Some of my readers might remember these guys:
From The History Channel Club magazine: On this day in 1964, Pan Am Yankee Clipper flight 101 from London Heathrow lands at New York’s Kennedy Airport–and “Beatlemania” arrives. It was the first visit to the United States by the Beatles, a British rock-and-roll quartet that had just scored its first No. 1 U.S. hit six days before with “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
I remember hearing that song for the first time.
I had a clock radio on my nightstand as a kid. In the 1960s, clock radios were not the sleek, digital creations they are now; they were big honking things that looked like this:
You twiddled the knobs to go up and down the spectrum of stations, listening for your favorite.
Anyway, I sometimes had trouble going to sleep and music played low would soothe me. So I was allowed to turn the radio on… but only to the classical station. No rock and roll; that would just keep me awake.
On that February night, around 11:30, I couldn’t sleep and switched on the radio. Normally, I liked the soothing quality of the classical station, but that night, I was restless and chose to defy the station restriction — I fiddled with the dial until it was on KRLA, a very popular rock station in L.A. at the time. I turned the sound way down low so there was no way it could float outside my bedroom, and leaned in close to listen. The deejay came on and announced, “This next song is from a group who just arrived here from Liverpool, England. They have a funny name, but I have a feeling they’re going to be huge.” And then “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” came on.
Thus began my nearly lifelong love affair with The Beatles.
I was mesmerized by their sound. As the days progressed and the news of them spread, their music was everywhere, their pictures, their footage, everything. My brother, who was 14 at the time, bought their records and, much to my mother’s disgust, played them non-stop. And of course there were their Ed Sullivan Show guest spots, the audience filled with screaming, hysterical young girls. As the camera focused on each Beatle in turn, their name would flash on the screen. In John’s case, underneath his name was “Sorry girls, he’s married.” That first marriage of his was a total train wreck, but no one knew that at the time.
I had such a crush on John, even at six. I told my brother I was going to marry him when I grew up. Ken scoffed at me. “You can’t do that; he’s already married.” I just smiled and said, “That’s OK, I’ll wait until he’s divorced.”
Hey, it was Hollywood.
When their first movie, A Hard Day’s Night, came out, we saw it in the theater. I barely remember going, but I’ve seen that movie so many times in my life, I can practically recite the dialogue, line for line. I even won a phone-in radio contest, answering a trivia question about the movie plot (I was 20 at the time, and won $100).
Ken got to go with a bunch of his friends to see them at the Hollywood Bowl. I begged and pleaded and cried for him to take me with them. I really couldn’t understand why a group of 14- and 15-year-old boys didn’t want a six-year-old little girl in tow. I was inconsolable for a while. I have a vague memory of Ken giving me his records to play, but I’m not sure if it was because of the concert.
One thing about my memory has always baffled me. I remember the arrival of the Beatles so clearly, recall so many details — the excitement and joy, how all of America was so caught up in these “four lads from Liverpool.” And yet, a scant three months prior, one of the 20th Century’s worst tragedies happened: the assassination of JFK.
I remember nothing of that. Not one thing. I don’t remember hearing it in school, I don’t remember seeing the news, and I don’t remember my family’s reaction. It’s a complete blank. Weird.
But I’m glad I have my memories of the Beatles; glad that I was there to witness the phenomenon, have them be a part of my childhood/adolescence and then a lingering soundtrack winding in and out of the rest of my life. I don’t love every song or every movie (I’ve watched Help! a few times and find it to be an annoying mishmash), and I have no desire to go to a Paul McCartney concert. In my mind and heart, they’ll always be frozen in time as those four moptops in the suits, who seemed larger than life and so very grown up to me then, but in reality, were just babies themselves.
In my mind and heart, John wasn’t shot to death, and George didn’t die of cancer.
And my brother is still alive, sharing his memories of the Hollywood Bowl, 1964, with me.