Kay, being eight years younger than I am, was exactly the right age to be swept off her feet by The Beatles when they first came to America in 1964. Actually, she was a big fan earlier than that. She had bought their early singles and played her favorites dozens of times. (And when I write, “dozens” I may even be understating the case.) Kay’s love for The Beatles was one of the first things I learned about her when we met in 1978.
When John Lennon was murdered shortly after our marriage and move to New York City, I was sad, but Kay was heartbroken. With hundreds of others, we stood in silent mourning on the edge of Central Park across from the Dakota apartments where John had lived with Yoko and where the murder took place.
While Kay was the right age and at the right time to fall for The Beatles during their amazing, meteoric ascendancy, I was living on another continent, sunk deep in my “French” period and without even a radio to listen to. Then, when I returned to the States in the fall of 1964, I was instantly absorbed by my last undergraduate year, struggling to make up courses that I had missed while abroad and that I needed to graduate. In short, I was barely aware of The Beatles phenomenon. My knowledge of the group came later and much more gradually.
Why do I write of these things now? Because Kay and I are about to make our first trip to the city of Liverpool and have been preparing for it by listening to The Beatles music again, more or less in the order that it was created. We’ve also been watching a classy, boxed set of DVDs entitled The Beatles Anthology that was premiered on the air in 1995 and issued in DVD-form in 2003.
Both of us have been unusually impressed by the scope and quality of this series. It combines interview segments with Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, George Martin, and Neil Aspinall with archival and performance footage to tell The Beatles’ story from beginning to end. Sadly, by the time the principal interviews were made, John had been dead for several years. Nevertheless, he does appear occasionally, speaking from an earlier time.
Kay had known much of that story and, I, some of it, yet seeing the lives of the four as they became The Beatles in the context of their times and in such detail was freshly revealing.
For instance, we really got the years of effort it took in Liverpool and Hamburg for the four to acquire their musical and compositional chops. And we also acquired a deeper respect for George Harrison, who, in my mind at least, had been overshadowed by the songwriting brilliance of McCarthy and Lennon.
Kay was particularly delighted to see excerpts of the All-You-Need-Is-Love worldwide, satellite broadcast (the first such event of its kind) that she had watched as an exchange student in Uruguay in June of 1967.
Watching documentary footage of the huge stadium shows where the incessant screaming of the fans was so loud that The Beatles couldn’t hear themselves play and felt the quality of their music declining, had us understand their decision shortly after a really bad experience in the Philippines to quit touring.
Finally, it was very interesting to hear from the mouths of those who made them how the albums Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Magical Mystery Tour came into being.
There is so much to the story of The Beatles. A small library of books and articles exists to tell it. Still, the fact that four boys in post-war Liverpool somehow found each other and rose from what were quite ordinary circumstances to become one of the most loved and listened-to musical groups of all time continues to fascinate. We’re looking forward to visiting their city and taking The Beatles Tour.