The author talks about writing, his ties to the region and literacy advocacy.
Millions of Americans know exactly where they were when the Beatles first appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964. But the concert that followed that legendary television appearance, the band’s first ever in North America, is an often overlooked piece of musical — and Washington D.C.’s — history. Kojo chats with a man whose father booked the Beatles to play that 1964 show at Washington Coliseum, along with a lifelong friend who attended the concert with him, and ponders its legacy both locally and globally.
- J. Freedom du Lac Enterprise Reporter, The Washington Post
- John Lynn Attorney; Son of Harry Lynn, Owner of Washington Coliseum
- Sam Brylawski Consultant, National Jukebox Project, Library of Congress; Editor and Project Manager, Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings (EDVR)
Remembering The Beatles’ First U.S. Concert At The Washington Coliseum
Fifty years ago in February 1964, the Beatles made their U.S. concert debut at the Washington Coliseum, now known as the Uline Arena, in Northeast D.C. John Lynn’s father, Harry, owned the historic venue, and John recounts attending the concert with his brother as a young boy. “It was all pretty much of a fluke,” John says about how Harry booked the band. While it was an exciting experience for the brothers and their friends, John says he didn’t understand at the time how fortunate he was to see the Beatles at this particular venue. He describes meeting the band and getting their autograph, a memento he treasures today. “I say that I became a lifelong music fan, especially rock and roll, after that.”
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Millions upon millions of people the whole world over can tell you exactly where they were watching television when the Beatles played "The Ed Sullivan Show" 50 years ago. But each morning in Washington D.C., thousands upon thousands of people commute past the venue where the Fab Four played another legendary gig and many have little to no idea of what happened there a half a century ago to date.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIOn February 11, 1964, the Beatles played their very first U.S. concert at the Washington Coliseum, just a stone's throw away from the train tracks that stretch north from Union Station. It's a piece of local history that in many ways has faded, as the legends of other moments of Beatlemania have grown. But, if you go to the arena, which still stands today, you just might hear the echoing screams from the concert witnessed in person by two of the men in the room with me right now.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIJohn Lynn is the son of Harry Lynn, the former owner of Washington Coliseum, or as it was once known, Uline Arena. He's a retired lawyer who still lives in the Washington Area. John Lynn, thank you so much for joining us.
MR. JOHN LYNNYou're welcome.
NNAMDIAlso with John is Sam Brylawski. He is a consultant to the National Jukebox Project at the Library of Congress and a music historian and preservationist. Sam, good to see you again.
MR. SAM BRYLAWSKIThank you.
NNAMDIAlso joining us in studio is J. Freedom du Lac. Josh du Lac is an enterprise reporter at The Washington Post. Josh, thank you for joining us.
MR. J. FREEDOM DULACThanks for having me.
NNAMDIYou, too, can join the conversation. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Did you attend the Beatles 1964 concert at Washington Coliseum? What memories do you have of that show? 800-433-8850. You can send email to Kojo@WAMU.org. John, it's my understanding you were 11 years old, kid in the arena, when all this happened. It happened because your father, Harry, an Army vet turned jewelry wholesaler turned arena owner, took a gamble and booked a band he'd never heard of to play at Washington Coliseum. What do you remember about the moment your dad told you about the show that was in the works?
LYNNI remember sitting at the dinner table one night. And he came home from the office and asked my brother, who was eight, and me if we'd ever heard of the band called the Beatles. And we said, "Of course. Everyone's heard of the Beatles."
NNAMDIWhere've you been, dad?
LYNNExactly. And he said, "Well, I just signed them to play at the Coliseum." And we said, "Fantastic," you know.
NNAMDIThis was just two days after the Beatles had played "The Ed Sullivan Show." You can hear from the screams in that recording that there was hysteria around this band. Where did this music, at that point of your life, fit into your life? Were you already a big fan before your dad told you about the show?
LYNNI think we were, yes, already fans -- had heard the music on the radio and were just excited to be able to be a part of it.
NNAMDISam, one of those kids who happened to be at school with John -- and we should add that this was Murch Elementary School, just a few blocks up the street from this studio -- how did you react upon learning that your friend, John's, father had booked this band to play at the Washington Coliseum, and then later on, when you learned, wait, I'm going to get to go see this too?
BRYLAWSKIWell, John and I had been friends since we were probably four or five. But, when I learned the Beatles were coming, John was my best friend forever.
BRYLAWSKIThat's what he was. That's how I reacted. And I think John had a lot of best friends that week. I think a lot of people were siding up to him. But I was one of the lucky ones and knew it too.
NNAMDIJohn got really popular. Let's talk about the venue for a moment, because most people would agree that the Coliseum, or Uline, was not exactly built for music. Some have called it a big concrete barn. But, over the years, everyone from Fats Domino to Paul Robeson to the Beatles to the Rolling Stones played there. When your father bought this arena, where did concert fit into his original business model? It's my understanding that the circus and Ice Capades accounted for a lot of the business coming through.
LYNNThat's correct. The Ringling Brothers Circus and the Ice Capades did account for, I think, the majority of his profit. But they had many other events at the building, including music. But most of the time -- the interesting thing was most of the time the building would just receive a flat rental fee and the music would be promoted by another promoter. The curious thing was why he decided, in this particular case, to become the promoter for the Beatles concert.
LYNNI think, if I had to guess, because I don't know the answer, but I think that the man from Capital Records who called him about the possibility of booking the Beatles for that night must have told him that it was going to be a sure thing. That's why he went ahead and promoted it himself.
NNAMDIHe said, this is going to be big, big. Sam, growing up in D.C. prior to the Beatles concert, how would you describe the connection you felt to rock and roll, to the cultural wave that was building bigger and bigger.
BRYLAWSKIOh, yeah. Well, I had an older brother who loved rock and roll and would bring home records -- buy records and play them at home. And between that and then, of course, listening to the top-40 radio stations, like everybody else, W-E-A-M, WEAM and others, you sort of felt like you were on top of things. Of course we were only on top of the top-40, the most popular -- the stuff that was promoted the most. But, and, you know, we had some venues to go to, not many. What I remember well is Carter Barron, which is in Rock Creek Park, which had a lot of live concerts in the summertime of course, outside Amphitheater.
NNAMDIJosh du Lac, a few years ago, as you were putting together the first version of the oral history of this show that was published in The Post, you spoke with Paul McCartney. What sense did you get from him about what it meant to him and the band, at the time, to not only be playing in full concert in the United States, but to be doing it here in the nation's capital.
DULACHe has particularly fond memories of the trip to Washington. Of course, two nights before the show here, they'd been on "The Ed Sullivan Show," and 73 million people watched that. It was, you know, a larger, I think, percentage of the American population at that time than actually watched the last Super Bowl. So it was a huge audience. But when they took the train into Washington and saw all the people who were waiting for them at Union Station and then hit the stage that night for that show and, you know, you hear the audience just going ballistic, I think it was a really important moment in the band's arc in history.
DULACThey had a number one single at that point and here were people coming out and surrounding them with this sort of approbation that I think they were seeking in America.
NNAMDIIt was the number one single everywhere, including where I was in 1964, which was Guyana, South America. What do you make of them playing "Roll Over Beethoven," a Chuck Berry song, to open the show?
DULACYou know, Paul said it wasn't a conscious decision to come out and do that as a statement. You know, you heard the opening lines of that song. It's actually kind of funny when you hear it. George sounds a little bit quiet for the first couple of lines and then he moves to a different microphone and you hear him a little bit better as he says, "Roll over Beethoven, I got to hear it again today." But it wasn't a decision, Paul said, to announce, you know, rock and roll is here. The cultural revolution has arrived. Viva rock and roll, et cetera. But it sure seems like that in hindsight, doesn't it?
NNAMDIIt certainly does. I mean, I'm sure that's what Chuck Berry intended when he wrote the lyrics to that song. John, Sam, the band played on a state in the middle of the arena where a boxing ring would have been. They were surrounded by fans screaming so loud it's even tough to hear the music on even the best recordings. Let's take a listen.
MR. JOHN LENNONGood evening. How do you do? This one, which we recorded on an LP that we made -- that's English for album -- an album that we made. We'd like you, if you would, to sort of join in and clap your hands, you know, and stamp your feet. Yeah, you know, everybody, just join in all together. Okay? All right? The song -- yeah, the song's called "I Saw Her Standing There." One, two, three, four.
NNAMDIJohn, where were you in the arena during the concert?
LYNNWe should have been in the front row, but my father was a little worried that, at our age, if something bad happened, that we might get hurt or something. So he put us over on the side, as I recall, still fairly close to the front, but I think we were on the side of the building. So, but of course, since it was in the round, we still got as good a view as anyone else there. But what's interesting about listening to the music now is that we can hear it a lot better than we were able to hear it in the concert itself. I don't remember hardly being able to hear the music at all.
LYNNAs soon as the song started, the screaming would start, and...
NNAMDIWhat was with all that screaming, Sam?
BRYLAWSKIWell, maybe, I think what John's father was worried about was us getting trampled by...
BRYLAWSKI...you know, 100 15-year-old girls. That was the screaming. But it was real.
NNAMDIAnd for these -- for you, these were older women.
BRYLAWSKIThey were older women, that's right. So he was good to look out for us. I -- by the way, I remember exactly where we were sitting. It was on the east side of the hall. And, you know, one thing you didn't mention was that there were a lot of basketball games at the Washington Coliseum. And so I would guess we were in maybe the second row of what the basketball stands would be; whereas, then there were all these seats on the floor. So we were a little above those. So it was really like a front-row seat -- second-row seat if it were a basketball game.
BRYLAWSKIBut it was girls screaming and they were mad. I remember the girls in sixth grade being mad. And I was just telling John I was reading a biography of Frank Sinatra where there were times in his early career where they paid young women to scream and pretend to faint. Nobody was paid.
NNAMDIThey didn't have to pay anybody at these ones.
BRYLAWSKIThey weren't paying anybody. This was real. We could hardly hear anything.
NNAMDIJosh, you talked with a number of people about the sheer level of noise in the arena. Marsha Albert, who was at the show, said she saw a policeman who -- I find this hard to believe -- who put bullets in his ears to cope with the sound?
DULACYeah, it was apparently -- I mean, you can hear it on the audio quite loud. These guys were there. They, you know, maybe are still recovering from that. I don't know if their ears are still ringing about 50 years later. But everybody who was there who I talked to remembers that screaming. Bill Eppridge, the late, great photographer who was shooting the concert for Life magazine said that it was one of the loudest things that he'd ever heard, and possibly where he lost his hearing. And if it wasn't there it was, you know, during the Vietnam War I think with some rifles cracking next to his ear.
NNAMDILet's talk with a couple of people who apparently were there also. We'll start with Ron in Washington, D.C. Ron, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
RONHey, Kojo, I was there, man. I was there. And when your guests are talking about the decibel level, when I just heard the recording of the screaming that you just played, the hair on my arms stood up. I'll never forget it. I heard not one note of music. Just this high pitched scream of 10,000 teenage girls. I'll never forget it. Never.
NNAMDIBut did you enjoy the show?
RONWell, not really. I just -- you know, I didn't understand why people wouldn't shut up so that you could hear the music. It was pandemonium, pandemonium.
NNAMDIBut you were a part of the whole scene.
RONYes, I was part of -- and in retrospect it was terrific. And I tell my kids that I was there and I'm proud of it.
RONBut in the moment I was -- you know, when you're 14 years old and all the girls are screaming, you just -- you know, you just want to walk away from it.
NNAMDIRon, thank you very much for your call. We will now talk with Mary Lou in Edgewater, Md. Mary Lou, thank you for joining us.
MARY LOUWell, thank you. I remember I had the good fortune of my best friend's father deciding that he would buy tickets for us. And it was kind of a snowy or it had been snowing because my mother made me take my boots. And I was so humiliated. But the other thing I remember about that concert is the groups that went on before the Beatles were the Righteous Brothers and Jay and the Americans. And I'm wondering if anybody else has those recollections.
NNAMDIWe're getting a few thumbs up here this evening, so I guess those were the groups that went on before, Josh, the caller...
DULACWell, it's interesting. We were talking about this before coming on because there's some question as to exactly what the lineup was preceding the Beatles. We know that Tommy Roe was there. We know that the Caravelles were there. The Chiffons were supposed to be there. I don't think they made the show. The Righteous Brothers we think were there and the caller just mentioned Jay and The Americans.
DULACBut, you know, in talking to one of the foremost Beatles historians in the country if not the world, he said that, you know, in all the research he's done he's still a little bit fuzzy on what the lineup was that night.
LOUWell, I still have the program.
NNAMDIMary Lou, you still have the program?
NNAMDII'm pretty sure that's something that Josh would be interested in taking a look at. You know how to reach him. He's at the Washington Post. Now as to the screaming, Mary Lou, what -- were you a participant?
LOUOf course. Of course. Because as somebody said, you could not hear the music, so you might as well join in with the rest of the -- you know, the activity. Yeah, I remember it was really, really hard -- you got a few, you know, notes of music from time to time but -- and you were exhausted at the end of the concert.
NNAMDIWhat stimulated you to scream?
LOUI think it was just kind of the whole group reaction.
LOUYeah, you know, you were part of the group, yeah.
NNAMDIThe whole scene. But you had a good time, didn't you, Mary Lou?
LOUHad a wonderful time. Thank you very much.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. You too can call us at 800-433-8850. Josh, some of the folks you talked to for the oral history have mixed memories of the show itself. Al Gore, for example, told you that he doesn't have memories of throwing jellybeans at the band. It was everybody else. Reed Hunt, the man who'd go on to chair the Federal Communications Commission, said he definitely did. What was it with the jellybeans?
DULACThe Beatles had said in some interviews that one of their favorite candies was whatever the British equivalent of jellybeans was. And so for some reason the fans in America decided that they should show up and to demonstrate their love for the Beatles they should throw jellybeans at the stage. And if you watch any of the videos from that concert, the quality of the images is not particularly great. But every now and again you can see things flying past the cameras. And the Beatles themselves don't have particularly fond memories of that part of the show.
NNAMDISaid those things felt like bullets.
NNAMDI...which the officer had in his ears by the way. But yes, people were throwing jellybeans but Al Gore said he was not. You also spoke with one person who was a youngster at the time who got to interact with the band but who was not, as she describes, a crazy teenager. Who is Linda Bens Lyles (sp?) ?
DULACSo the Beatles took the train from New York to Union Station in Washington and she happened to be on the train with her family on their way back to Richmond. And apparently the Beatles were mostly on one car and weren't making their way around the train. She happened to be in that car and as an 11-year-old decided that she should talk to the group. She got a couple of autographs, convinced people to allow her to get the other two autographs because you can't have an incomplete set.
DULACAnd she had a chat with Ringo and with Paul and -- you know, as if they were just normal people. And I don't think she had any great awareness that they were these huge stars who were ascending and at this moment had arrived. They were just guys on the train.
NNAMDIAs she probably talked to them about whatever was on her mind, knowing girls of that age. Here's Cory in Burtonsville, Md. Cory, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CORYWell, I heard you talking about the screaming. I was not at the first show but I was at RFK. And to tell you the truth, even though it was an open venue, it was just as much screaming. And I'm a girl but I actually resented screaming. I wanted to hear the music. I will also tell you that we were up at the National Guard's armory. My girlfriend was making a phone call, I was sitting on the steps. And there were all these rumors that they were coming in in the helicopters because of problems they'd had in New York.
CORYSo I was just watching this load of limousines coming around that circle in front of the armory. And right in front of my face, Paul McCartney. And the only groupie thing I've ever done in my life is we actually ended up at the Omni Shorum (sp?) -- well, it wasn't the Omni then. It was just the Shorum. And on the floor and just down the hall was Ringo Starr. So I was there. It was awesome.
NNAMDIHanging out at the Shorum being a groupie. Cory, thank you very much for your call. Let's talk with Beatrice in Olney, Md. about her experience. Beatrice, your turn.
BEATRICEI am here. I have some laryngitis and it's not from the leftover screaming from 50 years ago. But my girlfriend Margaret, whose last name was Harrison -- and I was so jealous -- and I actually -- my dad drove us down in the afternoon. We watched the train come in and then we just took a chance and went up to the coliseum the same afternoon before the press conference. And we told them that we were with the -- that we were press, that we were with our high school paper to do an interview. And they let us in, which would never happen today.
BEATRICEAnd so Margaret and I were actually present at the -- present at the press conference. We were too thunder struck to ask any questions. We were just with our mouths hanging open. And at the end of the press conference they let people go up on the stage to actually just talk to them. So we got up on the stage and we were standing right there with all four of them. And my favorite was George, so I asked him -- I brought my autograph book and I asked him for his autograph, which I have.
BEATRICEAnd I have my $4 ticket stub for the concert that night, which we couldn't hear a thing. We did bring jellybeans. We brought a big sign but people were then pelting jellybeans at us to put the sign down because nobody could see. And it's one of the highlights of my memories of growing up is that we asked to be...
NNAMDIBut did your conscience prompt you to just write something for your high school newspaper and submit it?
BEATRICEActually we were interviewed by our -- no, we didn't write an article but our picture was in the paper. And we were quite the stars for a few days at least. The boys were like, who cares, you know.
NNAMDIYou became celebrities at your high school by faking it.
BEATRICEYeah, I went to -- we went to Ballou High School. And we -- I still have the picture somewhere of us having a photograph taken in front of the school with a Beatle sign saying that Margaret and I were actually at the press conference.
NNAMDIBeatrice, thank you so much for sharing that memory with us. The fact of the matter is that it was known as the lost concert because a lot of people here in D.C. didn't remember it or didn't talk about it years later. That's one of the things we'll be talking about when we come back. We do have to take a short break because this is our winter membership campaign.
NNAMDIBut if you have questions or comments, do you think in D.C. we do enough to preserve the history of cultural events like the Beatles 1964 concert? Would more people know about what happened at that arena site if it were in a different city? Tell us why you think so or not, 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation about the Beatles 1964 show here in Washington at what was then known as the Washington Coliseum. We're talking with John Lynn. He's the son of Harry Lynn, the former owner of the coliseum, or as it was once known, Uline Arena. He's a retired lawyer still living in the Washington area. Sam Brylawski is a consultant to the National Jukebox Project at the Library of Congress. He's a music historian and preservationist. And J. Freedom Du Lac is an enterprise reporter at the Washington Post.
NNAMDIWe're inviting your calls at 800-433-8850. Sam, as a historian of music, what do you find most fascinating about the entire process of a British band taking up the mantle of rock 'n' roll, sending it back across the Atlantic Ocean to American audience? Do you have a sense for why this was the moment that stuff coming from over in Britain was breaking through in places like Washington, D.C. and all over this country?
BRYLAWSKIThat's a good question and one I've thought about. You know, it was just that point in time. I mean, there was just a sort of -- some sort of synergy that much of it was just chance -- well, all of it was chance. And some of it was just where this country was at the time. A lot of people did believe that rock 'n' roll died when Buddy Holly, Big Hopper's plane went down. In terms of creativity, Elvis was, you know, in the army. And rock 'n' roll had taken a tip. I'm not sure I totally believe that because there were some interesting things going on.
BRYLAWSKII like, you know, the girl groups and things like that which were popular. Motown hadn't risen but -- and then there was also the funk we were in because of the Kennedy assassination. We were ripe for an uplift. And then as we've seen even more so now, we're becoming an international society where our music and culture are being exchanged. The Beatles, you know, have a love of American blues, American rock 'n' roll. I mean, one reason they opened with "Roll Over Beethoven" was they adored Chuck Berry. "Come Together," the leading song on their last album was based on a Chuck Barry song. It was a lifelong thing. So a lot of those things came together. I mean there's no real one reason for it. I think also they were really good. They were good.
NNAMDISome people have gone so far as to call this concert the lost concert. In some ways it seems to be a piece of the band's history and D.C.'s history that gets lost in all of the other fond memories people have Beatle mania. Even an attempt to make a documentary film about the concert has been stalled because of a massive lawsuit. What happened there, John?
LYNNAll I can tell you is that I was contacted by the producers of the documentary about three and a half years ago. And they wanted to interview me for this documentary they were making. They said that they had discovered in some basement vault the lost master of the concert, which included all the additional songs that were not on any previously publicly released edition. And said that they were going to come over to the United States, which they did do, they rented the suite at the Shoreham Hotel that the Beatles stayed in. And they conducted interviews of a number of us who were at the concert while the concert was playing in the background.
LYNNAnd they went to the Coliseum, as it is today, and they had some huge projector that they were using to project the concert on the wall of the Coliseum, and they conducted more interviews in there. So I think the documentary -- I've never seen it -- but I think it's probably an excellent piece of work. And all I can tell you is that a friend of mine had sent me an email that the producers were going to release it in theaters, it was scheduled to come out here, it was going to be playing here in D.C. downtown at the E Street theaters. And it was all scheduled. It was supposed to be in the theater for a week. And then all of sudden they sent out another email that said, sorry, we've had to pull it because of scheduling problems. And we'll be back in touch. And that was the last I heard until I got an email that said that this lawsuit had been filed.
NNAMDIAnd Josh du Lac, I'm glad you're the enterprise reporter for the Washington Post because when it comes to the business of the recording industry and the entertainment industry and the movie industry, that's, for me, just like a deep hole that you fall into, which is what this documentary seems to have fallen into.
DULACIt's a hole filled with lawyers, although. I don't know much about this particular case. There is some documentation of this concert. Albert Maysles and his brother made a couple of films that used some footage from this visit, although it's not only about the trip to Washington. You'd asked a question earlier about what was going on and I was thinking about what was popular at that point in history. And if you look at the charts from late 1963, early 1964, it was the Singing Nun and Tony Bennett and Johnny Mathis and there was some Peter, Paul and Mary and Joan Biaz. So a bit of a range, but nothing with the sort of electricity and sheer exuberance that the Beatles brought.
DULACAnd I think as was mentioned, the country was in a funk after the assassination of Kennedy. And this was sort of like a snapping-to, culturally.
NNAMDIThat's what it would appear. Sam, from a preservation standpoint, do what degree do you think a lack of access to the proprietary rights for a concert like this adds to its mystique? If a show like this were to happen today, it would be tweeted, Instagram-ed, Facebook-ed to kingdom come. People might even get sick of seeing the footage coming out of different corners of the internet.
BRYLAWSKIThat's an interesting question. You really want to go back and also think about the fact that they did record it on film or kinescope or whatever it was, which was rather remarkable. You didn't do that for many concerts. And if you look at the schedule of events that took place at the Washington Coliseum, a month or two later they viewed the film from the concert. They sold tickets for people to come and view a film of this concert. So it's sort of interesting, again, the innovative in the sense of using media to promote music and the sort of symbiotic relationship between the two. Is there a mystique because it's lost? Well, no. It's not totally lost because I think you still can catch a lot of these clips on YouTube.
BRYLAWSKIAnd that's sort of the shame of things, in that you can see all these things in under-the-radar forms, on YouTube or other -- maybe YouTube isn't illegal, but things like BitTorrent. And yet if somebody really wants to do a nice production of it and remaster the sound and enhance the picture maybe, they're prohibited from doing so because of copyright or it's not selling the copyright -- it could be just use of the people's images, which is a big thing in entertainment now. You pay to use someone's image. It's more than just the copyrighted songs.
NNAMDILet's take a listen to a short clip of an interview the Beatles did during their D.C. trip with WWDC's Carroll James, the disc jockey who actually emceed the concert at Washington Coliseum, and the DJ who introduced so much of D.C. to this band.
MR. CARROLL JAMESYou, George, are the only Beatle who had been in America before this trip; is that correct?
MR. GEORGE HARRISONYeah, that's correct.
MR. GEORGE HARRISONWent to visit your sister a few months ago.
MR. GEORGE HARRISONYeah, September.
JAMESAt that time did anybody out there know of the Beatles, especially?
HARRISONNo. Nobody out here either. In New York, I went into a record shop to ask if they'd ever heard of us and they hadn't. And that was October.
NNAMDIHow rapidly this took over, Sam Brylawski. How do you account for that whirlwind? Sure the country was in a funk, but this was 1964. Things didn't happen that quickly in those days or did they?
BRYLAWSKI…the records were promoted and the records were good, as I said. And there's also just the fact that the personality of the Beatles was very appealing. I mean it's funny people should mention the noise and the noise of the Beatles concert was nothing like the noise of modern rock and roll concert, where even the musicians wear ear plugs now. I mean, it was a lot of screaming. You couldn't hear the music, but the decibel level, I don't think was that high.
BRYLAWSKIBut think about their hair. I mean there was more talk about the scandal of the lengths of the Beatles' hair. I mean that was a threat to American society. And yet we look at them now and you don't -- as I say, it's shorter than Mo Howards hair. The same style, but it's short. But that was really the talk then. And I think part of that was it was just sort of generated publicity, something to write about. And they were fun. They had a sense of humor.
NNAMDIJohn, the music eventually stopped at the Washington Coliseum some years after the Beatles concert in '64. When I first when there in the mid '70s it was to watch the roller derby they had there in those days. What happened at The Temptations concert in 1967?
LYNNThat was a very unfortunate occurrence, but I was there with a number of my friends. And my father had continued to have music up to that point, various groups played the Coliseum. But what had happened with that concert was as I recall The Temptations were late, very late, getting to the Coliseum. And as a result the crowd was increasingly agitated.
LYNNYeah, exactly. And so when they finally went on stage the crowd in the front rushed the stage for some reason. And one of the rental policemen, if you will, who was there for security, unfortunately fired his gun into the air and this caused an instantaneous result of people heading in the opposite direction. And then it went out into the streets and created a riot, to an extent, around the Coliseum and the surrounding neighborhood. And as a result of that my father decided he would no longer have any music shows at the building because it just jeopardized what he was trying to do with the building. And he still had events like the Ice Capades and the circus that were more family oriented and he didn't want to jeopardize that.
NNAMDIWell, there's going to be a re-enactment concert today at the arena site, which after years of serving as a parking garage and a trash transfer station, is set to undergo major redevelopment in the years ahead. How would you like to see the history, particularly the musical history of this site, preserved into whatever the arena eventually becomes? First you, Sam.
BRYLAWSKIWell, I would certainly hope that they put plaques there, but more important than plaques would maybe be some -- I'm an audio person. An audio montage of these acts that played there, both during the Washington Coliseum era and during Uline Arena era, so that one can go to the space and hear the wide range of music and entertainment we heard there. We don't have many venues like that. Well, we have the Verizon Center. And by the way, that's another unique thing about the Washington Coliseum, which is the size of the venue, for the Beatles -- even though they were at the beginning of their career, they had a number one song. To play for only 8,000 people, you know, we're not going to have that happen again, really.
BRYLAWSKISo anyway, to be able to go there and just know that these things took place and maybe here a montage of Pete Seeger who played there, and Paul Robson and James Brown and The Beatles, and a little exhibition would be nice. And I think they probably will do something like that because I think there's going to be maybe some retail presence. And they'll want to attract people. I don't think they're going to be able to do much more, but our cultural history should be preserved.
NNAMDIAny thoughts on that, Josh?
DULACI think they should pipe in screaming from the show.
NNAMDIAnd say, that was people listening to Paul Robson. Any thoughts on this, John?
LYNNI agree completely with Sam, but I think that maybe this is an opportunity to have something even broader take place, which is trying to have a museum or something to represent the entire Washington music scene of going back many decades because I think a lot of that is not fully appreciated. Not just what occurred at the Coliseum with The Beatles and other groups, but all around the city there were a number of venues, there were a number of great musical acts that originated here. And I think somewhere that ought to preserved along the same lines as Sam was suggesting.
BRYLAWSKIYeah, your caller reminded me -- I went down to the Howard to interview the Four Tops for the Alice Steel Junior High School newspaper. But we actually did write a story. But again, the history of the Howard, the Howard has only been open a year or two now and it's just incredible history, going back to the TOBA circuit of African American acts it's fabulous. And maybe that would be a great place for a museum or something like John's talking about.
NNAMDISam Brylawski is a consultant to the National Jukebox Project at the Library of Congress. He's a music historian and preservationist. Sam, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIJ. Freedom du Lac is an enterprise reporter at the Washington Post. Josh du Lac, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIAnd John Lynn is the son of Harry Lynn, the former owner of Washington Coliseum or as it was once known, Uline Arena. He is a retired lawyer. He still lives in the Washington area. John, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
Kojo explores how much input the public should have in public art projects and how that squares with the visions of the artists who do the work.
The Arlington County Board halted two long-planned, but long-controversial streetcar projects, saying voters had spoken this month against moving forward. We examine the implications of the decision.
Kojo talks with James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Brock about how he's using heritage foods to revive and redefine country cooking.