My Dad and The Beatles
Yes! The Beatles! Not once, but twice, over the period of one weekend in 1964. September 4th and 5th. It was three weeks before my thirteenth birthday, and a little over a week since my Grandmother had died. All in all, it was a very significant time.
On my eleventh birthday two years earlier, my parents had given me what was then considered a state-of-the-art clock radio. I had heard of Jackie Kennedy’s pregnancy on this radio, and I remember running into the kitchen late at night to announce this to the adults, who sat at the kitchen table, playing the partner Solitaire card game, Spite And Malice. It must have been late winter of ‘64 when I first heard “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” on this radio. It was about 10:30 PM on a midweek school night, and I should have been sleeping. One of my greatest pleasures was staying up late, pretending to be asleep, and having the radio on low as it emitted its sounds from the night stand, as close to my ear as possible.
The music began … “Oh Yeah I… tell you something… I think you’ll understand…”.By the time those voices got to the refrain, I was sitting up. Rocked. Riveted. On fire! My life would never be the same. It didn’t matter that I was the only one in my class of 125 kids who had such predilections (my school was an impossibly stuffy ‘laboratory’ for math and science geeks, part of The University Of Chicago. My parents spent a small fortune on that place for me and my brother. I did, at the very least, learn how to enjoy stringing words together).
I didn’t know it then, but I was stepping onto that Road Less Taken for the first time. Later came “She Loves You”, and my heart had been kidnapped by Paul and the Fab Four.
September 4th, 1964, late Friday afternoon.
I had somehow persuaded my father to take me to Midway airport to see The Beatles land in Chicago for the first time. It was a gorgeous day, breezy, crisp and clear, complete with fluffy white clouds that moved quickly across the glowing blue sky. Slightly cool for early September in the city. It felt like there were only a couple hundred of us young girls there to welcome them. I later read that thousands had come. We stood on the other side of the tarmac, plastered against a silver chain link fence.
A small plane landed, and out they came, one by one. John was wearing a cap, George had very black hair, I couldn’t make Paul out at all, but when Ringo walked past, he looked directly at me (I knew it!) with the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. Screams and more screams. They must have come right up to the fence, because one of the girls fainted dead away after she announced tearfully that Paul had touched her hand through the fence.
That’s all I remember.
Flash forward to the next day, Saturday, September 5.
My father and I are in what was then Chicago’s largest arena: The Amphitheater. It no longer exists. It was next to The Stockyards, where animals were slaughtered for food, and that relationship made it slightly creepy. Dad sat on my left. Thousands of young girls, a few adults. A couple of guys seated directly in front of me sighed “Yeah”, as Jackie De Shannon came onstage, shook her long blonde hair and launched into “What The world Needs Now Is Love” in her sexy, throaty, deep alto. She was phenomenal. She finished and suddenly, They were running onstage. Maybe two seconds – tops – of silence. John sang “Well shake it up baby ..” and then utter pandemonium. I could feel my father’s delight at this. I was on the ceiling, catapulted there by the energy in the place, and the mystery of primal forces. My ears hurt, but I was screaming too. The Boys loved us, their audience, and they did every single track from “Meet The Beatles”. We couldn’t hear it, of course, we intuited it, those of us in the Zone. Even my dear, darling father.
We got home late that night, and greeted my mother and my aunt in the dining room in the midst of the never-ending card game (yes ‘Spite and Malice’ was also played at the big mahogany table). I don’t remember much of the rest of the night, but I do remember my father’s joy as he told them about the concert. “There’s something about those boys… I don’t know exactly what it is Shirley and Elaine, but you can’t help but really like them.”
It has taken me a long, long time to realize how fortunate I was to have had the father I did.