Steve Eaton: The Beatles and the day I feared my parents would twist and shout and pass out
Last week there was a reunion of sorts for The Beatles. It happened during a program commemorating the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
The program, "The Night That Changed the America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles," was a tribute to the Fab Four and two of The Beatles were there to take it in.
Toward the end of the show, Paul McCartney stood on stage singing "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band" and when he sang, "Let me introduce to you, the one and only Billy Shears," Ringo Starr ran out on stage. It was a moment I had been waiting for since before the Bee Gees were on the radio.
It was a glorious thing, even though Paul and Ringo look strangely older now and didn't sing it breath for breath like I do when I sing along with the album. It was a Beatles reunion. Some say that it doesn't count because John and George could not be there.
I have had a special tie to The Beatles my entire life because I know if I had been born in a different time and place, and had showed up with talent, looks, charisma, connections and an English accent, I could have been one of The Beatles. I was that close.
I remember when I first heard of The Beatles I asked my uncle, who knew all about such things, what he could tell me about this strange group. He told me it was an unusual band in that some people liked it and its music so much that if they ended up in the band's presence they would scream and pass out.
I found that to be a very frightening thought and wondered if I would be at risk if I ever bumped into them at the grocery store or church. I was 8 years old. The way I understood it, if you pass out your body just slumps over and your head smacks against whatever happens to be in the area.
At first I was opposed to The Beatles.
I must have kept this reaction thing a secret from my parents because I know that we watched The Beatles debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. We were in a relatively soft place, seated on our sofa as we watched, and I really wanted to see what would happen. Since my dad viewed long hair much like some people today view cross dressing, I couldn't imagine him screaming and passing out the minute they began to play. It still seemed like it would be cool to see him do that ... if I didn't pass out first.
We soon discovered that watching them on TV did not produce the hysteria that apparently really happened to people in their presence. We could see their frenzied reaction on television. It was troubling. It made me worry about what would happen if they were ever introduced to the president. Back in the Cold War days, having the president of the United States scream like a girl and pass out would have been a very bad thing.
Later, it was a friend who taught me how to appreciate The Beatles properly. He was a quiet, patient, teenager who had a clean room and a unique way of presenting their music. I remember when he purchased the White Album. He invited me over, gave me an introduction like he was an academic about to present a paper, and then he gently put the needle on the album, on the first track, and we would listen from beginning to end.
There was no screaming or even talking allowed. He acted like he was one of a handful of people in the world who could appreciate the music he had personally discovered.
It made me want to be a Beatle even more. I've thought a lot about how my life would have been different if I had been one of them. I worry that I might have wrecked things.
I could see us working a hard day's night and deciding we were ready to go home. Right about then, my tendency to rewrite everything would kick in and I would say, "Hold it lads." (That's how English people talk.) "I don't think we are done yet. Look, I don't want to be critical, but listen to what we just recorded."
I would have George Martin cue up the song "Come Together":
"Here come old flattop, he come grooving up slowly/ He got joo-joo eyeball, he one holy roller/ He got hair down to his knee / Got to be a joker he just do what he please"
"He got joo-joo eyeballs?" I would say in an exasperated voice. "What the heck are joo-joo eyeballs? Come on. Do you want to be the legendary Beatles or do you want to be just the regular Beatles? We have to fix that. We can't just phone this in guys. We have a brand position to maintain."
They would all look at me with that look they first gave me when I suggested we write something instead of "yeah, yeah, yeah" over and over in the song "She Loves You."
I would just push ahead.
"And there's are typos everywhere in that song. 'He one holy roller?' That should be 'He is one holy roller.' Come on guys. We are better than this."
Then John would get really mad and they would have kicked me out of the band before I could have had a chance to keep them from breaking up. I would have ended up being alone on a hill with orders to stand perfectly still so no one would notice me.
So, it's probably better that I was never a mop top. Better for the world. I've grown to love the music and words they wrote.
The Beatles were truly a remarkable band and seeing Paul and Ringo playing together was a great moment in human history. One day last week, I started asking people who their favorite Beatle was and two people said they weren't familiar with their music and a third said she — you'd better sit down — didn't care for their music.
Kids these days. It makes me want to scream and pass out. Just let me get to the sofa first. I'm almost 64, you know.
Steve Eaton lives and works in Logan, Utah. He can be reached at Eatonnews@gmail.com
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