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Paul McCartney, Al Gore, Tommy Roe recall Beatles' first U.S. concert in D.C.

Paul McCartney was honored in 2010 for his contributions to pop music by the United States Library of Congress and the Kennedy Center.

McCartney: It was unbelievable, a great sort of validation of the whole thing. It was like: "Yeah, look! Everywhere we're going in America, it's happening!"

Marsha Albert, whose request had convinced WWDC-FM deejay Carroll James to begin playing the Beatles in December of 1963: There was no school that day because of the big snowstorm. So I went down to Union Station and WWDC got me onto the platform when the train came in. The Beatles got into one car and I got into another. Somehow, I was in the limo with John Lennon's wife and George Harrison's sister.

Tommy Roe, "Sheila" singer: In 1963, I was booked in England with Chris Montez, and the Beatles were a featured act on our tour. It was like Elvis Presley all over again. Brian Epstein, the Beatles' manager, had called my manager and put me on the Washington, D.C., show. I was really happy to do the show with them. We were all staying at the Shoreham Hotel, and I tried to hang out with the boys there, but it was pandemonium. I'd already experienced it in England, so I knew it was going to happen in America.

Al Gore, former Vice President: The incredible phenomenon built on itself. The Ed Sullivan appearance just prior to their arrival in Washington was electrifying. We could scarcely believe the Beatles were coming to D.C.

Reed Hundt, former Federal Communications Commission chairman: Everybody our age knew about them. How could you not? Gore and I were juniors at St. Albans. We weren't even 16 until the next month, and the Beatles were singing "she was just 17." We were thinking: Well, that's too old for us.

Albert: I ended up at the arena, where the Beatles were having a press conference. I went out to the radio station trailer where they were doing an interview with Carroll James. He called me in and told them that I was instrumental in getting him to play their record, so they thanked me. I didn't really say much. They were still in process of being interviewed. Plus, I was 15 years old. You know what it's like to be 15.

Ron Oberman, former Washington Star music columnist: They had a press conference at the Coliseum before the show, with all four Beatles in a boxing ring that became the stage. I asked George if he had a girlfriend. He said: "Yes, you love." I was doing one of the first regular columns on rock in a newspaper, and I was only 20-21. The older people at the press conference didn't get it.

McCartney: 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 -- grownups 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.

Eppridge: These guys were so quick and genuinely funny. They had a great sense of humor. They really knew how to handle the press.

Roe: The concert was a big deal. It was an amazing scene. They were really catching on and everybody came to that show, either hanging out backstage and trying to become the fifth Beatle or trying to get on the bill. They kept adding people. Originally, it was just the Chiffons and me. But the Righteous Brothers [and Caravelles and Jay and the Americans] were also there. The marquee didn't say anything about the other acts. It just said "The Beatles." It was all about them. But I wasn't offended. That's just the way it worked. I was there to do my two songs and then get off the stage.

McCartney: We were always slightly sort of embarrassed when the promoters laid too heavy an emphasis on us. We were quite democratic about it. Sure we wanted our name big and stuff, but we always liked the others to get a mention.

Lynn: My father had run one ad in the paper, and the concert sold out. He was so stunned that a group he'd never heard of before sold out. It was such an unusual event and it was a windfall. He 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."


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