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The Beatles Love Me Do
Nearly midnight, Autumn 1963. I'm under the covers. Next to my ear, volume turned down way low, my brother's six-transistor radio, which I sneaked from his room.
And now, says the DJ, a little something different, a group I'm told is all the rage in England, the Beatles, with their first hit, Love Me Do. He pronounces their name Beat-uhls.
Five seconds later, I'm sitting straight up in bed. What IS this? Wow! Those voices! That harmonica. The beat!
First thing next morning, I rush up to my best friend, Steph, and grab her arm. Have you heard that new group from Britain? The Beatles? So cool!
She hasn't. Stay up and listen for it, I tell her. It's new, so they're only playing it late at night. Next morning, she tells me she couldn't stay awake, so no, she hasn't heard it.
Three or four weeks later, The Beatles finally get enough attention that the rock station plays their song during the day. Suddenly everyone hears it.
The Hoods, (for you younger ones, that's what we called gang types back in the day), come to school Monday morning with their duck tails shaved off and their greasy hair combed forward.
Unlike the Beatles, they still put pomade in their hair. It looks glued to their foreheads. The principal sends them home and tells them not to come back until they look decent. They refuse and are expelled.
By next week, the college-bound boys in their madras shirts and baby blue chinos comb their hair forward. The school relents and lets everyone stay.
At the homecoming dance, between sets from our rather tame live band, the local rock station DJ comes in and spins platters: Paul Anka, Bobby Vinton and, drumroll, The Beatles!
Every 45 is a door-prize giveaway. Unbelievably, I win! Love Me Do is on one side, natch. On the other, I Wanna Hold Your Hand. Swoon.
Love Me Do
Back then, wasn't a Beatles song I didn't like, but that first single, "Love Me Do" stayed with me, if only because I could play that little 45 over and over and over again on our record player.
Want to hear it? Watch and listen to the boys singing their first hit here. They would go on to so much more, but this one, even with its rather pedantic drum beat, still tugs the heart strings. Sweet.
Low fidelity sound on a 3-speed record player didn't stop us
You know what a record player is, right? Ours looked something like this one.
This one is a lot nicer and fancier than ours, which had a paper exterior that rubbed off after a few months use.
Ours was a paler pink too. I bet a few of you reading this, who are my age, had one something like it.
The fidelity was low, but our ears and minds supplied all we needed to enjoy the music.
We played those records over and over, no matter how scratched. We knew just where in the song we needed to give that needle a little nudge to the next groove.
Not long after I win that 45 at the dance, the Beatles fly across the pond and storm the U.S.
Screaming crowds welcome the Beatles to New York City
Ed Sullivan brings the Fab Four to America
Soon Ed Sullivan announces he is bringing the Beatles to America.
Mind you, as a dreamy-eyed adolescent, I thought Ed Sullivan a stuffy old man. When Mom and Dad turned his show on, I flounced out of the room to bury my head in a good book. Yeah, I was a book nerd from the get go.
Our local newspaper put the mop-heads on the front page, coming down the airplane ramp. In those days, airplane ramps were outside. The wind blew their long hair into spikes that whipped around their faces. I poured over that picture for days, taking in every grainy detail.
Ringo was cute in a sad, puppy-dog way. To my teenage mind, George was kind of weird. Later (a few years later) I would think he would make a good son of Spock on a brand new hit show called Star Trek.
John was okay, but Paul. Duh-reammmmm-y. Everyone liked Paul. I decided to pin my hopes on the brainy John. I wanted a Beatle all to myself, if only in my nocturnal fantasies.
The Beatles appear on the Ed Sullivan show and crime stops
Our neighbors owned a color television, so we all went over there, even Mom, and gathered round the tube, because our TV was an old-fashioned monochrome.
To this day, I remember watching the show "in living color," but according to the Official Ed Sullivan Site, all four live Beatles performances were broadcast in black and white. Sullivan did not start broadcasting in color until a week after their final live performance.
Apparently my fevered brain painted the screen in color as Sullivan waved his long arm out, raised his voice and announced, over the screams of the all-girl audience, "The Beatles!"
Yes, we squealed too, all through "All My Loving," sighed with tears and hope in our eyes through Paul's love song, "Till There Was You," and bounced madly again to "She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah."
Even the neighbor kid's mom and ours were bopping and smiling with the beat. Oh, for an instant replay back then.
Did the Beatles stop crime during that one-hour television show?
Later, newspapers and no less a magazine than Newsweek reported that crime stopped, particularly juvenile crime, while the show aired. In Grand Theft Beatles, Snopes.com refutes this urban legend with facts and a humorous Washington Post retraction.
The Beatles Twist and Shout for the Queen Mother
In a command performance at the Prince of Wales Theatre shortly before their U.S. tour, John asks for audience participation on their next song.
Tongue in cheek, literally, he suggests the folks in the cheaper seats clap--and the rest "just rattle your jewelry."
At this point, the Queen Mother, dripping in glittering diamonds from her tiara to her jewel-encrusted gown, and beaming a brilliant smile, stands and waves to the sedately suited mop heads.
In this video of their performance that night, you can tell the lads are a bit nervous, their voices a tad strained, but I find myself bee-bopping and shaking my aged head as wildly as a teenager when Paul and Ringo whip their wavy locks with abandon in front of the glitterati.
Changing times, changing us
"Love Me Do" sounds as good today as it did in 1963. Those early tunes tickled our fancy as much as the band's dry, combed-forward locks and skinny suits opened our minds to new ways of thinking beyond the narrow views so many of us knew in the 50s and 60s.
The boys would grow into men and their music with them, changing with the times as the times changed them and us, but those early songs just made us happy.
Thanks Paul, John, George and Ringo, truly the Fab Four.
© 2014 Kathryn Grace