(Click and click again to enlarge photos)
Published in The Seattle Times online on April 28, 2022
(visit that link for many extra photos!)
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on May 1, 2022
The Beatles found good fishing for young fans in 1964 Seattle
By Clay Eals
A long-ago best friend sometimes offered a question at social gatherings 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 23 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. Mostly young teens, reportedly “20 to 1” girls to boys, each paid just $3, $4 or $5 to contribute and/or endure waves of nearly continuous ear-splitting 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 press 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 girls 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 break-up, 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 age 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.” To hear audio of their show, click here.
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 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 ($278,000 today).
- Warm-up acts: the Bill Black 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.”
Special thanks to Kelsey Beniasch and Claudia Lew of Wagstaff Marketing, to staff of The Edgewater Hotel, to Joe Wren and Gavin MacDougall and especially to Teresa Anderson, Garnis Armbruster Adkins, Carol Griff Reynolds, Joey Richesson and Kate “Bobbey” Blessing, for their help with this installment.
Click here to see a previous “Now & Then” column on the Edgewater.
We offer no 360-degree video for this installment, but instead we feature a video with interviews of all the participants in our “Now” photo (plus a backup), in which they reflect on the Beatles’ 1964 show at the Coliseum. To see it, click here or on the image below.
In addition, below are 8 photos, an historical essay and 58 historical clippings from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that were helpful in the preparation of this column.
To start off the extras, we have an essay by Clay examining the orientation of our “Then” photo:
‘All I’ve got is a photograph ‘ : Flipping over the Beatles
By Clay Eals
The topic du jour is the orientation of our color “Then” photo, the well-known image of the Beatles fishing out the window of their room 272 suite at the Edgewater Inn on the afternoon of their evening show Aug. 21, 1964, at the Coliseum.
On the internet, it’s easy to find our “Then” in two versions, one in which the Beatles face right, and one in which the Beatles face left. But which version is correct? I was determined to solve the puzzle prior to our “Now” shoot.
Details of the Beatles’ hair parts and shirt collars in the photo, compared to the same details in several other photos from Getty Images of the Beatles inside their Edgewater suite seemed to indicate that that the facing-right version was correct. I also was skeptical of a facing-left orientation because the low-level, indistinct masses in the background appeared to me to likely depict Harbor Island and its ships and shipyards. However, the Edgewater’s website, as well as a blown-up display inside room 272 and a framed photo in the hotel lobby all use the facing-left version.
With these conflicting notions in mind, before our “Now” shoot I made a separate trip to the Beatles Suite (still room 272) of The Edgewater Hotel (formerly Inn) in the hope of figuring out the correct orientation. The Edgewater staff asserted that room 272 is in the same west/southwest-facing corner spot today as it was in 1964. When I examined the room’s windows and leaned out them, taking sample photos, it seemed clear to me that the facing-left version had to be correct.
I had two reasons for this conclusion: (1) The positioning of the fishing window immediately adjacent to the building’s corner in the facing-left version is consistent with the present-day position of a similar window along present-day room 272’s exterior wall that runs northwest/southeast. (2) Given this, if the facing-right version were correct, from the window of today’s room 272 the photographer would have looked southeast and captured in the distance the Smith Tower and the rest of Seattle’s 1964 waterfront and downtown scene, but instead we see the low-level, indistinct mass. This argued for the photographer shooting in a northwestern direction — the direction shown in the version with the Beatles facing left.
As I looked northwest from outside the room 272 window, I noted that the end of Pier 69 that jutted out in the background was not present in the 1964 “Then.” But this could be explained by separate newspaper research indicating that Pier 69 had been redeveloped in the early 1980s.
Thus, the facing-left orientation seemed the better bet when Jean Sherrard and I shot our “Now” photo on March 24, 2022. Jean looked northwest, and our four “Now” posers matched the Beatles, facing left. That’s how they appear in this post and in the Seattle Times online and in print.
But on April 29, 2022, after this column had been posted for a day, the plot thickened. New evidence and insight emerged from one of our column’s stalwart volunteers, Gavin MacDougall.
Though I had searched Google Images and Getty Images for relevant Beatles fishing photos, Gavin’s own search turned up two Getty black-and-white versions of out-the-window Beatles fishing photos that I hadn’t seen — and that obviously were taken slightly before or after our “Then.” These photos, which you can see at this link, and at this link, provide definitive evidence that the correct orientation of the photo has the Beatles facing right, not left.
Here’s why: The background of these black-and-white photos is much more distinct than in the color photo of the same situation. Clearly in the background are not only Harbor Island and silhouetted ships in for repair but also a ribbon of white further in the distance reflecting construction underway on the Fauntleroy Expressway snaking diagonally up the east bluff of West Seattle.
But how could this be, if this view is not possible from the windows of present-day room 272? The answer, as the Edgewater had told me, is that in 1964 when the Beatles stayed in room 272, the room was larger and/or likely connected to adjacent rooms, whereas today’s room 272, marketed as the Beatles Suite, is smaller and designed for a couple, not a Fab Foursome. So in 1964, the larger version of room 272 had to extend around the corner along part of the adjacent exterior wall that ran due north and south and included windows that faced due west. Thus, when the Beatles fished out the southernmost window along that wall, the photographer leaning out the window to its north would have been facing due south and would have shown Harbor Island and West Seattle in the background of the resulting photos.
That room 272 was larger and provided windows straddling the Edgewater’s west/southwest facing corner is apparent from the Getty photo at this link. There, the fishing window is shown at right, and drapes cover another window at left on a wall that is at an irregular angle to the fishing-window wall, indicating the corner.
Bottom line: Though I tried hard to suss out this question before the “Now” shoot, I should have been able to dig up the Getty Images that served as the “smoking gun.” Had I done so, we would have flopped our 1964 “Then” photo so that the Beatles were facing right. We also would have sought access from the Edgewater to the room next door to — and around the irregular corner of — today’s Beatles Suite in room 272 to shoot our “Now.”
Why take pains to explain this how this error occurred? A whimsical answer may lie in the chorus of a 1973 Ringo Starr song, “Photograph”:
“All I’ve got is a photograph
And I realize you’re not coming back anymore …”
Incidentally, while versions of the out-the-window fishing photo have been widely circulated in both orientations, its photographer is rarely mentioned. KOMO-TV archivist Joe Wren notes that in a 1995 interview that Beatles companion and confidant Derek Taylor did with the station, the photographer for the exterior fishing shot was identified as the Beatles’ official photographer, the late Curt Gunther. But such attribution is made difficult by the assertion on the Getty Images website that several photos of the Beatles inside their Edgewater suite were taken by a William Lovelace. The mystery continues, but here’s the KOMO-TV story, aired April 28, 2022:
More photos, a ticket stub, a letter, another video, an essay,
an array of news clippings and the Beatles’ 1964 tour booklet
Here are additional photos taken March 24, 2022, the day of our “Now” shoot, of the Edgewater’s Beatles Suite and of our “Now” posers therein. At the end of this gallery you will find a brief video of our posers standing before a Fab Four portrait in the suite’s bathroom gamely making their way through a minute or so of one of the songs the Beatles sang at their 1964 show: “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
These 57 newspaper clippings document the Beatles’ 1964 show in Seattle:
These photos depict the Beatles’ 1964 tour booklet “Beatles (U.S.A.) Ltd.,” available for purchase at their shows. The images are courtesy of Teresa Anderson. Click once or twice on each one to enlarge it. At the very bottom is the cover for the Beatles’ 1966 tour booklet, contributed by Deb Bigelow.