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1964 - Meet the Beatles
My early brush with fame
It was the Summer of 1964. It must have been August, and I must have been seven years old, but I really don’t remember such details. I do, however, remember the excitement, that first impression, and the entire audition.
Since my oldest sister was still too young, we had a babysitter during the Summer months when mom went to work. That day in August, our sitter was very excited, and wanted us all to walk with her the two blocks south to the public library. I don’t know how she heard about it, but she discovered that “The Beatles” would be coming down Montview Boulevard in their limousine on the way to the Brown Palace where they’d be staying before their lone appearance in Colorado at Red Rocks Ampitheater. Like most girls her age, she wanted to have a peek. Since that street went right past the library on the way from Stapleton Airport, (in the days before DIA), on a direct route to downtown, it made sense. How could she resist? She was naturally well under the spell of the Beatles by then, and quite overjoyed at the prospect of seeing her heroes in the flesh, even if only just a glimpse. We kids were too young, but we were game. No one under the age of 30 was immune from the “Beatle Effect.”
The Beatles and the British Invasion were big stuff in the 1960’s. It seems silly for someone of my age to even mention it now, but, to folks of a different generation, much of the importance has been lost to history. The Beatles came across the pond just before the middle of the decade, and, before long, most kids wanted to look like them, dress like them, and, of course buy their music. Soon after the Beatles hit the beach, just about every band was trying to mimic the style, and certainly mimic the success. The influence of the Beatles became so strong, it was more like an infection, and it certainly did change the music industry for years to come. From that first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 until their last album together, “Let it be,” in 1970, the Beatles pretty much owned popular music in the United States.
In those days, there were no cell phones, no pagers, and no personal computers. Instead, we had “land-line” telephones, “word-of-mouth,” and the passion of youth. Together, they worked almost as efficiently and effectively as the electronics of today. Just these simple, primitive devices were all that were needed to inform what seemed like every teenager in Denver that The Beatles’ limousine would be coming through East Denver, and most came to witness the spectacle. I remember the tone of our sitter’s voice, (even if I cannot remember her name), and I remember her sense of urgency as she marched us all down to our perch overlooking Montview Boulevard. There we stood waiting for the magical appearance, and, even though I knew little about music, I knew this was something big.
My world at the time rarely went beyond a two or three block area around where I lived. Even this trip to the library was quite an excursion for us. And, we certainly were not alone. There they were. Throngs of Baby Boomer children from all over the Park Hill neighborhood lining the streets just for a glimpse at their heroes. There probably weren’t really that many, but the frenzy made it feel like even more. The frenzied crowds that followed the Beatles wherever they went had been known to trample people to death in their excitement. Yes, other groups and artists had made young girls scream, and still do to this day, but never before or again on the level attained by the Beatles, or with the same enthusiasm. It was quite a show for me just waiting in the crowd, despite considerable risk to my health and well-being.
Occasionally, a buzz, a rumor would stir the group, and the sense was almost like a herd about to stampede on the TV show, “Rawhide.” It was odd to see otherwise well-behaved, and properly disciplined young people acting out this way, almost like an act of defiance, and few of the defiant knew what this little “taste” would lead to; how it would affect the Summer of 1967. There was definitely something going on, definitely a sight to see for any seven-year-old boy, and this seven-year-old was definitely impressed. There we stood, and there we waited.
To make a short story shorter. The Beatles never showed. If that deflated you, then you know exactly how we all felt when the rumor passed that some other kids had planned to attempt to stop the limousine, and, somehow, knowledge of the plan became known to the entourage where it was decided to take a different route. See? I told you that the means of communication in the 60’s were efficient and effective. Yet, even at that early age, I was intelligent enough to sense that it had all been a hoax. Nonetheless, to many, (including me), it was enough of a close brush with the incredibly famous to feel we had all been a part of history, and, in a way, we had. Certainly, I would find a greater fascination for music in my teen years, and that could partly be attributed that “almost” brush with the Beatles, but, as for pure excitement, I would not really ever again experience that level of excitement anywhere. Not even the excitement of the 1977 Denver Broncos, although close, could match that first, 15 minute brush with fame. To this day, I still wonder from time to time what would have happened had that limousine actually taken the Montview route. Think of the story I’d be writing now, that is if I hadn’t been trampled. The “impression” I got was impression enough to change my small world. Yes, although they never showed, they certainly passed the audition.
Visitors to Denver today can still go to the Brown Palace Hotel and stay in the actual room used by the Beatles in the Summer of 1964, or just stand outside hoping for an appearance.