Beatlemania continued to sweep the USA by storm on this day fifty years ago with the band staging not one but two performances for their first and only appearance at the famed Carnegie Hall.
With their unique brand of music and boyish looks, The Beatles caused quite a stir in the US when they made their historic first trip there in February 1964. Thousands of screaming fans reportedly greeted the band the moment they arrived at the John F. Kennedy Airport in New York on the 7th, all of their appearances and performances were more than well-attended. Everywhere they went, too, they were followed by hordes of fans eager to see them. Before performing at the Carnegie Hall on the 12th, The Beatles made their live US TV debut three days prior via “The Ed Sullivan Show” (where they would be appearing twice more) and performed their first US concert at the Washington Coliseum in DC on the 11th.
Long before the band’s camp and the “Ed Sullivan Show” staff made any arrangements for any appearances, New York promoter Sid Bernstein had already reached out to Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein and booked two shows in one day at the Carnegie Hall. At the time, rock acts didn’t usually play at said venue; however, Bernstein reasoned out to the Carnegie officials that allowing the Beatles’ concert “would further international understanding” between the US and the Beatles’ native Great Britain. This paved the way for other rock acts like The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin to hold performances at the Carnegie Hall in later years.
The Beatles’ concerts at Carnegie Hall were held at the night of February 12, 1964, one set at 7:00 and the other at 9:00, each lasting 35 minutes. Bernstein reportedly picked this date specifically because it was former US President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, hence a public holiday. The DC show apparently was a “warm-up” for Carnegie.
2,900 people reportedly were in attendance in each of these shows, which were opened by American folk band The Briarwoods. Unfortunately, we’ll never be able to see any official footage of these stages. Although the Beatles’ label Capitol Records greenlighted the recording of both shows, negotiations didn’t work out in the end and so the American Federation of Musicians prevented these plans from happening reportedly at the last minute. There seem to be a tiny ray of hope for fans, though, as Carnegie Hall’s Archives and Rose Museum Director Gino Francesconi is currently enlisting the help of the public to identify one of the attendees of the concert, a woman who was holding what appeared to be a camera and filming the Beatles as they play! “If we found her and the film exists and is viewable? Wow!” Francesconi said, “Not only would we have a wonderful piece of documentation for one of Carnegie Hall’s most famous concerts, but every Beatles fan in the world would probably want to see it!”
In any case, Glide Magazine/Hidden Track has an unverified setlist of these performances, which included “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Till There Was You,” “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and “Twist and Shout.”
Like this article? Check out more stories from our Today in History series in the Lomography magazine!