Celebrating History
5:00 am
Mon August 18, 2014

'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’

Paul McCartney and John Lennon sing together at Seattle Center Coliseum on August 21, 1964.
Credit Courtesy of MOHAI, Timothy Eagan Collection

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’

Paul McCartney and George Harrison play on stage at Seattle Center Coliseum on August 21, 1964.
Credit Courtesy of MOHAI, Timothy Eagan Collection

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.

More information can be found at seattlecenter.com/beatles.