Thursday, May 27, 2004

Meeting the Beatles

I really don't have any way of knowing the age demographic of the people who may be reading this, but based on what I've seen on other blogs, I'm of the opinion that Blogger is much more the domain of 20somethings than say — 40somethings. And since I happen to fall to the latter category (and BTW children, did we do our homework assignment and figure out how old I am, or do I have to go bust out the 'ol Carbon-14 kit?), I want to share with you something that happened long before many of you were born; An experience that I consider one of my life's most defining.

I think it's difficult for subsequent generations who have grown up with Rock 'N Roll as the established genre of music it is today to appreciate just what it was when it burst on the scene — something SO new and revolutionary — that its impact was much greater than anything that could possibly happen in popular music today.

As I mentioned briefly yesterday, I had the singular (in my world anyway) experience of seeing the Beatles in my very first Rock concert as a mere child. On September 3, 1964, I saw the Beatles in concert at, of all places, the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis. They actually did two shows that day, the matinee which I attended, which was indoors at the Coliseum, and another show later that evening, outdoors at the Fairgrounds Grandstand.

As you might imagine, this was something that made a huge impression on me, and I remember it vividly. However recently I discovered I’d been living with some mistaken details about the event.

And let me just say, GOD BLESS the Internet! How did we have ever get along without this vast sea of knowledge at our disposal?.

You see, for YEARS, I was under the impression that I'd had this great experience in 1965, on the Beatles' second American tour, when I was nine years old. But a couple of years ago, while searching the Net for more details about that show, I learned that instead, the show I witnessed was actually on their FIRST (and biggest) American tour — in 1964, when I was only eight. They didn't even play Indy on the ’65 tour.

Another misconception I'd had throughout the years regarded the ticket price. My big brother, Jack, who had so magnanimously brought me to the show, had told me years ago that they were $10 (which is impressive enough). But again, only a few days ago, I discovered that I had misunderstood him. I was only half right. The tickets were indeed 10 bucks — A PAIR! Can you imagine — FIVE DOLLARS for a ticket to see The Beatles? Just think of the scalper mark-up you could've gotten for 'em on eBay back then! Oh...wait...nevermind.

But dates and ticket prices aside, I'm pretty sure my memories of the concert itself are pretty accurate. The opening act was the Bill Black Combo. Black was a former bass player for Elvis in the mid-50s. His band opened for the Beatles throughout that '64 tour. They were okay. Their music was a little on the Jazzy side and mostly instrumental. And having no concept of an "opening act," I remember thinking, "Who are these guys and WHY are they playing? When are the Beatles gonna come out?"

When the Beatles did come out it was, of course, to a deafening ovation that didn't stop for the entire show. The images on TV you've seen a million times of screaming girls at Beatles concerts were no isolated incident. They ALL screamed and they ALL screamed for the entire show. Me? I didn't scream or jump up and down. I just remember not being able to stop smiling.

Set-wise, the lion's share was composed of hits from the albums Meet the Beatles, Something New, and A Hard Day's Night.

I remember the only disappointment I had about the performance was one that only the naivete of a kid my age could've conjured up. I expected all the songs they did live to sound exactly like what I'd heard on their albums and on the radio — and they all did — except for one.

On A Hard Day's Night (which I just today learned was the first song in pop music history to end on a different chord than the one it started with), instead of George Harrison's signature undulating guitar progression that fades out at the end of the song, he simply ended it on a single chord strum. I thought, HEY! Why did they change the song? Why didn't it fade out?" (not realizing there actually *is* a difference between what's done in the studio and in a live performance). But hey, cut me some slack — I was eight for petesakes... :)

Happily, I was able to find a sample of what the ticket for that show looked like (above), but was unable to locate an authentic set list. However I did find one for the Beatles’ famous Hollywood Bowl concert that they had performed just 10 days earlier in Los Angeles, so I'm pretty sure it’s largely similar to the Indy show that I attended:

Twist & Shout
You Can't Do That
All My Loving
She Loves You
Things We Said Today
Roll Over Beethoven
Can't Buy Me Love
If I Fell
I Want To Hold Your Hand
Boys <— EVERYBODY gave it up for Ringo! • A Hard Days Night
Long Tall Sally

And speaking of giving it up (no, not that — I was EIGHT, remember?), here's perhaps the thing I remember about my first concert experience the most clearly. Sitting beside me on my right was my brother Jack, and on my left, an anonymous young girl, probably between 16 and 19 years of age. Her blond hair was long and flipped up in the back as per the mode o’ the day; not in any kind of bouffant doo or anything like that, but clearly a coiffure befitting of the times. She was wearing some kind of sleeveless jumper or sun dress as I recall.

Another thing I remember about her provided what could very well have been my very first “V8 Moment.” The girl clutched a tiny 3"x5" spiral-bound notepad and throughout the concert, after each tune the Beatles would play she would write down the song title and various notes. I remember being so impressed that she would think to do something like that, and why hadn't I done the same? As silly as it sounds, I'm still kicking myself about it even now.

But as much as the experience of seeing and hearing that concert is emblazoned upon my memory, the sheer emotional FRENZY of that girl, as well as every other female in the audience of around 12,000 that afternoon was every bit as remarkable to me. For the entire hour the Beatles were onstage, that girl was bouncing and screaming, LITERALLY at the top of her lungs, with tears streaming down her cheeks. I clearly remember thinking, "Wow...what's HER problem?"

What was happening to that young lady was something that gripped just about everyone in 1964 — whether they liked it or not; a phenomenon, so different that it changed the lives of nearly all who came in contact with it; And I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been a part of that special place in time.

And one more thing — I swear to God — my cheeks actually ACHED for an hour afterwards because I’d been smiling so hard, for so long.
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