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Beatles' first U.S. concert 50 years ago in D.C. was reenacted Feb. 11

The Beatles' first U.S. concert will be reenacted on its exact 50th anniversary, Feb. 11, 1964 at 8:31 P.M., at the same spot -- in D.C. The former boxing arena is now a covered parking lot.
The Beatles' first U.S. concert will be reenacted on its exact 50th anniversary, Feb. 11, 1964 at 8:31 P.M., at the same spot -- in D.C. The former boxing arena is now a covered parking lot.
Photo by Mike Mitchell

The fab four's fab first U.S. concert was reenacted on its exact 50th anniversary, Feb. 11 at 8:31 P.M., at the same spot -- a northeast D.C. former boxing arena.

The 50th anniversary concert's called "Beatles Yesterday & Today".

But Beatlemania wasn't instantaneous, at least for the "Washington Post" review Feb. 12, 1964.

Post critic Lawrence Laurent lambasted the Beatles as "imported hillbillies who look like sheep dogs and sound like alley cats in agony." Laurent said they were "apparently some kind of malicious, bi-lateral entertainment trade agreement." What a trade deficit.

Fast forward 50 years, when a band called Beatlemania will re-create the concert. And stunning photographs of that performance, taken by then-18-year-old photographer Mike Mitchell, will be shown (see my slideshow). An auction of many of these historic images brought almost $362,000 at Christie's in New York in 2011. Imagine, onstage access to the Beatles.

The Beatlemania band followed the playlist of that 35-minute concert for the 8,000 capacity audience who paid $5 a ticket. It was held at the former Washington Coliseum, now the Uline Arena. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it's actually a covered parking lot.

John Lennon jotted the play sheet of 12 songs at the last minute on letterhead of Washington's Shoreham Hotel, where the Beatles stayed on the night of their concert.

The hotel, now the Omni Shoreham, displays the precious document in a simple black frame in the lobby.

And the songs were, (with Lennon's punctuation. No need to note "Roll over..." and not "Ode to Joy"):

1. “Beethoven” 2. “From Me to You” 3. “I Saw Her Standin’ There” 4. "This Boy" 5. "All My Lovin'" 6. "I wanna be your man" 7. "Please Please Me" 8. "Til there was you" 9. "She Loves You" 10. "I want to Hold Your Hand" 11. "Twist and Shout" 12. "Long Tall Sally".

Here are excerpts from the Omni Shoreham's description, entitled "Ticket to Ride":

"The Washington Coliseum show and two Carnegie Hall shows the next day had been booked at the last minute to offset the group's travel expenses because (Ed) Sullivan paid them only $8,500 for their three appearances on his show that February."

When Ringo Starr walked into Washington's Union Station, he joked to 2,000 shrieking fans, "'It's great to be here in New York!' When someone pointed out he was in Washington, Starr smiled and said, 'Oh, is that the place? I don't know, Washington, I'm just moving so fast!'

"The Beatles took limos over to the Shoreham, where the entire sixth floor was reserved for them. After a brief rest, John Lennon wrote down that night's set list on of a sheet of Shoreham stationery, and the band headed for the Coliseum for an inane and typically brief (5 1/2 minutes) news conference.

"One rude reporter started his bit with 'Here I am surrounded by Beatles and I don't feel a thing. Fellas, how does it feel to be in the United States?' (A gracious Starr replied 'It's great! Wonderful!') ...

"Another question: 'You and the snow came to Washington at the same time today. Which do you think will have the greater impact?'

"Lennon: 'The snow will probably last longer.'"

The memory of John Lennon and the Beatles will probably last forever. Yeah, yeah, yeah...

The Omni Shoreham is co-hosting the 50th anniversary concert, with the DC Preservation League (proceeds benefit it), and with Douglas Development Corp.

The hotel has just launched a "Fab 4 February" overnight package for that month. Room prices begin at $119 a night, and include a Beatles commemorative gift and an "All My Loving" welcome amenity. Specialty drinks at the hotel's Marquee Bar that month will include Strawberry Fields Daiquiri, Twist & Shout Martini, and Sgt. Pepper's Bloody Mary.

No Lonely Hearts Club drink or package -- February is Valentine's month, and you need is love.

For more info: BeatlesYesterdayandToday,, Uline Arena,, M Street and 3rd Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. Tickets, $45 standing room, $100 general seating. Proceeds benefit the DC Preservation League, which is co-presenting the event with Omni Shoreham Hotel,, 2500 Calvert Street, N.W., Washington, DC. 202-234-0700, and Douglas Development Corp. Photographer Mike Mitchell, Aluna Incorporated, 1754B T Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. And here's a fun 50th anniversary video,

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