1965: Remembering Houston's Summer of Beatlemania
Not pictured: Houston
Forty-seven years ago this week, full-scale Beatlemania descended upon Houston in all its glory. On August 19, 1965, the Fab Four played their only Houston concerts -- one in the afternoon and one in the evening -- at the Sam Houston Coliseum downtown.
The completely hysterical response to the Beatles during this period of the band's career, particularly by teen girls, was already notorious by the time John, Paul, George and Ringo made their way to Houston, but by most accounts, the city's adult population was still mostly unprepared for the mayhem. It began the second the Beatles' chartered plane touched down at Houston International Airport (now Hobby), when fans swarmed the tarmac.
Some Beatlemaniacs even managed to climb onto the plane's wings, knocking on windows and likely scaring the ever-loving shit out of the lads. It was this kind of unprecedented behavior that would soon lead John Lennon to declare that the Beatles had become "more popular than Jesus."
Naturally, the chaos at the airport was only the beginning. A couple of girls who tried to sneak into their hotel, the Sheraton-Lincoln, wearing maids' uniforms were given the boot. Dozens more were already lining up in the early morning hours of Thursday for the first of the two general-admission performances, scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
The event was sponsored by KILT and emceed by local DJ Russ "The Weird Beard" Knight, who quickly discovered that the more than 10,000 screaming kids who filed into the Coliseum for the early show were completely beyond his control.
The Sam Houston Coliseum, which stood on the site of the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts before being demolished in 1998, hosted its fair share of rowdy crowds. It was the longtime home of Paul Boesch's Houston Wrestling, and a 1956 performance there by Elvis Presley had been cut short when young fans rushed the stage.
Also on the bill were Cannibal and the Headhunters, Brenda Holloway, the King Curtis Band and Sounds, Incorporated. These support acts could have given the greatest performances in music history that day, but for some reason, nobody seems to remember. Probably because the instant the Beatles appeared onstage at 3:30, the crowd of mostly young girls lost their collective shit.
The 35-minute set list for both shows was identical: A quick version of "Twist and Shout" followed by "She's a Woman," "I Feel Fine," "Dizzy Miss Lizzy," "Ticket To Ride," "Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby," "Can't Buy Me Love," "Baby's In Black," "I Wanna Be Your Man," "A Hard Day's Night," "Help!" and "I'm Down."
How well could the audience hear the band over the screaming? Tough to say, since we weren't there, but probably not very. The evening show, attended by more couples and (slightly) older rock fans, was apparently a tad more subdued than the kiddie matinee, but this was Beatlemania at its zenith.
What mattered was the experience of seeing the Beatles, those ultimate teen idols made flesh. The Houston shows were remembered by many as a couple of the most bonkers live performances of the band's career.
The Beatles only toured the U.S. once more, in 1966, before quitting the roadshow biz for good. It's hard to blame them: They were hounded everywhere they went by both hysterical fans and religious zealots pissed off by Lennon's Jesus comment.
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When they did play, the music was often completely drowned out by the screaming of thousands of girls. Back then, few venues had sound systems powerful enough to compensate.
Luckily, KILT recorded and broadcast both Houston concerts, which have since been widely bootlegged. A little Googling will lead you to sites where you can download both sets, or you can simply stream them on YouTube. Listen to those screams:
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