Tuesday, July 17, 2007

WXPN Most Memorable Musical Moment #1 - Meet the Beatles



Although the Beatles will very likely be well represented in the WXPN 885 Most Memorable Musical Moments archive, their impact on popular music cannot be overstated. In six short years from 1963 to 1969 they either defined or redefined everything we know about rock and pop music and are largely responsible for much of what came after. On a personal level, the Beatles ignited my interest in music at a very young age; I am pleased to credit the Beatles with:
  • The first rock music I ever heard.
  • My first record album.
  • My first rock concert.
  • My first rock concert photograph.
  • A lifelong obsession with music.
The first rock music I ever heard was The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, February 9, 1964. Many musicians credit this moment as providing their inspiration to become musicians. For me it was truly a life altering turning point in that it opened my consciousness to a world of music, culture, and a worldwide music community that I previously had no idea existed. I'm not sure how I knew this exactly at the age of ten, but somehow through the news coverage leading up to The Beatles' appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, it became clear that this music was something that parents were not supposed to like. Many parents detested the Beatles, mostly due to their hairstyles and the "yeah yeah yeah" element of their music; mine didn't, and yet I remember feigning disinterest at the time and then watching the Sullivan show secretly on the upstairs television on a small screen set (all television sets in those days were black and white).


Photo courtesy of THE BEATLES ARE COMING! by Bruce Spizer (498 Press)

My first record album: In the wake of the Ed Sullivan show, I immediately dropped the pretense of disinterest and convinced my mom to buy me a Beatles album, and Meet the Beatles became the very first album in my collection. My then eight year old sister Sara wanted a Beatles album too, but sadly the only other album available at the time was The Beatles with Tony Sheridan, a bummer of major proportions; a previously unknown pop singer doing cheesy material like "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean", backed up by the Beatles and recorded in 1961. This musical disaster was set right soon after, when the movie A Hard Day's Night came out and Sara became the proud owner of the A Hard Day's Night soundtrack album, and even though the album was comprised of approximately half film score music, it had all the great new Beatles songs from the movie.

By the end of 1965, my record collection was off and running with every Beatles album and single then available in the United States. For the duration of the Beatles career, I was right there on most release dates for every new album and single, including being turned away from the center city Philadelphia Sam Goody store on the day that The Beatles Yesterday and Today was to be released, when the famous Butcher cover got recalled and the release was delayed while the replacement cover was produced.

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My first rock concert was The Beatles at JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, 8/16/66. By then I was age 12, Sara was age 10 and our mom bought the tickets and took us to the concert in spite of not being comfortable in large crowds, thanks mom! Bobby Hebb ("Sunny") and the Cyrkle ("Red Rubber Ball" and "Turn Down Day") opened, among others. Sara refreshed my memory of the concert, adding:

"Do you remember that there was a thunderstorm that night. How it was humid and drizzly with rumbles of thunder? How the sound system was tinny and we were so far away we had to look through Mom's opera glasses? Best. Concert, Ever!"

Great memory Sara, web accounts also describe the thunderstorms that threatened all during the concert and finally let loose within minutes after the show ended. The concert took place in the curved part of the horseshoe shaped stadium. As a result of the controversy surrounding Lennon's comment earlier in the year that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, attendance on the 1966 tour was much smaller than previous Beatles tours, the crowd at this show is listed at various internet sources as approximately 21,000 (the capacity of JFK Stadium is conservatively listed as 75,000, it once hosted a crowd of over 100,000).

We sat fairly high up in the stadium away from the crowd, the Beatles were tiny, way down on the stage. The copy of the yellow ticket stub above is courtesy of RareBeatles.com, the orange ticket stub is courtesy of Sara. Here is the setlist for the 1966 U.S. tour as listed on Beatlemania.ca.
  • Rock And Roll Music
  • She's a Woman
  • If I Needed Someone
  • Baby's In Black
  • Day Tripper
  • I Feel Fine
  • Yesterday
  • I Wanna Be Your Man
  • Nowhere Man
  • Paperback Writer
  • I'm Down





My first rock concert photographs (above) were taken with a Kodak Retinette 1A, given to me by my grandmom, essentially a 35mm starter camera with a fixed 50mm lens (no telephoto). The above are enlarged scans of slides taken with that camera at JFK Stadium on 8/16/66.



And here is what it actually looked like:



This is a shot of the Cyrkle, one of the opening acts. The slightly better resolution suggests that this picture was taken from our original seats before moving higher up. The Beatles' drum kit is the one on the riser.



I also shot a reel of 8mm silent movie film at the concert, just to additionally document the experience. The Beatles look so small in the resulting movie that when showing it to people, I would set the projector in the next room, to get as much enlargement on the screen as possible.

A lifelong obsession with music. As the tag line on this blog states, music has the unique power to make life better. That conclusion is the result of many years of listening, concert going, record collecting, working in radio, reading, writing, and photography, all about music. And it all began for me on the night of February 9, 1964, sometime between 8-9pm. That this blog allows my interest in music, photography and writing to intersect is perhaps the greatest reason that I do it.


8 comments:

Charlie said...

This is a great post. I'm going to make sure some of my friends see it! There aren't many people outside of Larry Kane who could discuss their Beatles concert experience in this detail. Thoroughly enjoyable! Unfortunately I didn't have this great experience.

BeatleErik said...

What a cool story! I'm making a documentary film about The Beatles 1966 Tour, could I interview you and your sister about your JFK Stadium experience? My contact is erik@eatdesign.com and I would really hope to hear from you soon!

Thanks!

William Kates said...

An anonymous reader today questioned the authenticity of both the setlists and the photos in this article and also the Cream/Blind Faith article. In both posts it is clearly stated that the setlists are representative of the tour and are not from the particular show. If you have the exact setlist from these shows and wish to share the information, please post the setlist as a comment and I will publish it.

Regarding the photos, I attended the shows and took the pictures and stand by their authenticity. If anyone has additional/better photos from these shows and would like to share them, please contact me by email and I'll be glad to publish them here.

Ed said...

I also attended this concert. I had just turned 16 and went with my girlfriend. I remember she was hot! She loved the Beatles more than anything in the world. Every time one of the other acts would be on the field coming to the stage everyone would start screaming thinking it was the Beatles. When the Beatles finally took the stage, the first thing she noticed was that George Harrison was wearing white socks - so uncool in those days! I remember they had on dark suits (maybe very dark green) and his white socks really stood out. Best time of my life. Many years later got to meet John Lennon, which also was a highlight of my life.

William Kates said...

Steve from Florida offered this remembrance by email, thanks so much Steve. If you were at the Philadelphia show or any other on the same tour, Steve would love to hear from you, email stevekanski@expedientsoftware.com

Hi William,

I was really excited to find your web site. I, too, was at the Beatles concert at JFK on August 16, 1966. I was 16 years old and I took a bus excursion from Williamsport, PA to Philly to see the concert. I was a huge Beatles fan at the time, and still am.

I am trying to get in touch with others who might have been at the concert so that we can share memories and/or any pics, videos, or recordings of that momentous event. I have placed an add on Craig's list and so far have heard back from two people who were there.

My memories from that night include a 10-minute version of Sunny by Bobby Hebb and an incredible concert by the Cyrcle, who mimiced many other groups like the Beach Boys and the Four Seasons. My recollection has the Beatles opening up with "Long Tall Sally", but others disagree. Their memory have the Beatles opening with a different tune.

If you would like, I will keep you posted on anything of import that I come across.

Keep in touch,

Thanks,

-Steve

william said...

wow, just found this page with pix of the beatles. i was there also. believe it or not, i had a very hip grandmother who took my sister and i. yes the suits were very dark greenmand george did have white socks on. i was in the 15th row and being a musician remember it very well. if you listened you could hear them through the screaming. i still have the tickets today. $5.00 including city tax they said. what a night. i remember going there we got off the bus and they were playing revolver in the venue. i went nuts thinking we were missing them. so many opening acts too. the cyrkle, ronnetes, bobby hebb and i believe 1 more.again, what a night.
bill saltzer
audubon, nj

Anonymous said...

hey! i was also at that concert. a friend of mine won 2 tickets on the radio and she asked me to go with her!
my younger brother was soooo jealous. he kept trying to convince me to let him go instead of me....yeah sure...
i was 14 and remember being pretty far up in the stadium.
the beatles looked tiny and the girls around us were screaming and crying so loud we could barely hear the music. i was shocked to actually see them cry. didn't keep my ticket stub...years later i saw julian lennon in san francisco and i was the only one who jumped up when he came on stage and i screamed...my swiss boyfriend (now husband) was embarassed...for me, it was like seeing john lennon, always my favorite beatle.

i love reading these posts...hurray for the internet!

greetings from the swiss alps
rebecca

Phil Duvilla said...

Forty six years ago today my then girlfriend and I were at the Beatles concert at JFK stadium in Philadelphia. I was 18 and she was 15 and we were neighbors in a small town in South Jersey. It was the first concert for the both of us.I remember I asked her to go with me and she said you'll have to ask my father. I got up the nerve to ask him and he referred to the controversy about John's "more popular than Jesus" remark. Frankly I didn't give a damn about that-I just wanted to date his lovely daughter and see the Beatles. A brief discussion about the comment ensued after which he gave permission for me to take her to the concert. Many years later I found out that he was a great music fan who loved Sinatra. He probably was secretly happy to have his daughter hear the most famous musicians of the day. I remmeber little of the concert except much screaming and excitement and thousands of flashbulbs igniting. The show was a great thrill and a highlight of my life.