; they responded with typical screams of Beatlemania, causing one of the 362 police officers present to block his ears with bullets.

Many of the fans pelted The Beatles with jelly beans, after a New York newspaper had reported The Beatles discussing their liking for them.

That night, we were absolutely pelted by the fuckin’ things. They don’t have soft jelly babies there; they have hard jelly beans. To make matters worse, we were on a circular stage, so they hit us from all sides. Imagine waves of rock-hard little bullets raining down on your from the sky. It’s a bit dangerous, you know, ’cause if a jelly bean, travelling about 50 miles an hour through the air, hits you in the eye, you’re finished. You’re blind aren’t you? We’ve never liked people throwing stuff like that. We don’t mind them throwing streamers, but jelly beans are a bit dangerous, you see! Every now and again, one would hit a string on my guitar and plonk off a bad note as I was trying to play.

George Harrison
The Beatles Off The Record, Keith Badman

Brian Epstein had allowed CBS to film The Beatles’ performance, which was shown by the National General Corporation in a telecast in US cinemas on 14 and 15 March 1964. (This was recreated in 2011 as a one night only event.)

Extracts from the performance has since been released on the DVD “The Beatles’ First U.S. Visit”, and further extracts were included in Anthology. One song that used to be missing from the concert film was the closing number, “Long Tall Sally”. The footage of this song was only discovered after the final cut of The Beatles’ Anthology DVD series had been finalised, so the song was only included on an EPK distributed to the press in conjunction with the release.

The source for the new editions of the Washington D.C. concert film may or may not have been a master tape of the film that was auctioned off by “It’s Only Rock and Roll” in 2005 to an unnamed bidder for an unspecified price.

Here’s their description: “A variety of poor quality kinescopes transferred to video versions of the concert have circulated on bootlegs, imports and, most recently, as a commercially released DVD. These versions are missing the on-stage announcements and footage of the Beatles running through the audience en route to the stage. In addition, these inferior copies end abruptly midway through ‘Twist & Shout,’ and are totally missing the finale of ‘Long Tall Sally’ and footage of the Beatles leaving the stage. Even the footage seen by millions on the Beatles Anthology series was far removed in picture and sound quality from what fans saw in their local theaters in March 1964.”

“We can unequivocally say that there exists no other videotaped Beatles concert that remotely approaches the quality of this performance by the Beatles at Washington Coliseum.”

It seems likely that the anonymous bidder may have been Apple Corps, and that this master is the source for the latter day iTunes releases.

In 2012, A documentary film entitled “The Beatles The Lost Concert” by independent production company Ace Arts / lambic Media coupled the concert (complete and remastered) with interviews with various people including Chuck Berry and some Beatles relatives. Although announced in April 2012 this movie was never released due to a legal dispute between its producers and Sony/ATV Music Publishing, who owned the copyright of the eight Lennon/McCartney songs performed in the concert.

In 2016, Ron Howard’s documentary “Eight Days A Week – the touring years” featured footage from the Washington D.C. concert film, colourised.

iTunes made the full concert film available for purchase on May 22, 2019, still with a 2009 copyright. To this date, there has been no physical release on disc of this concert film, and the same goes for The Beatles At Shea Stadium. Why not?

8 Responses

  1. Rob Geurtsen says:

    The marketing question to be explored is why would the market want this? What is the reason for the demand? Enjoying good quality Beatles’ mania or are the people really interested in the musical aspects of the release, and if so, will it satisfy demand or will it be a disappointment to the audience. Anyone who has a musical ear and knowledge to evaluate The Beatles’ live-performances will be able to discuss the musicality of the live-performances…

    • Fiendish Thingy says:

      The Washington DC concert is the best film of a Beatles concert, period. better than Shea, which was dubbed/sweetened in the studio. Better than Melbourne, which is incomplete.

  2. John Whapshott says:

    I have a video tape of the concert. I don’t know where it comes from – I borrowed it from a friend many years ago and I haven’t given it back yet… But it’s a great concert!

  3. mpb says:

    many thanks for this!!

  4. Gary Fulton says:

    I had a copy of this many years ago on video tape, borrowed it to a friend and he has never given it me back, great show though from what I can remember! 🙂

  5. hotspur62 says:

    hey Gary meet John….he’s got your tape

  6. Dan says:

    Hope Apple puts this out soon. 12 great songs in the concert. Historic footage of Beatlemania!

  7. Wild Thing says:

    I was at that concert Feb 11, 1964. The Chiffons were not there as billed. Snow prevented them from getting there. I do remember Tommy Roe. He was the last act before the Beatles took the stage. All the kids didn’t care about any of the other acts, they were just screaming, restless for the Beatles. In fact, I remember Tommy Roe saying to the crowd, ” What can I bore you with now for the next five minutes?!”

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