Seattle sisters saw the Beatles in 1964, return to the same venue tonight to see Paul McCartney
On August 21, 1964, The Beatles played their first concert in Seattle. More than 14,000 screaming fans packed into the Seattle Center Coliseum, including these sisters from Ballard.
“I was 14 when I saw The Beatles, and I’m 72 now,” said Barbara Horn.
“I was 21 when I saw The Beatles, and I will be turning 80 in July,” said Irene Crawford.
Typically, the little sister learns about the cool new bands from their older sibling, but not in this case.
“I didn’t even know who these Beatles were,” said Irene. “But I worked downtown and she’d want me to pick up these magazines for her that had The Beatles on it, at Woolworths. So then I started looking at them and listening and I thought, oh, they’re good.”
Horn was in 7th grade when she caught Beatles fever.
“Do you remember the 45 records? They’d be in a little sleeve?” asked Horn. “My friend and I got to class and she said, ‘Barbara, I want to show you something.’ She pulls it out of her pocket. We’d never really seen them before! It was, ‘Oh wow. They’re really cute!'”
Horn still has a big, homemade Beatles scrapbook she made as a teenager full of newspaper clippings and her ticket to the 1964 show.
“You may touch it,” Horn laughs. “Look! Tickets were $3, $4, and $5. Think what they are now.”
She also has the photos she took at the concert. After finding their seats, Horn ditched her sister and tried to get a better view of the stage; she has a photo of The Beatles walking off the stage.
“They’re running by me,” said Horn. “Here comes Paul and for some reason, I just reached out with my right hand and [touched him] right down his upper arm.”
“She came back to us,” laughed Crawford. “And said, ‘I touched Paul McCartney!”
But the thing the sisters remember most:
“The screaming!” said Horn, who is very proud that she didn’t scream at the show. “I’d never heard screaming like that.”
“The Beatles set was only 29 minutes long, and you just can’t hear it,” said KIRO Newsradio’s resident historian, Feliks Banel. “There are bootleg recordings of almost every show The Beatles did and there’s one for Seattle. I think it’s generally regarded by experts as the worst bootleg recording of any of the shows because you can’t hear what’s going on. You just hear screaming. You associate so much human screaming and yelling with negative things. This was like ecstasy!”
The Beatles mostly played covers that night. They opened the show with Twist and Shout by the Isley Brothers and closed with Long Tall Sally by Little Richard.
“This notion of African American music, four guys from Liverpool buying these records from import record shops,” mused Banel. “The combination of American rhythm and blues, Liverpool accents and the skilled musicians they were in this boy band, this quintessential pop bubblegum boy band, and all these girls screaming and yelling… But the music still stands up 60 years later. We’ll never see anything like it ever again in the history of mankind.”
The Beatles only played Seattle twice, once again in 1966, but 1964 is the show everyone talks about.
“Seattle in 1964 was still experiencing the afterglow of the 1962 World’s Fair,” said Banel. “You can’t overstate how much impact that event, and building everything that’s now Seattle Center, what that had on the city. In 1964 The Beatles organized their first North American tour and Seattle can host The Beatles because we have the coliseum, what’s now called Climate Pledge Arena. It’s converted after the fair into this incredible concert venue at the height of The Beatles’ initial wave of popularity.”
Paul McCartney played that very same arena last night and he’ll play another show this evening. And Horn had a big surprise for her big sister. She handed her a card and Crawford read aloud.
“‘Sis, I want to keep the memories going. It’s only been 58 years this August since we saw The Beatles. I have tickets for us to see Paul McCartney!'” Crawford squeals. “Oh my god! ‘Be there or be square!'”
Horn started getting emotional.
“When I listen to that music, it brings me back to that happy time. That was a very happy time,” said Horn. “It’s an emotional feeling. You can hear it in my voice. The fun of the evening, the anticipation. This is my memory and I only have shared it with myself and my sister.”
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- Rachel Belle hosts the James Beard Award nominated podcast Your Last Meal and she's an Edward R Murrow award winning feature reporter. Follow Rachel on Instagram.