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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.

Oberman: It was a short set, like 35 minutes. I was able to hear some of the songs with some difficulty. I thought they were excellent.

McCartney: I don't remember thinking we played particularly well. But looking back, time has been very kind to us. It was a cool gig.

Maysles: No one gave us permission to bring the camera in, so we had to sneak into the arena. We would've liked to have gotten close to the stage, but we took our seats at some distance. At one point I saw that sitting just behind us was Brian Epstein, who was enjoying the whole performance. And it turned out I had probably a better view than had I been close-up, because I could [film] very wide and include the young audience, which was just going crazy with joy.

Lynn: This is kind of gross, but somebody said -- and maybe it was my father -- that after concert was over and everybody had left, you know what the smell was in the Coliseum? It was pee from all these girls who got over-excited.

Roe: This was early in the crazy rock-and-roll thing, so nobody really rushed the stage. They were rowdy and very loud, but they stayed in their seats. They hadn't realized you can go berserk at these shows. It was like polite pandemonium.

Gore: "Polite pandemonium" is apt. At the time, we didn't think anything unusual about the first part of that phrase. What was unusual was the second part.

Albert: There was a large police presence there, but since everybody was so well-behaved, they didn't have much to do except stand around. But people were throwing stuff. Since we were down front, we were getting pelted with flashbulbs the size of golf balls and also jelly beans.

McCartney: We had been asked somewhere what is your favorite sweet, and we said jelly babies. So the fans took to throwing them onstage, and this had reached Washington. In England, they're soft and always in the shape of babies. What do you call them? Jelly beans. They're hard. They stung, and we're playing in the round, and they're being thrown from everywhere. It was very unsettling. After that, we said the time has come for us to tell people we hate these damn things. They were only trying to be cute; throw the cute bits at the cute boys, that will be fun. But if you caught one of those in the eye, that was none too pleasant.

Hundt: We came armed and threw jelly beans at Ringo's cymbals. I think you can hear them pinging on the tapes of the concert. It probably was a bad thing to do, but there was some story that the Beatles liked them, and high school boys like to throw things. So that's how they were welcomed.

Gore: I don't recall throwing any jelly beans myself. But I know that all around us, there were lots being thrown. It wasn't intended in a malicious way.

Albert: The show was somewhat disappointing. I mean, it was exciting in one way. Yeah, I got to see them. But there was all this interference -- the noise, and all the stuff raining on us.

Lynn: I didn't think of it as something I should always remember. I just thought it was a fun time. But one thing I'll never forget is that my friend was already wearing a black Beatles wig. I don't know how that got going so quickly.

Gore: A friend of ours and classmate actually made some good money selling photographs after the event. He had a business plan: He took as many photos as possible and posted them on the bulletin board at school after the concert, and they were snapped up like hotcakes.

Roe: After the show was over, I drove back to the Shoreham and went to the Beatles' room and we had a beer or two and just chatted. But it was hectic. Everybody was trying to do interviews with them. I helped Murray the K tape get in there and tape an interview with them.

McCartney: I'm sure we got pissed off by not being able to just enjoy ourselves and always having to answer some dumb question about this that and the other -- like what toothpaste we were using. We saw ourselves as sophisticated dudes in those days and there was a little bit of irritation at the undue attention we were getting. But at the same time, we asked for it. We knew what it was.

Epperidge: There was a reception afterwards hosted by British Ambassador David Ormsby-Gore, and it was not exactly what I expected. You expect people at an embassy party to stand around in dark suits holding champagne glasses. It's supposed to look regal and dignified. The reception was absolutely jampacked with teenyboppers and musical people, with an awful lot of Americans. It was a strange group. The British charge d'affairs was wearing a Beatles wig.

McCartney: The idea of going to an ambassador's party was sort of amusing and vaguely interesting, but it wasn't our scene. It was a little too aristocratic. It was a little jolly hockey sticks. "Oh, the Beatles, how delightful! How amusing!" Yeah, alright love. Then one of these debutantes came up with a pair of scissors and tried to snip our hair, like she was walking up behind some mannequins. Okay, time to leave! We knew we were famous and up for grabs, but that was most definitely out of order. Finally somebody had crossed the line majorly. It was unfortunate. But the great thing about memories is that the good bits are the ones that tend to that remain. The trip to Washington is a very romantic time in my memory.

Staff researcher Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.


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