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.