THE BEATLES: RARE PHOTOS FROM THEIR FIRST U.S. CONCERT
Imagine being eighteen years old, riding along in your ’55 Chevy, and some of the coolest music that you have ever heard thus far in your life, begins blaring through your car radio speaker(s).
It may have been as early as December 17, 1963 when Washington D.C. DJ, Carroll James of WWDC, was the first U.S. DJ to play “I Want To Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles on the air in America.
Mike Mitchell was that eighteen year old freelance photographer riding in that ’55 Chevy. When he heard that song, he knew these guys performing it were going to be BIG, and not just BIG, but life changing HUGE for many people. (They certainly had an effect on my brothers and I as three of us have played in bands for most of our lives and one went on to tour the U.S. and Europe. The fourth still strums his guitar…a result of The Beatles changing the face of popular music.)
For as many years as I have enjoyed anything & everything Beatles, (since February 1964 for me when The Fab Four made that first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show), the photographs that are the reason behind this story, somehow managed to elude me.
THE BEATLES AT THE WASHINGTON COLISEUM FEBRUARY 11, 1964
I had never seen any of these photos nor had heard of Mike Mitchell, the photographer who shot them, until just a few weeks ago. The photos themselves hadn’t even seen the light of day until some 47 years after the February 11th, 1964 Washington Coliseum Concert, sometime in 2011! I thought to myself, there’s quite a story here…at least for me and any other hardcore Beatles fans anyway.
As I stated above, I became aware of the existence of these photos just a few weeks ago. A good friend of mine and fellow photographer, Gene Faulkner, sent me an email with a link asking if I had seen these Beatles’ photos as he knows I have been a huge Beatles’ fan since way back when.
The link was for David Anthony Fine Art. Upon clicking the link I was taken to some way cool Beatles photos that I had never seen before. Further curiosity led me to contact David Anthony, the owner of the gallery, for more information about these photos and whether I could get permission to use some of the low resolution files he had for this article.
I have seen different concert footage over the years from the Washington Coliseum Show but never these still photos. Of course, now you can see some of the concert on YouTube. (Every time I put up any Beatles videos from YouTube, it’s not long before they are taken down.) Back in the early eighties, before YouTube ever existed, I remember seeing some of this concert footage at a Beatlefest down in Los Angeles.
Here’s a little something from that 1st Beatles’ concert in America, just two days after the historic first Ed Sullivan Show appearance that hooked most of that first wave of real Beatles’ fans. Be sure to watch it now as who knows how long it may be before it gets removed.
Nothing but pure excitement concerning this live show! This is what hit the U.S. by storm at a time when popular music was just a bit different back then. So many younger people who weren’t around at that time wonder just what the big deal is (or was) about The Beatles. They’ve “seen it all” since then. Many don’t seem to be aware that guys like Elvis & The Beatles helped to get it all rolling. One word best describes this huge concert event …SENSATIONAL!
The Beatles at The Washington Coliseum
The Washington Coliseum was a square boxing venue with seating on all four sides of the boxing ring. Every few songs The Beatles (with a little help from their friends) would move their microphone stands another 90º to face a new crowd of faces. Even Ringo’s drum riser had to be spun another 90º towards the new faces in the crowd every few songs.
MORE ABOUT MIKE MITCHELL
I proceeded to find out a bit more about freelance photographer, Mike Mitchell, who was only 18 years old at the time that he attended this first U.S. Beatles concert and photographed The Beatles. I decided to contact Mike as I had never exchanged any information with anyone who was lucky enough to be at this concert.
Mike replied to my email and was quite pleased with my interest in his photos. He graciously provided me with more information and this cool video (courtesy Mike Mitchell & Christie’s) of him talking about the photos and that historic night. (Note: for some odd reason, the player won’t hold to the specified size put into the code to play on the page and the size itself disappears from the code after being set. Hit the play button and then click on the arrows at the bottom right of the video box to enlarge for proper viewing.)
BACK TO THAT HISTORIC TIME
When Mike found out The Beatles were going to be in concert here in his hometown, he knew that he had to find a way to attend it. As a freelance photographer, he was able to get a hold of a press pass from a client of his so that he could get into the show and take some photos. He went, not with the idea of attending the show to just record the event, but went with the idea of shooting portraits of The Beatles.
Mike makes mention of the fact that as a young freelancer starting out, he hadn’t yet acquired any type of flash unit. Consequently he had to rely on whatever available light there was for his photos. Back in 1964 concerts didn’t have lighting crews and all the gear that today’s concerts have. Mike had to take his cue from the light. His negatives were quite underexposed and pretty much unusable for making prints. They sat in his basement for decades.
AN INTERVIEW WITH MIKE MITCHELL FROM NPR
If you click on “The Long Exposures” link, it will take you to some more recent photos of the Washington Coliseum, some fifty years after The Beatles played there. Hard to believe that it’s the same place that was so full of life in the video above from that historic night in 1964. The Washington Coliseum is set to be redeveloped and turned into a “mixed-use” retail space and office building.
THE DIGITAL AGE ARRIVES
Present day advances in digital technology made it possible for Mike to be able to scan his original underexposed negatives and bring out enough detail in them to make these wonderful prints. He said it took a lot of cleaning up in Photoshop to get rid of the dust and scratches to make the files useful.
“ANOTHER CUE FROM LIGHT…”
Be sure to watch the Christie’s video above of Mike telling about the images to hear the story of the heart and the heel of Paul’s “Beatle boot”… pretty cool stuff.
(Speaking of Beatle Boots, I still have my three pair…black leather, black suede, and grey suede-from the days of playing guitar in a 60’s cover band called Route 66.)
THESE BEATLES PHOTOS ARE AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE
These ultra fab way cool photos can be viewed at www.beatlespictures.com and at David Anthony Fine Art and they are available for purchase through David Anthony Fine Art. Be sure to check out all of the photos as they are a HUGE dose of COOL…
Also check out Mike’s other photo work on his site at www.mikemitchell.us Cool stuff!
Many thanks to Mike Mitchell, David Anthony Fine Art, Christie’s & NPR . – Jack