Monday, September 4, 2017

I Should Have Known Better

We were ten years old, and the Beatles were coming to town!

My parents had recently bought me an unexpected gift, something that rarely happened. 
They returned from a weekend shopping trip with a 45 rpm copy of the Fab Four’s 
I Wanna Hold Your Hand. 

I still have the record, and a turntable that will play it. I guess my folks were marginally caught up in Beatlemania, on the high end of the age spectrum. My friends and I were certainly on the young side. The phenomenon was inescapable. The early era of television was real-time, no time-shifting or later streaming. Sunday night on The Ed Sullivan Show found the entire family gathered in front of a musical debut that captivated the country, young and old.

On September 5, 1964 John, Paul, George and Ringo arrived at O’Hare airport, flying over my house in Park Ridge. At least, that’s what we thought at the time. There are a number of runways at O’Hare, but the one that interrupted conversations, left the stench of diesel fuel settling over the trees on our street and caused us to glance skyward, still marveling at the relatively new Boeing 707, flew frighteningly low over our neighborhood. So low, in fact, that we assumed the musicians would look out the plane window and see us on the ground below. And wave.

And with that in mind, we secured a bedsheet, markers and painting supplies and set to work creating a large banner welcoming the Beatles to Chicago. It was a beautifully sunny late summer day, and the white sheet reflected blindingly as we unleashed our fourth grade creative skills on a Saturday afternoon.

It’s strange to consider that each of the Beatles was only 12-14 years older than us as we spent several hours on my driveway. It was a huge age gap then. Much less so later in life. At ten, the Beatles were yet to pick up musical instruments, but by age 16 Paul had written When I’m 64. Given a time machine, perhaps our ten year old selves could be given a nudge in a new direction, since painting a welcome sign on a bedsheet leads absolutely nowhere other than perhaps a career in graphic design.

When the banner was complete, so was the fun. We speculated, plane after plane, about which one might receive our message. But how would we know if the message had been received? After a little while, we grew bored and dispersed. I don’t recall the bedsheet being discarded or brought back home. It wasn’t mine.

If we had been older we might have been among the lucky attendees at the concert at the International Amphitheater that evening. 

Oh, to have a ticket stub like this:

And if we had, here are the songs they played:

Twist and 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
A Hard Day’s Night
Long Tall Sally

Many years later I went to my first rock concert. A favorite group at the time, Badfinger, was playing at a local high school. When the announcer came on stage, he chose words to bring out that band that invoked visceral memories of an earlier time: "Ladies and gentlemen, from Liverpool, England..."

And with that, four long-haired British lads took the stage and began to play.

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