Seeing The Beatles…… kind of.
It was February, 1964, and the new sensations of pop music were making their first trip to America. Their very first visit to The States would be to New York (of course) for a very much anticipated live performance on the Ed Sullivan show. The excitement and frenzy had been building for months since the visit was first announced.The Beatles had quickly achieved unprecedented success on the American music charts, at one time having the top five songs on the Billboard top 100. Even if you were not alive at the time, I would bet you know the names, and perhaps the tunes of these chart toppers; “I Want to hold your Hand”, “She loves You”, “Please Please me”, “Twist and Shout” and “Can’t buy me Love”.
The Beatles were the spearhead of what became known in the music world as the “British Invasion”, and I must admit, I was a bit resentful. The incredible success of the Beatles left me feeling a bit “ out of sorts” . I had just turned a teenager and I was caught in an interesting time in music history. The very first music that I came to love was the American bands. I was a huge fan of the Four Seasons and The Beach Boys, as well as the unique and fabulous “Motown” sound. This new upstart band from England was now stealing all the attention and I was determined not to like them. As you probably know, all the teen and pre-teen girls were absolutely enthralled with the Beatles, adding to my (jealousy?). They were also changing how to look to be “cool” , with their mop
cuts replacing my very carefully styled pompadour! How could they??
Yes, I had some preconceived dislike for these guys before I really gave them a chance…….
and this brings me to that day outside the Plaza Hotel.
It was a Friday when they landed at JFK airport. The fan uproar was incredible. I don’t remember the exact time, but it was early afternoon when their plane touched down. Their adoring fans( mostly teenaged girls) were in a frenzy. Many came down “sick” that day and were unable to go to school. Others raced out of school as soon as the final bell sounded to get to the Plaza Hotel where the band would be staying. Fan or not, the feeling in the city was electric.
As I have admitted , I was not a fan, mostly because of jealousy. Almost every girl I knew was on the verge of fainting at the mention on the band or one of the band members. That did little for my already fragile ego. Every girl had her favorite band member and were madly in love with John, Paul, George or Ringo.
I must admit, I really liked the name Ringo… it just sounded “ cool” to me and though not a devotee, my curiosity was peaked.
I made the decision to go to the Plaza Hotel that afternoon to get a first hand feel of the this whole amazing “happening”.
Timing would not be an issue. The band was scheduled to land at JFK in the early afternoon and hold a brief press conference at the airport. They would then be quickly transported to The Plaza. Betting on the length of time for the press conference and the travel time into Manhattan, I would have plenty of time to be at the hotel when they arrived . My school on 13th street was in walking distance of the hotel,( a long walk, but still very do able), so I didn’t need to worry about public transportation.
I didn’t tell many of my friends my plan, as I thought the guys would tease me mercilessly and the girls would think I was just trying to get them to notice me. I knew quite a few of the girls who had also decided to go and I knew telling them would not play in my favor.
So, on that Friday, I left school and started the long walk to the Plaza Hotel. If my memory serves me right it was a fairly pleasant day for New York in February and the walk itself was somewhat pleasant.
As I approached the area of the Hotel, the enormity of the event became clearer. There were kids everywhere! Mostly girls, dressed in Beatles style hats and boots. There were some guys, but we were definitely in the minority. When I finally made it to the Hotel on Central Park South the crowd was huge. There were cops everywhere to make sure that no frenzied young lady tried to “Storm the lobby”. I quickly learned from one of the other few guys there that I had just missed the arrival of the Band at the hotel. He told me that when they emerged from the limo, it was simply pandemonium. I was a little disappointed that I had missed their arrival, but was told that they would be emerging from their rooms on to the balcony above to show their appreciation to the crowd. They were staying on the 12th floor and the Plaza had 20 or 21 floors. It was not long before the crowd began to chant the name of the band and girls by the hundreds were crying out to their favorite band member;
“I love you , Paul!!”
“I love you Ringo!!”
After about 30 minutes four figures emerged on the 12th floor balcony. Despite being almost unrecognizable at that height, the crowd went crazy! Screams, shouts, jumping. Some of the girls actually started crying. I strained to make out the individual band members as they waved to the crowd. Even though they were quite high up, I believe I was able to distinguish John, Paul, George and Ringo.
One of the few guys in the crowd was standing fairly close to me and said ;
“This is totally far out, right?!!”
I responded without a lot of enthusiasm;
“Yea man, it is….. But i don’t think they are THAT great “…
That was not smart.
At least 12 girls heard my comment and turned toward me and gave me the most evil looks I have ever seen! They went on to tell me, using some choice cuss words, what a little idiot I was. One threw a bag of M&Ms at me.
In order to preserve my life , I thought it was time to exit and make my way back home and listen to the Four Seasons and the Beach Boys.
That Sunday night, The Beatles made their historic appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. Mom, Dad , my little brother and I all watched. I was skeptical, pretty much knowing I wouldn’t like them. Dad was, as a musician, curious. Mom and my brother really didn’t care either way. They played a total of five songs in two sets ,( All my Loving, Till there was you, She loves you, I saw her Standing There and I Want to Hold Your Hand), and , as at the hotel, the girls in the audience went wild.
To his credit, Dad gave them a good review! Rob wanted to watch Bonanza and Mom wondering why you would name your band after a bug.My reaction was twofold; First, they came across as nice guys, and two ; Their songs were good.
My final thought after the Ed Sullivan show was over?
“ These guys might actually “ make it” .”