In 1964, America went crazy for four lads from Liverpool, England. The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in February of that year and that summer, when the band kicked off a 24-city North American tour in San Francisco, Beatlemania was at a fever pitch. On Aug. 26, 1964, the band hit the stage at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
Fans and others recall The Beatles' whirlwind visit to Denver
Denver was the sixth stop on their tour and as they disembarked a chartered jet at Stapleton Airport (where the family homes of the Stapleton neighborhood are located today), John, Paul, George and Ringo were greeted by crazed fans -- screaming fans, most of them teenage girls.
“The airport was overrun with teenagers who began to gather early in the morning,” says G. Brown, director of the Colorado Music Hall of Fame. “The Beatles didn’t touch down until 1:30 that afternoon.”
More fans awaited their arrival at the Brown Palace Hotel in downtown Denver.
The cost of a ticket? Just $6.60, but a steep price at the time, for a show of about 12 songs that lasted roughly 30 minutes.
“Igor Stravinsky, who at the time was known as the world’s greatest living composer, had just played Red Rocks for $3 a ticket,” Brown says.
Although the concert didn’t sell out, Brown insists there was a full house at Red Rocks that night.
“You look at any photographs from the show and there are people spilling out onto the rocks," he says.
Many fans avoided paying for tickets by sneaking into the venue, something that was fairly easy to do in 1964.
The Beatles didn’t hit the stage until 9:30 p.m., following performances by four opening acts: The Bill Black Combo, The Exciters, The Righteous Brothers and Jackie DeShannon.
“All of them were annoying to those of use who just wanted to see The Beatles,” recalls Kathryn Keller, who was 12 at the time and attended the concert with her mother, sister, cousin and a friend. “We would have been perfectly happy if the Beatles had come on at seven o’clock and played for many hours.”
The sound quality wasn't what you'd hear at Red Rocks today.
“We couldn’t really hear any of the words to their songs because the equipment they had wasn’t that great," Keller says. "We were [sitting] way in the back at Red Rocks, and the screaming was overwhelming.”
Harry Tuft, owner of the Denver Folklore Center, was also at the concert that night, watching from the side of the stage.
“The sound [of the screaming] was incredible,” he says. “I fully believe that even if you were deaf, if you did not have any ears, you would have felt the sound, because you could feel it through your whole body, this incredible, high-pitched sound.”
Tuft, who was 29 at the time and a self-described “folk music Nazi,” accompanied Joan Baez to Red Rocks. She had arrived in Denver the day before the Beatles’ concert, determined to meet the group. She checked into the Brown Palace Hotel, where the Beatles were staying. On the day of the concert, Tuft met the folk singer at the hotel.
“Baez, as popular as she was, could not have been more anonymous to the kids that were circling the Brown Palace," Tuft says. "I mean, it was just a huge horde of kids.”
Tuft arranged for Baez to meet The Beatles at Red Rocks before the concert. After the show, she rode with them in their limo back to the Brown Palace. Two days later, she performed at Red Rocks.
Tuft says he was no Beatles fan before their Red Rocks appearance, but Baez helped change his mind about the group and their music: “I thought, well gosh, if she really likes the Beatles, maybe I should think about the Beatles and listen to the Beatles.”
Keller, who still lives in Boulder, says, “In 50 years, I’ve seen a lot of other concerts, but I have to say, nothing will top seeing the Beatles at Red Rocks on Aug. 26, 1964.”
In the years that would follow in the 1960s, The Beatles went on to become one of pop music's most revered bands -- if not the most loved -- cementing popular music as a credible form of art with albums such as "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and the popularly named "White Album."
But all good things come to an end. The Beatles officially broke up in 1970, just six years after they performed at Red Rocks.