KCBS Reporter Recalls Beatles Exclusive Interview 50 Years Ago Today Ahead Of Landmark Cow Palace Concert
SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — Beatlemania was in full flower on this date in 1964, and for Bay Area Beatles fans, it was D-Day - as well as the day an intrepid KCBS reporter scored an exclusive interview with the Fab Four.
“All of my girlfriends. We all lived on the same street. All we did, you know,we we’re the Beatle’ girlfriends every single chance we had,” Denise McKevitt Rasmussen, who was celebrating her ninth birthday, said.
Her dad let her pick two friends to take to the Beatles show at the Cow Palace. One of them was Terry O’Brien.
COMPLETE COVERAGE: Beatles Bay Area 50th Anniversary
“I remember I wore my pink pants dress with my John Lennon boots. Everyone had them then—the little white boots,” O’Brien said.
Terry’s mom Gina was not so thrilled.
“I just thought, she’s too young; she’ll get eaten alive down there but, oh, she wanted to go so bad,” she said. “They were so excited.”
While youthful fans were primping, a KCBS reporter named Hilly Rose was trying to figure out an angle on what was obviously the story of the day.
“The Beatles were big but really with teenagers—young people. And so guys our age, who in that time where in their 30s and 40s working at KCBS, we didn’t know a lot about them,” Rose said.
Rose had covered the chaotic arrival at San Francisco International Airport the day before, and had cooked up a plan. He called the Hilton Hotel and asked for the Beatles’ road manager. He name-dropped Ed Sullivan, and strongly suggested that CBS brass wanted to know about the threat of hysteria at the concert.
And then he waited while the Beatles were consulted.
“So five minutes went by. And then minutes went by. And then 30 minutes went by. And then 40 minutes went by and I thought to myself, I can’t lose this.”
After that 40-minute wait, Rose struck pay dirt. He was told to get over to the Hilton, and given a secret knock. The whole band was in the room, and while Paul and George agreed to talk and Ringo wandered off, the fourth Beatle made his displeasure evident.
“John went into the bathroom and he began flushing the toilet, He flushed the toilet continuously during the interview.
It didn’t work. Rose had a directional microphone that blocked the attempted interference, and he got his interview.
Rose also asked what the Beatles thought about the idea of kids dropping out of school to chase fame and fortune, and George gave a tongue-in-cheek answer.
Rose got the Beatles to autograph a sheet of paper and scooted back to the KCBS studios with his prize: an eight-minute long exclusive.
That evening, more than 17,000 people packed the Cow Palace. To a nine-year-old birthday girl, it was the greatest gift possible.
“There was just so much coming at you, it was just spectacular,” she said.
By the time the band opened with “Twist and Shout”, it’s amazing anyone had a voice left.
“Once the music started, it was so loud. I mean the music and screaming,” she said. “I was watching them all but I was screaming, ‘John!’ Like he could hear anybody.”
Journalist Larry Kane covered the ’64 Beatles tour.
“There were very great parents who came with their kids and were sitting with them, watching them go berserk and look like, ‘what is going on here?’” he said.
One of those parents was Rasmussen’s policeman father.
“He kept telling us, ‘If I tell you to, you need you get under those seats and you stay there,” she said.
The Beatles played twelve songs in 29 minutes, including interruptions while audience members threw jellybeans at the stage.
“They got on the cars and the planes the first time I really had to chat with them after the first visit and they were scared,” Kane said.
But their fans went away on a different emotional plane.
“When we left, everyone was kind of half-deaf and everybody was worn out and couldn’t talk. Everybody’s ears were ringing and we were just like, ‘Oh my God, this big lifetime event. We saw the Beatles!” O’Brien said.
“We were the cool kids in school,” Rasmussen said.
And even Terry O’Brien’s fretful mom came to realize the memories built that night 50 years ago were something very special.
The Beatles are everything, and still kind of are,” she said.