On this day in 1964, a very special moment took place—The Beatles, hot off the heels of one of the biggest TV performances ever known, performed live for an American audience for the very first time. Now you can watch the whole performance below, including the between-song banter.
John, Paul George, and Ringo were the talk of not only the town but the whole damn country by the time they touched down in Washington. When Ringo Starr landed, met by reporters with microphones, he said: “It’s great being here in New York,” after being corrected he gave a simple shrug he added: “Oh, is that the place? I dunno… I’ve been moving so fast,” let out a beaming smile and moved on. Could you blame him?
It had only been two days since The Beatles had cemented themselves as world-famous and most likely their heads were spinning. The group had appeared on the television show The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9th and America was still reeling from the game-changing performance. It had been an unprecedented show which had seen 73 million people tune in to catch a glimpse of Beatlemania. Now, those lucky fans in Washington had the chance to see the Fab Four in the flesh.
It was an opportunity few wanted to miss and it meant that when the group arrived in the country’s capital there were thousands of screaming girls awaiting them. It seemed an appropriate measure considering the wave of optimism the band had brought following the sadness of President Kennedy’s assassination, which had happened only days before.
Another appropriate measure was making sure that Washington D.C. was the first show on the tour. A Washington DJ had been the first American radio station to play The Beatles’ ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ and so the group paid back the city’s kindness by making it their first stop.
One thing is for certain, The Beatles would never forget their debut show across the pond. The band performed in the round, surrounded by an army of police officers, moving their set and instruments to face different parts of the audience, such was the intensity of the screaming. Yet somehow, the band retained their innocence and sweetly introduced their material with the expectation that nobody would know them. They were dead wrong.
In a very short time, America had accepted The Beatles into their lives. Perhaps compounded by the tragic loss of Kennedy the arrival of The Beatles put a Union Jack plaster over the healing wound.
The set was full of incredible moments with songs such as ‘Please, Please Me’, ‘All My Loving’, ‘She Loves You’ and so many others (full setlist below) but there are two key insights this newly discovered video provides.
Firstly, the band’s entrance is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Even with nearly six decades of rock music following on from this moment, we cannot remember an entrance as electrically charged as this one. It’s pure pandemonium with the uneasy feeling that this stage could be rushed by thousands at any minute. It makes for an exciting performance.
Secondly, while the full concert does provide us with a look back at how The Beatles performed their songs, it is the moments in between which are the most revealing. They shared jokes, the knowing smiles, the recognition of the mania they’re causing—it’s all preserved in tightly delivered snippets of between-song banter. It’s a joy to watch.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look back to the chaotic live US debut of The Beatles.
Roll Over Beethoven 5:10
From Me to You 7:45
I Saw Her Standing There 10:20
This Boy 13:50
All My Loving 16:40
I Want to Be You Man 19:30
Please, Please Me 22:45
Till It Was You 25:00
She Loves You 27:18
I Want to Hold Your Hand 31:00
Twist and Shout 34:30
Long Tall Sally 38:10