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I finally read this in February 2003 after having owned it for years. I remember the reason for not reading it when I got it was because I objected to Beatle writers cranking out new verbiage when all I want is the original newspaper articles, etc. I still feel that way, but this book is a great job nonetheless. It's amazing how it stays fresh from beginning to end when you'd expect the story of the Beatles in one city to be identical to the story of the Beatles in any other city. That's not the case at all.
I pulled it out because I was looking for a picture of the Beatles with Shirley Temple that I knew was in my library somewhere. It's on page 9 of this book, but the best telling of the story is in Derek Taylor's Fifty Years Adrift, page 195. George didn't want anything to do with posing with Shirley Temple Black, but was coaxed into coming out. There followed a lot of intrigue involving the film itself, but it made it's way back to the photographer, Mr. Black, and it's included in this book courtesy of him. That should give an idea of how thorough the authors were in tracking down people who were involved with, or touched on, the Beatles' 1964 American tour.
Then I got the idea, wouldn't it be interesting to reread Derek's reminiscences of the 1964 tour along with reading Beatles '64, flipping between the two books city by city. That turned out to be fun - I'd recommend it to anyone who has access to both books. In some cases, it's clear that Beatles '64 borrows from Derek's, but there are also passages where Derek contributes material he didn't even put in his own book.
Here, then, are some thoughts and comments, for whatever they are worth.
In the first tour city, San Francisco, "an evangelical group arrived in direct response to the recent Saturday Evening Post article," where Derek Taylor described the Beatles as being "so anti-Christ they shock me." Rayl writes with a touch of sarcasm (page 74): "They feared for the future of America." Hmmm... considering the way things have gone in the intervening decades, maybe the doomsayers weren't so crazy after all?
In my book report on Nicholas Schaffner's Beatles Forever I discussed the Beatles' breakup and rumors of it going back to the end of their touring days. Actually, the rumors started about as soon as they got going. Here's an excerpt from an interview in Boston in September, 1964 (page 188):
"There are rumors that you plan to break up?"
"Not true, not ture," each of the Beatles responded.
I caught the author dead-to-rights on page 91. She writes of the Beatles' press conferences: "The same questions were asked over and over again and the one subject the Beatles were eager to talk about - their music - was the one topic that was forever being overlooked." But here's an excerpt from the Jacksonville press conference (page 184):
"Have y'all composed any new numbers over here?"
"What are they?"
"We can't tell you that," said Paul.
There's a picture of George with a garden hose on page 133. Wait a minute, that looks familiar. Surely it's from the same shoot as a picture in George's own autobiography, I Me Mine, where George strikes a naughty boy pose with the same hose.
There's no reason to doubt the photo attributions in Beatles '64, since they're almost all by Curt Gunther who is co-credited with the book. In case there's any doubt, we are shown other pictures of George in Key West wearing the same clothes.
Speaking of Curt Gunther, another way in which this book complements Derek Taylor's is the story of the special picture Curt wanted, and waited so long to get. Derek tells the story so well about how Curt finally got it very near the end of the tour, in Alton, Missouri, in an old doorway on Reed Pigman's ranch. Now we can see the photo in Beatles '64. The editors don't make a great fuss over it, but all the other photos in the book quietly lead up to it. Being the last one is appropriate from the standpoint of chronology and importance to its photographer. Nice.
Reed Pigman . . . Beatles '64 gives the reader warm feelings toward the man who owned the airline company which safely shuttled the Beatles between one crazy airport scene and another, and offered the Beatles a relaxing get-away on his ranch in the Ozarks right near the end of the tour. Derek's Fifty Years Adrift supplies a tragic footnote (page 233): "Sad to say, the American Flyers plane... crashed a year or two later with the loss of everyone on board - more than 100 people, mostly US servicemen. The pilot was Reed Pigman, who had entertained us on his ranch after the Dallas concert."
A couple of other favorite pictures were taken from inside the Beatles' limo on a highway in Denver, showing fans on a passing motorcycle and in a passing car gaping from one vehicle to another at the Beatles through the pouring rain. Here's the latter.
Page 39 shows a picture of a crowd of fans in Denver being held back by police - and one poor kid looks like he's being strangled!
What's going on there??? Is there a decades-old, unsettled police brutality case on the dockets in Denver in want of a piece of smoking-gun evidence?
A couple of really neat, off-the-beaten-track photos (pages 188-189) show fan faces, very excited and very horizontal, sneaking a peek through the 3-inch gap along the bottom of a wall divider in Dallas.
In my book report on The Beatles Forever I showed George at the Monopoly board. Now we get to see who he was playing (page 56):
Also, if you examine the photos very closely, you will see that George, not surprisingly, chose the race car piece.
There was some hoopla recently (writing in March 2003) about a poster of the Abbey Road cover with Paul's cigarette removed. Well, there's a similar story involving Pat Boone (pages 61 and 86). He marketed a line of Beatle pictures, one of which had Paul's cigarette painted out. "What's all this?" Paul asked. "Well, Pat, you know if we smoke, we smoke." This crossing of paths is also kind of ironic considering that Pat Boone was the guy who recorded the white-bread versions of hits by Little Richard - Paul's idol.
I always knew that the Beatles had to fly to Key West rather than directly to Jacksonville because of Hurricane Dora, but I never knew how wild the weather still was when they played Jacksonville a couple of days later in the Gator Bowl. "For once, jellybeans were not a real problem. Winds, however, blasted the stage as the Beatles performed, whipping through their hair, rocking the microphones and the cymbals, at times threatening the instruments. Ringo's drums had been nailed down, but at one point Bob Bonis jumped onto the stage, crouched down, and held the drummer, convinced he was going to blow off." (Part of that account in Beatles '64 was taken from George's comments in Fifty Years Adrift, page 224.) Man, how come the book doesn't have any pictures of the Jacksonville show!
The Beatles' performance in Jacksonville was held up by the presence of film-photographers. Derek gives a funny account (page 214) of his ongoing chase of a film-man from Wolper films of L.A. "I signally failed to prevent the recording of miles of impeccable concert footage." Well, where is it??? Might that have added a little pizzazz to the Anthology documentary? Do I get to see any of it before I die? I sure hope someone is getting fantastically wealthy by keeping it under a bushel basket somewhere.
I'm not inclined to do it right now, but it would be interesting for someone to go through the book and extract all of the death threats, predictions of death, seriously dangerous encounters with fans, bombardments on stage, and dicy airplane flights the Beatles endured on this tour. It makes you wonder how they put up with it all till 1966, even.
The book didn't provide a table of contents or an index. The photos were presented evenly and chronogically throughout the book, but this meant that the the photos from a given city were not on the same pages as the writeup for that city. To help rectify that, and to help cross reference Beatles '64 with Fifty Years Adrift, here's a table of contents you might find handy. Parentheses indicate stops where there was no concert.
Beatles '64 Derek's memories in 1964 city text pics Fifty Years Adrift ---- ---- ---- ---- ------------------ Aug 19 San Francisco 73 9 193 Aug 20 Las Vegas 82 13 198 Aug 21 Seattle 88 16 199 (passing mention) Aug 22 Vancouver 94 none 199 (passing mention) Aug 23 Los Angeles 96 25 199 Aug 26 Denver 112 34 205 Aug 27 Cincinatti 118 40 206 (passing mention) Aug 28 New York City 123 42 206 Aug 30 Atlantic City 138 55 212 Sep 2 Philadelphia 142 none Sep 3 Indianapolis 146 59 216 Sep 4 Milwaukee 155 93 217 Sep 5 Chicago 164 none 217 Sep 6 Detroit 167 97 218 Sep 7 Toronto 169 105 218 Sep 8 Montreal 176 116 218 Sep 9 (Key West) 181 130 220 Sep 11 Jacksonville 183 none :( 223 Sep 12 Boston 186 none 224 Sep 13 Baltimore 192 140 225 Sep 14 Pittsburgh 196 156 225 Sep 15 Cleveland 199 158 225 Sep 16 New Orleans 207 160 228 Sep 17 Kansas City 211 164 228 Sep 18 Dallas 214 180 228 Sep 19 (Alton, Mo.) 220 198 229 Sep 20 New York City 224 none 230
I poked through some old microfilms for newspaper articles on the Beatles' visit to Baltimore. (I grew up in Baltimore County.) I was curious to see if the author missed anything good. Here are some finds in chronological order. Quoted material is indented.
This article deals with an accusation that two members of the Civic Center Commission "had obtained a large number of choice tickets." However, a surprise audit satisfied the city comptroller that enough of the seats were distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Of interest to me is the identity of one of the men involved: Louis J. Grasmick.
Mr. Grasmick has since acknowledged that he personally handled the sale of about 1,500 tickets for the Beatles' shows, but he denied that the persons for whom he obtained tickets would sit in any better seats than if they had gone to the box office themselves.
The way he explained why so many people, including two Municipal Court judges, would go to him instead of regular ticket agencies was to say, "I guess it is a lot easier to get some one else to do your work."
Now, if this isn't the same Louis J. Grasmick with the Baltimore lumberyard and the wife who's been in charge of screwing up Maryland schoolchildren since 1994, I'll eat my hat. (See my web page on Maryland's criminally insane MSPAP test.) Man, that family must hate kids.
How about that? - a Beatle mention in the sports pages. The National Tennis Championships were forced to proceed on the outside courts while the "famed center court... stood idle - a temporary victim of overzealous Beatles fans." The explanation is given after a rundown of the most recent matches:
The center court, where feature matches are played, was bombed with jelly beans and broken glass when howling Beatles fans attended a show of the English beat singers last weekend.
The courts were covered with boards but the jelly beans slipped through the holes and embedded themselves in the precious turf where the championship will be decided Sunday week.
18 Men Work 3 Days
An industrial vacuum cleaner failed to remove them all and eighteen men had to work three days to pick up the debris.
Wow, that's one, big hummer of a tennis court!
... in which we learn the power structure within the Beatles - at least, according to some Milwaukee fans.
Ringo Starr was nominated for President today, becoming the choice of Milwaukee's teen-agers even before the Beatles arrived in town...
Starr was made the Presidential choice at a hotel convention that drew 28 delegates - 27 girls and one boy. The lone male refused to identify himself, saying, "My parents would kill me if they knew I was here."
There were places on the ballot for the other Beatles. George Harrison was nominated for Vice President and Jack Lennon for Mayor of Ringoland. The platform adopted calls for Starr to appoint the fourth Beatle, Paul McCartney, as Secretary of Music.
The only rough spot in the convention came when Carol Kowalski, 16, nominated Lennon for mayor.
"I got so excited I forgot my lines," she said.
I remembered seeing this letter in a coworker's Beatle scrapbook. Glad I found it again. By the way, the Baltimore Evening Sun is a totally distinct paper from the Baltimore Sun, I want y'all to know.
A young writer, B.B., appeals to Baltimore Beatle fans to control themselves. She argues that a quiet audience would impress the Beatles so much that they would play even longer! She wants Baltimore to outdo the Indianapolis crowd, who the Beatles had supposedly rated the best yet. (Beatles' 64 supports this on page 149: "Nonetheless, there were actually some moments [in Indianapolis] when the screaming died down and the Beatles could almost hear themselves sing.") B.B. wraps up her letter with:
So if someone starts to scream beside you, ask them to be quiet, please. Bring something to bite on, so when you feel like screaming, just bite! If we are well behaved they will remember us and want to come back. Thank you. B.B.
Mrs. Nash agreed with B.B., adding,
Screaming during their singing is no compliment to them. It's almost an insult - indicating that their singing isn't worth listening to... Why not leave the squealing to the pigs?... Why not show the Beatles that Baltimore is a city of well bred teenagers?
I believe this letter actually had an effect. I remember an elementary school friend, Jack Dean, saying there were spells when you could hear the Beatles perfectly. That would make the Baltimore concert (both of them?) very unusual. I also think I read an account somewhere in which the writer attributed the relative quietness of Baltimore fans to a lack of enthusiasm. I haven't been able to track that down, but, in any case, let the record show that it was B.B.'s impassioned plea that did the trick.
Rona talked with the Beatles in Las Vegas. Here are some extracts:
Rumor had it he [John Lennon] was quitting the group...
John, the Brilliant One, as he's referred to by the boys, said, "Nonsense! Absolutely a lie. Aye haf no intenshun wotsoayver of kwittin'. Rumor stahted in Orstraylaya. Bloody bore. Aye like what Ahm doin'. Why should I kwit?"
Holy smokes, never knew I had such a Liverpool accent, myself - that's just how Aye pronounce intenshun and kwit!
[To Ringo] "And Maureen Cox? Will you be marrying her?"
"No. I'm not getting married... Maureen's going to become my personal secretary and that's about it." ...
Everyone's question about Paul is: Will he marry Jane Asher, a young English actress?
"Not yet," said Paul. "I speak with her on the telly and I miss her but I'm not for settling down yet."
Hmmm... the Beatles were always so disgusted with the rumors, but here we have Ringo lying about Maureen, and Paul leading us on that he will eventually marry Jane!
I asked the boys what they thought of America so far.
To which Ringo said: "I don't know about anyone else. But I'm getting spotty looking at the desert."
Hey Rings, weren't you the budding young cowboy who at one time even tried to immigrate to Texas?
Here was an interesting discovery: almost the whole of the Beatles '64 account of the Baltimore visit was extracted from three articles in the Baltimore Sun on the day following the concerts. (Rayl didn't use anything from Marcia's "bid to meet Ringo.") Everything is accounted for except the glimpse at John strumming and singing, "I'm a loo-ser"; the account of the all-night private party; and the story of Tony Saks getting his guitar autographed the morning after the shows (which comes from Fifty Years Adrift.) Everything else is here, including the story of George giving a reporter a kick and the press conference. Where the Sun reported a police lieutenant ruefully saying, "I can't even hear the ---- ---- music," Rayl helpfully filled in the blanks and had him shouting.
For whatever reasons, Rayl did not use articles from the Evening Sun. The paper's music critic, Lou Cedrone argued the Beatles' press interview was better entertainment than what you saw on stage. "Lennon is the sharpest, followed by Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and George Harrison." But I've always claimed that George came up with the best press conference zingers, and he followed suit in this one:
Press to George: "Are you going to take Joey Heatherton (movie starlet) to a ball in New York?
George: "I don't even know him, whoever he is."
Press to Harrison: "What's this about an annual illness?
Harrison: "Well, I get cancer every year."
Sometimes, the Baltimore Sun/Beatles '64 and the Evening Sun reported different responses for the same or similar questions. From the Baltimore Sun/Beatles '64:
"What do you think of American television?"
"It's great - you get eighteen stations, but you can't get a good picture on any of them," said Ringo.
From the Evening Sun:
"What are your favorite programs on American television?"
Lennon: "It's rubbish."
McCartney: "'News in Espanol' in Miami. 'Pop-eye,' 'Bullwinkle.' All that cultural stuff."
In response to, "How does it feel to put the whole world on?", the Evening Sun gave just Lennon's response:
Lennon: "How does it feel to be put on?"
while the Baltimore Sun/Beatles '64 skipped Lennon's snappy answer and quoted the other three:
"We enjoy it," said Ringo.
Added Paul: "We're not really putting you on."
"Well, just a bit," corrected George.
One last little piece of research related to the Beatles visit to Cincinnati. The Beatles Book Monthly, No. 15, October 1964 (page 31) reported, "In Cincinnati, the Beatles sang 'Hello Dolly' to a crowd at the airport." This was not mentioned in Beatles '64, so I thought it would be fun to track down confirmation in a Cincinnati newspaper. A successful hit would support my claim that the source material is where it's at, (baby). I did find a Cincinnati Enquirer article giving a blow-by-blow account of the Beatles' arrival at the airport - but no mention of them singing "Hello Dolly", or anything else. So, what to believe?
For the record, just because I think it's fun to pretend that newspaper articles contain the "honest truth," I'm fully aware that they generally fall somewhere between "inaccurate" and "pack-o-lies." Still, I say give me the original, raw, unedited clips (excellent jobs like this book by Rayl notwithstanding.)
Sorry if all the above minutiae has killed anyone; for me, it's great fun. It still breaks my heart that even with the miracle of the internet, there's no hope of Beatle fans pulling together in an effort to gather up all the primary material together in one big database. I guess the reason is the same one John gave at the first New York press conference explaining why the Beatles don't sing at press conferences (and airports?): "We need money first", huh?
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