‘Those fab Beatles’ Fans remember Beatles’ 1964 tour, Red Rocks show
Fans recall Red Rocks show, 1964 tour
”...The Beatles said they’d heard of three places for concerts in the U.S. — the Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall and Red Rocks. ...”
— Verne Byers, Lookout Mountain Attractions, in a Denver press clipping from 1964.
It was a whirlwind tour, 25 concerts in 33 days, as the Beatles crisscrossed the United States, popping in and out of Canada during the band’s inaugural North American tour in the summer of 1964.
Although the Beatles first arrived in the United States in February 1964 to play the “The Ed Sullivan Show” and a couple East Coast concerts, the group didn’t stay stateside long.
But the Beatles returned in August for a real tour, starting Aug. 19 in San Francisco and finishing Sept. 20 in New York City, hitting the Hollywood Bowl on Aug. 23 — the Beatles played Carnegie Hall in February — leaving one jewel in the trio of venues the band had heard so much about.
On the afternoon of Aug. 26, 1964, the Beatles landed via a chartered flight at Denver’s Stapleton Airfield to play a show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre and left Denver nearly 24 hours later. What happened in between can only be described as frenzied and historic.
As the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival to Denver and Red Rocks approaches, those who were there, or wished they were there, shared memories of what they saw and heard and what it meant to see “those fab Beatles,” as Sidney Sauer, 15 at the time, wrote in a journal she titled “Beatles ‘64.”
“England’s four Beatles, disheveled, needing shaves and haircuts, played a one-night stand in Denver Wednesday that left pandemonium in its wake. … The Beatles’ plane touched down its wheels at 1:35 p.m. at Stapleton Airfield. A crowd of some 10,000 Beatles fans immediately started…screaming and screeching. Many fainted ...”
— Al Nakkula, Rocky Mountain News, August 1964
Before talking about the Beatles, Palisade’s Sidney Sauer, 65, prefaced that there’s little in this world more foolish than a 15-year-old girl.
More specifically, there is little in the world more foolish than a 15-year-old girl seeing the Beatles for the first time.
Sauer adored the British rockers. She babysat for 26.4 hours at 25 cents per hour to afford the $6.60 ticket to go to Red Rocks.
Sauer preserved her memories of the entire experience in her “Beatles ‘64” journal, where she also tucked newspaper clippings, bubble gum trading cards and photographs from “my year for the Beatles.”
She sat near the front row at Red Rocks, getting there about 4 p.m., but when the Beatles came on stage at 9:30 p.m., she stood and screamed for the duration of the show.
“It was full volume all night,” said Sauer, who then lived in Denver. “That’s what you do when you see the Beatles, you scream.”
Sauer wrote in her journal that she cried all the way home and for the next two days because she would never see the Beatles again. All her screaming led to “a miserable cold” and “a terrible cough for about a month after that fab night!”
On Aug. 27, Sauer and her friends went to Stapleton to see the Beatles off to Cincinnati. When she got home, she went outside and looked at the sky hoping to see the band’s plane.
“The whole (Red Rocks) crowd of 9,000 arose and most of them stayed on their feet throughout the next half hour. The scream made your eardrums vibrate … And the longer the Beatles performed, the louder the screams rose. It made you wonder if anyone really heard their music, let alone their words.”
— Bill Myers, Denver Post, Aug. 27, 1964
Grand Junction’s Larry Vaughn, 67, didn’t have a ticket to see the Beatles perform at Red Rocks, but that didn’t stop him and his longtime friend Michael Blachly from going.
“If they were going to be at Red Rocks, we were going to be at Red Rocks,” said Blachly, now director of performing arts at the University of Florida.
Vaughn and Blachly weren’t sure if they were the only boys at the show, but it sure sounded like it.
“It was almost like sirens it was so loud,” Blachly said of the screaming. “It didn’t matter. We were there.”
The 17-year-old boys parked a car in the foothills outside Morrison and hiked through waist-high brush for about 15 minutes to get to the venue.
A young man, probably in his 20s, was sitting at the gate. Vaughn and Blachly, who then lived in Denver, chatted the guy up. Whether the guy didn’t care about his job or he took a liking to Vaughn and Blachly, they don’t know. But the guard turned his head and the boys walked in.
They immediately found a couple girls they knew and asked for the girls’ seats in exchange for letting the girls sit on their shoulders.
Vaughn and Blachly remember hearing the downbeats to open songs, but then the music was overcome by screams.
The boys knew every Beatles song by heart, so it didn’t matter.
“It was being part of history,” Vaughn said.
The Beatles talked between songs, thanking the audience. There was no encore, and Vaughn and Blachly were back at their car by 10:30 p.m.
That night is such a special memory that Vaughn and his wife Sharon plan to attend the 50th anniversary show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Friday, Aug. 22.
The band 1964: The Tribute, a Beatles tribute band, will play the 10 songs the Beatles played at Red Rocks in 1964.
Tickets to the show cost $32, a sharp increase from the $6.60 ticket to see the original band, but this time Vaughn bought a ticket.
“Six teenage girls were taken to Denver General Hospital for treatment of injuries. Some were trampled under foot in a surging crowd on the street outside the Brown Palace Hotel where the Beatles arrived Wednesday afternoon. One policeman was bitten on the hand there when he attempted to hold back the throng of fans with a guard rope.”
— Al Nakkula, Rocky Mountain News, August 1964
Rhealene Plumleigh, 64, had a much different experience than most of the teenagers who attended the Beatles’ Red Rocks show. She had a backstage pass.
Admittedly mature for her 14 years, Plumleigh traveled to Denver from Amarillo, Texas, armed with a press pass she’d asked for from her hometown newspaper, the Amarillo Globe-News, where she worked as a proofreader.
Most specific memories of the day have faded, but Plumleigh, who now lives in the Grand Valley, remembers several things distinctly.
First, the press room at Red Rocks was really small. She arrived early and had a seat, but then the decision was made to start screening the press members allowed in the room.
Concerned she would be kicked out — she was 14 and not in a suit — Plumleigh hid under a table.
After the screening, she took a seat in the front row.
George Harrison repeatedly pointed at her and her friend to ask questions during the pre-show press conference, she said.
“We were young, and we had intelligent questions,” Plumleigh said. “We asked about the music. The press was inclined to ask stupid questions about their life. It was so unimportant to me.”
Unfortunately, the music was tough to hear at Red Rocks, she said.
Plumleigh stood on the side of the stage for a while, thanks to her pass, where there was less screaming.
“I’m so glad I wasn’t in that crowd,” Plumleigh said. “That was crazy stuff.”