'A Thrill Of A Lifetime': Pat O'Day Recalls The Beatles' Seattle Concert, 50 Years Later
On August 21, 1964, four young musicians from Liverpool performed to an eager crowd of 14,300 at Seattle Center Coliseum, now known as KeyArena. Seattle was the third stop on The Beatles’ first U.S. tour. The concert was also the first one ever held at the coliseum.
“The event was a phenomenon,” said Seattle radio personality Pat O’Day, who introduced the Beatles to the sold-out auditorium 50 years ago. “It opened the door and our eyes to what the concert business could be.”
O’Day was the program director and afternoon disc jockey at the radio station KJR at the time. He was used to being on stage and introducing major acts like Chubby Checker and Joey Dee and the Starliters, but emceeing the Beatles’ Seattle concert was “a thrill of a lifetime.”
“I went home saying, ‘I think I just saw a piece of history made tonight,’” he said.
‘Girls Fainted And Screamed’
O’Day remembers the deafening screams from teenage girls that overpowered the coliseum’s small sound system.
“I had gotten acquainted with George Harrison backstage, and I was standing right next to that tiny stage at the end of the coliseum, standing there, looking up at George,” he recalled. “The screaming was so loud. George looked down at me, shook his head, unplugged his guitar for about 30 seconds, and plugged it back in and said, ‘It doesn’t make any difference. They can’t hear it anyway.’”
While O’Day says the event was not the best musical experience, it didn’t matter to the thousands of fans who got to see The Beatles in person that day.
“It was a visual experience,” he said. “And girls fainted and screamed, and had a great time.”
‘They Reunited America With Rock ‘n’ Roll’
O’Day says he hasn't seen any modern rock band replicate the “Beatlemania” that swept across the U.S. in the 1960s.
“I don’t think anything equals the energy that the Fab Four brought, because they had reunited America with rock ‘n’ roll,” he said.
The days of Elvis, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and Little Richard had faded away in American popular music, he said, but The Beatles brought audiences back to “the roots of good, solid rock 'n’ roll.”
Seattle Center’s Beatles Week
In celebration of The Beatles’ Seattle debut 50 years ago, Seattle Center will be holding Beatles-related events throughout the city from Monday, Aug. 18, to Saturday, Aug. 23. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame DJs O’Day and Marco Collins will host a Beatles tribute concert called “Get Back” at McCaw Hall on Saturday, Aug. 23.
- International Fountain water program synchronized to Beatles music, Aug. 18-23
- Beatles Laser Show at Pacific Science Center, Aug. 18-23
- Beatles-themed specials at Seattle Center Armory food merchants: The Confectional and Ceres Roasting, Aug. 18-23
- 50th Anniversary of The Beatles Arrival in Seattle - Celebration Concert at the Mural Amphitheatre, Aug. 21
- Seattle's Best Damn Happy Hour Beatles Remembered, Aug. 21
- Seattle Children's Museum music-based education programs for children 10 months to 10 years, and an additional literacy and art activity. Kids will be able to create their own Beetle Bug with recycled materials and travel it along our 'Abbey Road,' Aug. 23
- "Get Back" Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles in Seattle '64 presented by Synergia NW 2014 at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, Aug. 23
More information can be found at seattlecenter.com/beatles.