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Thursday, February 7, 2013

OT: Nostalgia

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.


  1. There is a trip in the old memory bank. Yes, JFK was shot in November and I Want To Hold Your Hand was in December. I was stationed at Treasure Island that year. I was young, bullet proof and full of it. The next year I discovered the Grateful Dead and rejected the Beatles until around 1968.

  2. That was some year...Fall "63 Winter "64 I was in first year College we sat in my dorm room Friday and listened as the Kennedy tragedy unfolded. Then after the holiday we heard the Beatles for the first time on WLS Radio Chicago. By today's standards they were so clean cut almost preppies but what a talent. Saw them live in Chicago and a group called the Circle was the opening act "Red Rubber Ball" and then the lads took the stage "Shake it up Baby"!
    The next 6 years the best and the worst of times

    Bob (Chicago)

  3. OBB -- Deadheads weren't allowed be Beatlemaniacs? :-)

    Bob -- their image was very much cleaned up by the time they arrived here. Ever see the old photos of their Cavern Club/Hamburg, Germany days? Grungy!

  4. I found them a bit later than you did. I was ten in 1976 and I don't know how or where I heard them, but somehow, at that age, they were the one thing I wanted to be with all my heart and soul. I bought my first record with my own money that year: The Beatles Live At The Hollywood Bowl. Even that poor exposure to their music fueled my passion for them.

    Eventually I came to realize music wasn't one of my gifts, but that was okay. They had shared their amazing gift with me, and it was enough. Paul was my favorite, but I adored the wit and idealism of John, and fancied him as a successor to Groucho's throne. When he was taken from us, I was inconsolable. John's death affected me more than any death in my life, before or after, including those of family members. I suspect that says something about me, but I'm not sure what.

    I've always been surprised and delighted that all of my interests, even the ones that seem the most drastically different from one another, somehow end up being connected in some way. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I first noticed this when I learned that Monty Python's Life Of Brian only existed because George Harrison gave them all the money needed to make the film, simply because he wanted to see it.

    I've listened to The Beatles literally every day of my life since i bought that record in 1976. I expect I'll listen to them every remaining day as well.

    - Maguffin

  5. Maguffin -- I sort of "re-discovered" them in the mid-70s. They'd broken up and moved on to their separate careers, but around 1974, I started listening to a local oldies station and got hooked on their collective efforts once again. My childhood albums were long gone, so I re-bought them. Later, I replaced the albums with CDs.

    I cried for weeks over John. It was my first experience crying over the death of someone I didn't know. But I FELT like I'd known him.

  6. Erica, for me one of that fabulous group of singers called 'The Beatles', was the song called "Hey Jude". Yes, those were the days my friend. Those good old nostalgic days of yore, I thought would never end.

  7. I remember that the Beatle's song, "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was number 1 for six weeks on the radio station KXOA in Sac. There were two stations that vied for the kids to listen. KROY was the other one. I liked the Beatles and the Beach Boys. By the time '66 rolled around, I decided I didn't want to listen to rock music so I switched to KGMS, the local elevator music station. I never went beck to Rock. The song I was listening to when I made the switch? "I Ain't Got No Satisfaction" by the Stones.

    I was devastated by JFK's death. I remember my math teacher coming in to my core class and making the announcement. I even remember exactly what he said. It was horrible.

    Then in '68 RFK died. I was 18 and I was planning on working in his campaign. I even got to see him in Sac and I had high hopes that got dashed to pieces. It took me a long time to get over that.

    At one time, I had over 60 books about the Kennedys. I donated then to the fire sale in town some years ago. I guess it was time.

  8. Six -- that song was originally intended as a comfort to John's son Julian during his parents' divorce (the original name was "Hey Jules").

    Bobbie Jo -- I do remember RFK's death very well. Also, I bawled and bawled when JFK Jr. died. That broke my heart.

  9. My wife and I love the Beatles. We met Paul in NYC at a pre-concert party about 10 years ago. He was very gracious. We have seen all of his NY concerts including the last one at Yankee Stadium.


  10. We used to play "Meet The Beatles" all the time in the 1960's.

  11. Hi Erica -- I don't remember any of this cause i wasn't born yet hehehe LOL,But the Beatles will always ROCK :-)they have some really good song's.John is my favorite Beatle too :-) Much Love and hug's from naughty girl Jade

  12. joey -- that's very cool! I'm glad to hear that he was nice. I don't really care for him as a solo act, but I'll always respect his contribution to music.

    Anonymous -- I loved that album. I have the English version now on CD (With the Beatles).

    Jade -- yes, this was a little before your time. :-)

  13. That's one regret I have, not having been to a Beatles concert when I had the chance. I saw Paul in concert, he was brilliant, better than I thought he'd be.

    Do you have a favourite song? One of mine is Eleanor Rigby. Have you read that book yet - The Dream Is Over?


  14. "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" was the first Beatles song I ever heard too, followed by "She Loves You". I used to try to get American radio stations on my little radio, but they only came in late at night. I had a Beatles board game and a zillion fan magazines.

    I lost interest after their music changed. Revolver was the last album I bought until John's death, then I went out and bought all the albums they had released since Revolver.

    It's funny how their image changed over time. They started out very grungy, like the Rolling Stones, then Epstein came along and sanitized them for North American tastes.

    I was also very affected by the deaths of JFK and RFK. We wrote poems about JFK in English class.

  15. I always loved the Beatles but was not a 'screamer'-- I was just a bit too young. I remember strolling down the street in Greenwich Village (where I grew up) with my sitter and hearing 'She Loves You' playing in the background, and we sang along.

    When JFK was shot I was with my mother in the laundry room, where she was ironing, and tears were running down her cheeks. I couldn't understand why she was crying about something she saw on TV. I was too young to understand that the news on TV was something real. To me, everything on TV was make-believe. There were so many deaths during the 60's, but there was also magic.

  16. Ronnie -- I have so many favorite songs; I think maybe I could narrow it down to a Top Ten if I tried. :-) I did read "The Dream is Over" -- honestly, I was disappointed. John thinks I was too picky, but I wanted it to be better.

    Hermione -- I liked their earlier stuff better also. Still do. I had those Beatles bobble-head dolls; remember those? They broke, unfortunately. They're a collector's item now.

    Dana -- the 60s were quite the surreal decade, after the conservative 1950s. I sometimes wished I could have been a teenager during those days (but then that would make me even older than I am now!).

  17. Beautifully written, Erica! The last line brought tears.

    There is music that will last and be enjoyed forever: my two elementary-school-aged granddaughters are the biggest Beatlemaniacs since 1964.

  18. Thank you, Erica - that was wonderful!

  19. Erica
    Great post and memories about a life changing band and nusic.....nothing will ever compare to the Beatles!$
    Well done


  20. Wolfie -- how cute! :-) I remember when they were babies; where does the time go, anyway?

    MrJ -- thank you. :-)

    Ron -- I agree!

  21. Erica, your clock radio pic was nostalgic for me. They had models in the 70s with a lever that you pushed down with your finger and it took an hour or so for the lever to slowly rise, eventually turning the radio off.

    I don't know if you ever listened to CBS Radio Mystery Theater: but I think it's funny that they have MP3 versions of those episodes now.

    Great post!


  22. Anthony -- I had one of those models too! Perfect when you like to go to sleep to music.

  23. You wouldn't want to go to a Paul McCartney concert? I didn't grow up with them in the same way but I like the Beatles a lot.

  24. Lea -- I will always love him as a Beatle, but I don't care for him as a solo act. And the way he looks now... I'd rather remember him how he was.