February 10, 2014 A Few Days In The Lives Of… A personal retrospective of The Beatles (Part one)
Written by Jon D’Amore – author of ‘The Boss Always Sits In The Back’, several screenplays, and countless articles.
Events take place during the course of our lives that affect us and find their way into our memory, whether we went looking for them, or they were chanced upon. In the case of this series of articles, those events and memories revolve around people and their contact, however long or short, with members of The Beatles.
Yes. I’m a fan of The Beatles. If there were a scale from 1-to-10 to show one’s level of fandom, I guess I’d come in around a 9.85.
My favorite Beatle? He played “rhythm guitar and mouth organ.” Oddly enough, I played rhythm guitar (I started lessons at seven, two-and-a-half years before they landed in America), but I could never get that harmonica-thing going. He wore glasses. I wore glasses. His first wife was a blonde. Yeah, so was mine. He later married a Japanese woman. Okay, I’ve dated a Japanese woman (close enough). We even had the same first name, though I dropped the “h” during my teenage years for “artistic reasons.”
On Sunday, February 9th, 2014, America (and I’m sure many other places on the planet) celebrated the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles explosive first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
The day was celebrated and promoted around the country with countless news reports, along with terrestrial, satellite and internet radio shows marking the event with Beatles music and interviews. There were untold hours of commentary from celebrities and non-celebrities giving their recollections of sitting in front of their black & white TV’s on that winter evening at 8 o’clock waiting to see what these Beatles were all about. ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ was at the very top of the AM charts (FM hadn’t reached prominence yet. Transistor AM radios ruled the airwaves at the time, and would for another 3 years). I spent this historic anniversary curled up on the couch and watched The Beatles/Ed Sullivan 2 DVD Box Set and then the 11+ hour Beatles DVD Anthology. And like the majority of us, at 8 o’clock I turned on CBS to watch the 2 hour special.
I distinctly recall that evening fifty years ago. I was 10 years old.
My father sat in the kitchen reading a newspaper. He wasn’t interested…though 73 million other Americans were.
My mother was on our plastic covered sofa across the room from our black & white television (the same one we watched the assassinations of JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald on 11 weeks earlier).
I, with my crew cut hair, sat on the floor less than 3 feet from the screen. As Ed introduced the band during the shows’ first few minutes, the audience (mostly girls between 11 to 18) went wild. Paul McCartney counted off and they performed ‘All My Loving’, ‘Till There Was You’ and ‘She Loves You’. Within seconds, America was introduced to Beatlemania. It was as simple and as fast as that. The group conquered our minds, bodies, hearts and bank accounts.
As soon as they finished their first set and Ed was telling us about the upcoming Anacin aspirin commercial, I turned to my mom and said, “I’m going to grow my hair that long!” She slowly rose from the sofa, took seven or eight steps over to me and with each word from her mouth I received a whack on the back of my head as she said, “No…you’re…not!” Then…she went back to her spot on the plastic.
For the rest of that hour we sat through a magician, comedians, a Broadway singer and a couple of songs from the British production of Oliver with a young and talented Davy Jones (yes, the future Monkee) as part of the cast. But you could hear the lack of interest by the kids in the audience. They wanted The Beatles.
With only a few more minutes left in the show, Ed brought them onstage to do their double-sided single, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’. After they finished I knew not to mention my intentions on growing my hair just like theirs. But the seed had been planted.
According to police reports around the country, crime was at an all-time low between 8 and 9 o’clock that Sunday…yet these were the four boys church leaders and politicians across the country (mostly from the so-called “Bible Belt”) proclaimed would lead to the destruction of civilization itself. Just as they had said about Elvis and rock & roll several years earlier.
The next evening, and after some decent begging on my part, my father drove us out to Robbie’s Music City on Route 46 in Wayne, NJ, where he bought me a Gretsch guitar…just like the one George Harrison used. I really wanted a Rickenbacker like John’s, but there were none in stock.
Now, for you non-Beatle fans (and I’ve met a few), don’t think me odd for spending February 9th that way. Some people have been known to spend countless hours during various holidays watching movies they’ve seen dozens of times out of dedication to a deity or a tradition. Others spend days standing in line for the newest installment of a movie or video game (or a movie made from the premise of a video game, and vice versa). Regardless of the reason, we do it because some thing or some one has brought us happiness and pleasure in one form or another.
Personally, I still love and respect what The Beatles represented and accomplished.
Say and think what you will, but as a group and as solo artists their music, words and philosophies have and will live on through the ages. ‘All You Need Is Love’, ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’, ‘Give Peace A Chance’, ‘My Sweet Lord’, ‘Imagine’, ‘All Things Must Pass’, ‘Instant Karma’, ‘Power To The People’, how can you go wrong with thoughts and words like those?
Over the past few years I’ve discovered that throughout the decades, several of my friends, besides myself, have had some form of a Beatle Encounter Of The Third Kind.
So, I’ve compiled the following stories from those who’ve crossed paths with John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr or Paul McCartney.
My two Beatle experiences were brief, though nonetheless memorable. They were nothing more than visual acknowledgements and hand gestures on both accounts. But they were enough for me.
The first occurred in the early fall of 1973. I was a session musician contracted to work for two weeks in London. Through friends, I was introduced to the receptionist at George Martin’s A.I.R. studio, who arranged for me to come by one evening to see the latest state-of-the-art 24-track recording console that had been delivered a few days earlier.
Once I arrived, I was shuttled into the main studio to see the console in action. Roxy Music was cutting a background vocal track with a group of kilt-and-tuxedo-jacketed men from The London Welsh Male Choir. The song was Psalm, and would appear on Roxy’s Stranded LP.
I was then taken into the control room of a smaller studio, introduced to “Geoff” the engineer, placed on a tall three-legged stool in the corner and told, “Don’t ask anything, don’t say anything, and only speak when spoken to.” That’s when the night turned into one I’d never forget.
On the other side of the glass plate, in the far left corner of the studio stood Paul McCartney working on synthesizer overdubs for a new song called ‘Jet’.
That’s when it hit me that the engineer sitting several feet away had to be Geoff Emerick, the longtime “man behind the board” for The Beatles from the Love Me Do sessions to The End. I was watching him work his magic on what would become a track on Paul’s Band On The Run (1973) album.
Linda McCartney had a couple of cameras hanging around her neck, snapping frame after frame as Paul did one take after another of the solo. Each was a little different than the last. Some good. Some great.
In between takes, Paul and Emerick would speak to one another, followed by the engineer making adjustments to the sound. After performing and listening to several takes, Paul played it again in its entirety. Then he looked at me, smiled and shrugged his shoulders as if asking, “Well, what did you think of that one?”
What does one say to Paul McCartney? “Try it an octave lower, old boy!” “Of the lot, it was okay.” “That was great!” “Far out!” “It sucked. Do it again!”
Quite simply, I was stunned that Paul McCartney was asking me anything, and I certainly didn’t want to say the wrong thing. So, I did what Paul would have done. I put a smile on my face, extended my arm and stuck my thumb in the air.
Paul returned my “thumbs up,” winked and said to Emerick, “Let’s keep that one, too.”
I had just “communicated” with a Beatle. Life was good. And to this day, I’d like to believe that my take is the one we’ve been listening to for all these years.
The receptionist eventually came to collect me. A couple of hours later, the glazed smile was still on my face. I was just with a Beatle.
The first story of my friends who’ve crossed paths with Ringo Starr, John Lennon, George Harrison and Paul McCartney begins with Pamela Des Barres.
Born in Reseda, CA, Pamela is a bestselling author, an internationally known personality, an entity unto herself, and she is loved by her friends and fans. Pamela Miller was her name, though she first became known to the world as Miss Pamela, renowned in the late 1960s as care-taker to the first few children of Frank and Gail Zappa, and into the ‘70s as one of the few women responsible for keeping the “Roll” in “Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
Throughout her novels, Pamela tells of her experiences and observations during that great and happy era. In her first tome, I’m With The Band (1987), one constant that flows from chapter to chapter details Pamela’s heartfelt desire to connect with all four of The Beatles, and over the years, she has.
While a young teenager in 1964, during the group’s first visit to L.A., Pamela and John Lennon shared a glimpse of each other as he sat in the back of a limo that slowly drove past her in Bel Air. In the early 1970s, as Pamela and a girlfriend stepped out of the door into the A&M Records parking lot, her friend slammed right into George Harrison, leading Pamela into a conversation with George about her group, The GTOs. Also in the early ‘70s, while hanging with Frank Zappa and the last version of The Mothers Of Invention during the filming of the cult classic 200 Motels, Pamela became friends with Ringo, who was cast in the role of Zappa.
But throughout those years, she never got to meet Paul McCartney, the one Beatle that, as far back as she can recall, truly stole her heart…that is until a few years ago when he performed downtown at The Staples Center.
She and her ex-husband-and-still-close-friend, singer and actor Michael Des Barres, went to the concert as guests of Paul’s guitarist, Brian Ray. Pamela was armed with an original hardcover edition of I’m With The Band especially for her teenage crush. But when they got backstage after the show, Sir Paul had already left the building.
On the way home Pamela’s cell phone rang. Brian called to let her know that Paul was having a small, intimate get-together for the band at The Four Seasons.
The direction of her car made an immediate course change toward Beverly Hills. Once in the suite, her dream finally came true.
“I stood there, silent and starry-eyed. Paul looked at me and I somehow blurted out my name. At the same time that I was shaking his right hand, I nervously began pushing my book into his left one. He smiled and started looking through it, then he arched his eyebrows, a bit concerned, and asked, ‘Uh…did we…uh…we haven’t met before, have we?’ I was struck silent for a few seconds before I finally answered, ‘Unfortunately, no.’ He turned and smiled at his then-new and now ex-wife Heather and said, ‘See dear, I’ve never met her. I’m innocent.’”
Pamela went on her very merry way after that, concluding a dream that spanned five decades by finally meeting her fourth and favorite Beatle. And for Miss Pamela, life was good.
The second part of A Few Days In The Lives Of… will be featured on CrypticRock Wednesday February 12th.