“You went to New York for the first time? So did I.”

I thought I was over talking about the Beatles for awhile, after spending Sunday fully submerged in Ed Sullivan Show anniversary madness, but today I read an oral history of another Beatles event celebrating its 50th anniversary: Their concert at the Washington Coliseum on February 11, 1964. The Washington Post published the story, which culled anecdotes from concertgoers, photographers, hotel managers and a former Beatle to create a delightful read, full of stories and insights I’d never known.

There are so many stories bubbling under the surface of commonplace events, just waiting to boil over. Well, I guess the Beatles playing D.C. wasn’t necessarily “commonplace.” But it’s not one of the major moments that spring to mind when thinking about the Beatles in America – you spend those thoughts on the Ed Sullivan Show and Shea Stadium.

Every story in this oral history is fascinating, but these were my favorites:

John B. Lynn, son of the Washington Coliseum’s owner: “It was such an unusual event and it was a windfall. He [his dad, the owner] took the profit and used it to buy my mother a new Lincoln Continental convertible for her birthday. We came home from school and he said, ‘The Beatles concert bought that for your mother.'”

I can just picture a dad pointing to the awesome new car in the driveway, shrugging and thanking the Beatles for a new car.

Linda Binns Liles, who was nine years old that day and rode the train from New York to Washington in the same car as the Beatles:  “I introduced myself to Ringo Starr and promptly sat down and started talking with him. ‘You went to New York for the first time? So did I.’ We had a normal conversation. I was sure he was interested in my fourth-grade teacher as much as I was interested in what he was doing. Paul McCartney, who had me calling him Uncle Paul, asked me if I was coming to their D.C. concert, and I was like, ‘No, I’ve got to go to school tomorrow.’ I was perfectly serious.”

I love how this captures the newness and thrill of America for the Beatles. “You went to New York for the first time? So did I.” Ringo could not have said anything more perfect. Liles’ story brings the spectacular train scene from A Hard Day’s Night to mind.

I also loved a quote from Paul, still dripping with that Hard Day’s Night cynicism when remarking on the tone of press conferences the band did in the United States: “The press conferences were quite funny. It was always: ‘Hey, Beatles, is that hair real, or is it a wig?’ Well, that’s a very good question, isn’t it? How dumb are you? But we didn’t mind it at all. We expected it. It was a completely different world. It’s not like now where you’ll find all these kids writing for the Internet. It was elderly, balding gentlemen who smoked a lot — grown-ups looking disapprovingly at the children having too much fun. We knew it wasn’t hard to beat that kind of cynicism. It was like a chess game. And the great thing was, being four of us, one of us could always come up with a smart-ass answer.”

America enthralled the Beatles, but they still knew what they were going to get. They were in on the joke, and they played along, giving us so many wonderful stories to remember in the process.

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What Would You Call that Hairstyle?

Editor’s Note: This is the second of what is still likely to be several posts inspired by my Beatles class.

On Tuesday, I turned some innocent clips of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show into a personal obsession with the evolving definition of “fifteen minutes of fame.” In Thursday’s class, we watched their 1964 movie “A Hard Day’s Night,” which elicited no more profound reaction than “wow, the Beatles have a killer sense of humor.”

Despite ten years of Beatle fandom, I hadn’t seen “A Hard Day’s Night” until today and am embarrassed to admit I didn’t realize the album of the same name was technically a movie soundtrack. The movie is relatively plot-less, but drips with ironic humor. I won’t declare it an all-time favorite, but I definitely enjoyed it and feel that an understanding of their humor adds to my appreciation of their music.

Our professor talked about how the Beatles had vowed not to go the route of Elvis, whose career declined as he took roles in increasingly low-quality films. They brought on Richard Lester as director, who in 1962 directed the similarly sarcastic “It’s Trad, Dad!” (known as “Ring-A-Ding Rhythm” in the United States). Lester’s proven ability to create an irreverent picture, combined with Alun Owen’s sarcastic script, gave the Beatles what they were looking for.

A couple of favorite songs and/or scenes:

George’s performance of “I’m Happy Just to Dance With You,” which is one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen:

Our entire class pretty much lost it after Ringo’s hilarious mock laugh:

And some sarcastic George for the road (at 0:52):

If you’ve seen this film, I’d be interested to hear how (if at all) it changed your perspective on the band, and what scenes or lines you especially enjoyed.

*Poster image found here.