30 September 2012

The Beatles Box

by Kirk Woodward

[On 19 July, I published Kirk’s report on The Best Man on ROT, at the end of which I acknowledged the death of his wife, Pat. I said then that a more suitable and specific memorial was sure to come along. In a large sense, “The Beatles Box” is that memorial since it’s inexorably tied to Pat’s special affection for the Fab Four back when she was a teenager.

[I’ve known Kirk since our freshman year at college, so it’s closing in on the half-century mark, but I’d only known Pat for a little over 30 years. That’s when Kirk joined the theater company Pat and some of her college schoolmates had started, Stage Left, and I started coming to see their productions. In 1982, I directed Pat in a Stage Left production of Neil Simon’s
California Suite—the only time she and I worked together. (Pat was Hannah in “The Visitor from New York.”) But I always tried to see her shows, whether they were public performances of plays here in New York City, or student productions she directed at Pace University downtown, where she taught musical theater acting, or community theater at the churches in Upper Montclair and Montclair, New Jersey, which she and Kirk attended and where they always helped launch theater groups. I went to concerts in parks or community centers, mostly in New Jersey, in which she and Kirk performed. Pat was also very active at the high school in Montclair where her children went. She directed shows there even after her daughters and son had graduated, and gave of her time and interest and expertise to help any student with an interest in theater—and from the turn-out at her memorial service, it’s unquestionable that the students and parents, the faculty and administration, welcomed and appreciated her gift. Any artist who gives of herself to schools and students gets my enthusiastic vote.

[Most of my contact with Pat, aside from our one mutual production, was at her home when I visited to see something she, Kirk, or one of their kids was doing. Both their daughters have become theater professionals, one principally a performer, the other a director and teacher. The youngest child, their son, claimed he wanted to be an ordinary businessman, though he’d stuck his toe in the theatrical waters during high school—but Kirk recently informed me that he auditioned for a local production of
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and got the title role. Resistance, obviously, is futile: the theater seed has been planted and will inevitably blossom somehow, somewhere. In a family of Pat and Kirk’s, it probably couldn’t happen otherwise!

[Pat was clearly a good person—people gravitated to her, if the attendance at the memorial service is any indication—but she was a great theater person. Kirk wrote about two “Saints of the Theater” last December; Pat’s one, too. Theater was not just a part of her life, it was the guiding principle of her life. I’m sure she did all the ordinary things an American woman does—buy food, shop for clothes, go to restaurants, fill the car with gas, attend parent-teacher meetings, walk the dogs (they had two), see the doctor, yadda-yadda-yadda. I don’t know. I never saw her do those things. Whenever I asked Kirk what his family was up to, Pat would always be involved in something theatrical. Always. If she wasn’t acting, she was directing. If she wasn’t directing, she was teaching. If she wasn’t teaching, she was leading a group of theater students on a trip to London. If she wasn’t doing that, she was befriending a new theater student and giving free advice. She was starting a theater group somewhere. She was doing costumes or props for someone else’s show—often one of her kids’ or some other high-schooler’s after the Woodward trio had left the building. She was arranging and performing in concerts (of usually mostly theater songs, of course). As far as I know, the only thing I don’t think she did—and maybe I just missed it—is write plays; that’s Kirk’s gig. (One other thing: try as I might, I could never convince her to write something for
ROT about what she was doing. I regret that I failed at that. It would have been excellent.)

[“The Beatles Box” is Kirk’s homage to his wife on
ROT. I think you’ll find it remarkable because she was. Attention must be paid.

[Exit Pat Woodward, stage left. Fanfare.

My wonderful wife Pat, who died on April 2, 2012, was remarkable in many ways. A lifelong theater artist, she was a terrific director, choreographer, and actor. She was a first rate teacher, as numerous messages from her students testify. She could write, she could produce, she could design. She was remarkably beautiful, in my opinion, with huge eyes and a mobile face perfect for the stage – she could look like practically anything. She had a great heart and fought fiercely for people she cared about. She raised great children. She put up with a problematic husband.

All this, however, is as I knew her, in the second half of her life. In the first half, as she grew up in New York City, she had another distinction: she was a passionate Beatle fan in the passionate era of Beatlemania. I have written about my experiences with the Beatles in this blog (http://rickontheater.blogspot.com/2010/10/beatles-and-me.html). What I’d like to write about here is Pat’s experiences with them, in the middle of her teenage years.

A few years ago she and I came across what immediately became known as the Beatle Box. It was a large, ragged collection of pictures, magazine articles, diaries, and memorabilia that chronicled her rock experiences, including, remarkably, close encounters with the Beatles themselves, and with the Rolling Stones and others, too.

What was it like being a fan (a word related, we should remember, to the word “fanatic”) in those days? Her diary, which she maintained through the entire period, would tell the story best. Unfortunately it appears to have been lost when we moved last December. If it ever turns up, this blog will gain a new contribution, that’s for sure.

Meanwhile, we have a sort of detective story. What can we learn, from the surviving contents of the Beatles Box, about Beatlemania in the days when it ruled the world? For evidence we have, first, the contents of the box itself, and second, recollections – mine, that is – of what Pat wrote and said about that remarkable time. First, from the box:

MAGAZINES – by far the most numerous items (if you don’t count cards in sets). There are about fifty, more or less equally divided between 1964 and 1965. There’s only one issue of 16 Magazine from 1964 but almost a year’s worth from the following year. The Beatles are always somewhere on the magazine’s cover, and 16 also published an issue entirely on the Beatles (“Complete Story From Birth To Now,” but I can’t find the date of “now” – probably 1965), which among other things provides, or claims to provide, their home addresses. 16, I will say, is quite well done, with a number of what appear to be actual interviews. Teen Talk, presumably a rival of 16, also published a “Collector’s Edition” on the Beatles, not as well done but with a number of good photographs. (To tell the truth, there are few if any uninteresting photos of the Beatles.)

There are several magazines, like Teen Screen, that Pat clearly saw on a newsstand and bought because they mentioned the Beatles on the cover. Modern Screen, basically a movie magazine, features “I Give Liz and Burton Six Months” by Eddie Fisher and “I Was A Sinner” by Debbie Reynolds on its cover, and its Beatles article is called “Should the Beatles Be Banned For Their Virgin Islands Escapade?” If you’re having trouble remembering just what that escapade was, well, apparently Maureen Cox’s parents – that’s Ringo's girlfriend and later his wife – hadn’t been told that she was going there with Ringo. I’d say Modern Screen ranks well below 16 in quality, and Pat only saved the one issue. Among other one-offs: Teen World (“Group Gossip You Won’t Believe,” “Soupy’s Wife Snitches”) and Rave (“Stones Split Up,” meaning they took their vacations in different places).

Equally interesting to me are the British magazines in the box, especially Big Beat (eight issues) and Fabulous (two issues). How did she get them? England was, so to speak, farther away then than it is now. Big Beat appears to have published a US edition eventually, in a smaller size than the British version, but for the rest, Pat must have bought them at an international newsstand. One issue has a sticker that says “Acme” on it; do any readers remember if that was the name of a newsstand, or some other business, that sold British magazines? As is the case today, there were many British bands in 1964 and 1965 that we never heard of in the United States – Johnny Kidd and his Pirates, the Go-Go Goons, Freddie Garrity, the Barron Knights, all diligently covered in the British press of that time.

A number of the magazines in the box were clearly one-shots, sometimes with simple titles like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones Book. There is a series of four small individual magazines on each of the Beatles – or at least two, on Paul and George, but I assume John and Ringo got theirs as well. Even the New York Journal-American, a New York City daily newspaper, did a special, glossy insert magazine on the Beatles after their first visit to the US. Beatles ‘Round the World made it to two issues, or at least Pat kept two. The Beatles at Carnegie Hall is the best coverage of that somewhat under-recognized event that I’ve seen, with a startling photo of them performing on the famous stage, with several rows of fans crowded into chairs behind them, and their three amplifiers (three!) flanking Ringo on his drums.

Pat’s father was a jazz pianist – he was no rock fan, or Beatles fan either – and I suspect the October 3, 1964, copy of Music Business, with Jack Jones on the cover, was his, and that he gave it to his daughter in disgust after he’d read the article “Beatles Go Home — But British Steamroller Rolls On.” But maybe not – I see that inside the magazine, Pat has worked on the schedules for various visiting British bands, including the Rolling Stones (she has crossed out their three New York dates – had she attended them?), the Dave Clark Five (she’s circled their two New York appearances, including the Ed Sullivan Show), and the Animals (all crossed out – including the October 9, 1964, date in Louisville where I saw them – but I know she saw them at least once).

There are several gems in the collection. In that category I’d include the two issues of Life in 1964 that devoted articles to the Beatles; Pat cut one of them up for her scrapbook, which we’ll discuss below. Not to be outdone, the Saturday Evening Post published its own piece in March 1964. “They can’t read music, their beat is corny and their voices are faint, but England’s shaggy-maned exports manage to flip wigs on two continents,” says the subhead, which probably shouldn’t be attributed to the article’s author, Alfred G. Aronowitz, later a well-known Dylan expert and the one who introduced Dylan to the Beatles. The article itself is snide, though not really a slam. I can’t imagine Pat getting much pleasure out of it. Still, it was about the Beatles!

And one genuine find is a 50-cent item on rough paper called Ringo’s Photo-Album, optimistically described as “published Annually.” Impressively, the photos appears to actually have been taken by Ringo, a well-known camera nut (he’s only in a couple of shots, both identified as time-exposures). Many of them clearly aren’t professional quality, but they’re all personal and revealing, and even the introductory message at least sounds like Ringo wrote it.

There’s only one magazine in the box from 1966, an April issue of Look, and the only article on entertainment in the magazine is on Barbra Streisand. Pat was moving on.

BOOKS – Pat kept two, both from 1964, neither covering anything later than their first US visit. The Beatle Book (which was widely advertised, and which I also used to own) lists no author, and takes only a quick look at their history, but it contains extended individual biographies of the four of them. All about the Beatles is by Edward De Blasio, and it covers their group story a bit more. Neither, it should not need mentioning, say anything the Beatles wouldn’t have wanted them to – “nothing to shock the most fastidious lady,” as the old vaudeville saying has it – but neither do any harm, and some of the bits taken from newspaper stories of the time are fun, like the story of the kid at the American Museum of Natural History who told a reporter he was George Harrison, leading to headlines and flurries of misleading excitement. All in all, neither book rivals the Hunter Davies biography, which was still to come, much less the intensive Beatles scholarship that’s followed.

CARDS – collectors’ sets, that is, not playing cards. Of the six sets in the box, all have pictures on one side of each card, which means a lot of pictures. Three sets are in color, three in black and white. Three sets have text on reverse sides, “vital statistics” or questions and answers about the Beatles and a “Beatles Diary” of entries I’d assume the Beatles didn’t really write. My friend Paul Guzzone, bass player for the Bacon Brothers, points out that Pat must have deliberately collected the sets, which can take a lot of work, and he found one card on which she has listed the numbers of all the cards in the set and crossed them off as she collected them.

PROGRAMS – there are only five in the box. Two are “tour books” sold at concerts, neither with any text, only photographs, both from 1964. One is of the Dave Clark Five and one, quite elegant, is of the Beatles, titled Beatles [U.S.A.] Ltd. Then there are three programs that come from the portmanteau concert shows that radio stations used to sponsor, featuring a dozen or more acts. Two of the programs are from Murray the ‘K’s Big Holiday Show and one from the WMCA Good Guys’ Easter Parade of Stars. Needless to say, the Beatles weren’t on any of these tours. In fact, as far as I can tell, there was only one performer from England on any of them, the redoubtable Dusty Springfield.

SCRAPBOOK – Few things show a person’s enthusiasms like a scrapbook does. There’s no such thing as an accidental scrapbook. You have to want to cut or assemble the contents, paste them in, and so on.

On her scrapbook Pat has written the word “Beatles” five times on the cover, along with the song titles “She Loves You” (her very favorite Beatle song), “Please Please Me,” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” On the inside covers, front and back, are written the names of the Beatles, as follows: “Paul,” “Johnnie,” “Ringo,” and “Baby George.” Some sort of nascent maternal instinct at work there?

The front pocket of the scrapbook, full of items that never got put on pages, shows Pat’s interests at work. Not just the Beatles – she was closely tracking the Disney movie The Moonspinners starring Hayley Mills, a film she continued to enjoy. However, the Beatles are primary. One item in the front pocket was apparently part of a school presentation, with “Patricia Conway, 4-309” written in a corner. It’s a stapled-on picture of the Beatles, and above it smaller cutout pictures of the British flag and seal, and the Queen. Pat has written carefully on the paper, “England’s top singing group is presented to Princess Margaret, the Queen’s Sister, after the Royal Command Performance at the London Palladium.” I’d love to know what the assignment was, and how the teacher felt about the result.

The scrapbook shows Pat’s interest in new ways to describe The Boys. An article refers to Paul as the “bouncy Beatle,” presumably referring to his habit of bopping up and down to the beat as bass players are wont to do. A sketch of Paul that she drew is then captioned, “Paul (Bouncy Beatle) McCartney.” A good artist, she did many sketches, or copies of photographs, of the four.

As early as March 15, 1964, the Daily News was speculating, “Will Wedding Bells Break Up the Beatles?” (It does note that John is married already.) A later photo shows George with Patti Boyd, whom he has just married. The article mentions that a Beatles film (destined to be A Hard Day’s Night) is going to come out. Ringo is quoted as saying, “We haven’t the foggiest notion what the flicker will be about. But our manager assures us that the money is good.”

But I was startled when I saw an article about Paul’s wedding, which in my recollection took place long after Pat assembled her scrapbook. The article (March 15, 1964), by Walter Winchell in the Journal-American, begins, “Girls! Girls! Girls! I have some terrible news for you all… Paul McCartney, 21, of the Beatles (the source of this news said: ‘He does most of the singing’) was secretly married in London about 72 hours ago. The beautiful bride is Jane Asher, 22, a newcomer to British films. End of happy-sad skewp.” “Skewp” is Winchellese for “scoop,” which the article – sorry, Walter – wasn’t, although I remember it got a lot of attention. Nor did Paul do “most” of the group’s singing, as wouldn’t have been too hard to find out, but probably Winchell didn’t spend a lot of time hanging around Beatles concerts.

A number of the articles in the collection concern Jane Asher, Paul’s girlfriend at the time. In one she complains of threatening phone calls from fans of Paul’s. A photo in that same article shows her acting with Vincent Price in the horror film The Masque of the Red Death. Pat shows no anger or jealousy toward Jane; my guess is that she was mostly just interested in any information about the Beatles.

Sheila Graham, the gossip columnist, meets the Beatles in Paris and writes an intelligent article about them. On the other hand, Bill Whitworth, writing for the Herald Tribune, says “A Beatle, of course, is a British rock ’n’ roll singer who looks like an Old English Sheepdog and bays like an American Foxhound.” Whitworth, like many before and after him, is struck by the length of their hair – “Each Beatle has let his hair grow out so long and thick that he appears, at a distance, to have a dust mop on his head,” a clear demonstration of Einstein’s theory of the relativity of the object and the observer, since today the length of their hair seems moderate at most.

Did Pat think the following (source unclear) was funny? She tore this small section out of a larger article: “One girl broke through a police barricade there and kissed Paul McCartney’s cheek. She was mobbed by her friends afterwards. They screamed when she told them, ‘I had my hands around his stomach at the time.’” One is tempted to wonder if the girl was Pat, except that she wasn’t; Pat would have told the story if she was.

A Macy’s ad touts the store’s “exciting collection of BEATLEMANIA,” including Beatles “scarfs,” pennants with chains, towels, wigs “for Boys and Girls” ($2.81), and Young Juniors’ Turtle Neck Beatle Jerseys.

The general manager of radio station WNEW, John Sullivan, is quoted as saying, “I think the Beatles are among the worst group [sic] I’ve ever heard. But then I’ve got two daughters in their fan age bracket and they think the Beatles are tremendous.”

Sometimes one can’t tell how to take an item; it appears that people will say almost anything. For example (source again unclear): “A Treasury aide was frankly worried about the ‘gold drain’ caused by the Beatles, who may take out as much as $2 million in profits on record sales and personal appearances during this 10-day tour. ‘But I don’t see anything we can do about it,’ the Treasury man went on. ‘This is just massive retaliation for what our citizens – Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and the rest – have been doing to foreigners for years.’” Really!

The Journal-American carries a series of articles allegedly written by the four Beatles themselves. My guess is that they were crafted by “Beatle press agent Briant [sic?] Summerville” or someone like him who knew them well enough to mix together some accurate observations, some overheard remarks, and some decent imitations. “George,” for example, begins “his” piece, “You know, at first I thought it was going to be a bit tough writing an article. Well, I don’t reckon myself to be a literary genius. But having seen the load of old rubbish the other three wrote, I think this is going to be dead easy.” Not a chance he wrote that, I’d say. But not too bad.

Perhaps Billy Graham should have gotten someone to write some material for him. “‘They’re just a passing phase,’ he said. ‘All are symptoms of uncertainty of the times and the confusion about us.’ The evangelist said he did not have much hope of ever fathoming Beatlemania. ‘I hope when they get older, they will get a haircut,’ he said.” Presumably he agreed with a Miami mother who was quoted as saying, “I’m getting Beatlenausea.”

On the other hand, Nora Ephron, way back in 1964 (I think), wrote a piece about Paul in which Pat has double or triple underlined every mention of every Beatle’s name, every place it appears. Ephron gets some facts wrong but does manage to convey that McCartney is not one-dimensionally “cute” or “nice” or anything of the sort, but smart, and dismissive of subjects he’s not interested in.

This sampling of what Pat did not paste in her scrapbook may give a feeling for what she did. Mostly photos, sometimes of the Beatles, sometimes of Beatles fans. The Beatles with Joyce Brothers. Articles about the Beatles, almost always with their names carefully underlined by Pat. More magazines: All About the Beatles No 1, Meet the Beatles (“written and compiled by TONY BARROW”), Dave Clark 5 vs the Beatles, The Beatles Talk. An article called “The Inside Story of Love & the Beatles” (not sure from which magazine) seems as interested in Ann Margaret as it is in The Boys. Articles about George’s sore throat. Lots of articles about the Beatles at Carnegie Hall. A quotation by a policeman: “At least the locusts only come every 17 years. . . . It’s not fair. The Beetles [sic] are young and strong. But, I’m getting old and weak trying to keep up with them and their fans.” A postcard of the Dave Clark Five, with the following note on the back (the first three items crossed out):

6:15 – Dress
6:25 – Make-up
6:40 – Finish dressing
6:50 – Nails
7:20 – Finish make-up

That’s my girl.

RECOLLECTIONS – Since I can barely remember what happened to me yesterday, my memory of what Pat told me about her Beatle days has to be questioned, but I’m sure of the big items, anyway. When she and I first found the Beatles Box, we read the first few pages of the now-missing diary, where Pat recorded how as a fifteen-year-old she listened to a “Vote for your favorite song” show on the radio one night and heard “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” phoned the station to vote for it, and called all her friends telling them to do the same.

The phone campaign (well, the record) succeeded, and the song was #1 on the radio station for weeks. That first Beatles diary entry must have been written in December 1963 or January 1964, around the time that “I Want To Hold Your Hand” was released in the United States.

Remarkably, it was only a month or so later that she saw the Beatles in person, and not just in a concert, either. (She did see them perform both at Forest Hills Stadium and, eventually, at Shea.) In early February 1964, the Beatles flew to the United States for their famous first appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, staying at New York’s Plaza Hotel – where, by an astounding coincidence, Pat’s family was holding a wedding, in residence at the hotel! OMG!

The shock of that fact can hardly be overstated. Only weeks after the Beatles first turned Pat’s life around, she was in the same room (well, hallway) with them. I might think she overstated what happened, except that we have photos she took as the Beatles made their way through the hotel. She stood close to Paul . . . she talked with Mal Evans, their road manager, who was nice to her . . . she was next to Ringo . . . at one point she and her cousin jumped in the elevator with George Harrison. They could have ridden in the elevator with him! Only Pat lost her nerve, jumped out again, and her cousin followed.

Who cares. The whole thing must have seemed like a miracle to them. Fans don’t just automatically have opportunities to be next to their idols – although, to be fair, it’s more likely to happen in New York than in some other places.

To demonstrate that lightning occasionally strikes twice, in June 1964 the Rolling Stones came to the United States for the first time. Pat was one of the screaming teenagers at the airport, and, again amazingly, some publicity people asked her and other girls if they’d like to get in to the Stones’ press conference inside the terminal, so the room would be filled with attractive and appreciative fans.

So Pat was virtually the first person to talk to Mick Jagger in the United States. With nothing else to say, she asked him how he liked the country. “It seems fine so far,” he said, or words to that effect. “We just got here.”

Do Beatles fanatics remain fanatical forever? Not necessarily, I guess. When we first fell in love, Pat made me promise that if Paul McCartney ever asked her to marry him, I wouldn’t stand in her way. A few years ago, when Paul was single again, I began to worry. Fortunately he married a lady who lived out on Long Island, for which I will always be grateful.

Otherwise Pat never tried to relive her days of early Beatle admiration; in fact, she was a little puzzled why I followed them so closely in later years. My reasons were primarily artistic; she had followed them because, at a certain time in her life, being a part of the Beatles excitement was a wonderful thing. As her experience in theater grew, that time passed for her, although she enjoyed recalling it, and loved the movie I Want To Hold Your Hand (1978), which gives a sweet, funny fictionalized picture of some fans’ adventures that isn’t all that different from what happened to her.

We went together once to see Ringo and his All Starr Revue, bringing the children, but ordinarily I went to Ringo’s concerts by myself. Thanks to a friend who worked the shows at the old Giants Stadium, she got to see the Rolling Stones twice more, and we saw two of Paul’s long, exhilarating solo appearances, one at Giants Stadium, one at Madison Square Garden. I’m grateful that we did.

And that’s that. So long, honey. See you later.

[Pat’s Beatles fandom as Kirk described it was special, of course, because it was hers. But like many of us who were teens in the mid- and late ’60s—I’m almost exactly three years older than Pat—when the Beatles were the most popular recording stars of all time (with the exception, I think, of Elvis—and maybe still Sinatra), it had its parallel in all of us. Pat, for instance, was caught up in Beatlemania, the sparkling celebrity of the rock phenomenon they were, spearheading the British Invasion. Kirk, as he’s told you, was also a huge Beatles fan—but he was drawn to their musicality and musicianship and remains a devotee all these years later. I fell somewhere in between. I don’t have the musical background that Kirk has, but I was taken not just with the Beatles’ fabulous star turn because I truly love their songs. I became a partisan of the Brit Invasion when I first heard the Beatles’ music and then the Stones’ and the Kinks’, and so on, as a high school student in Europe, some months before they were even released here. When I first got to Europe, American (and, therefore, European) rock ’n’ roll was still Leslie Gore and Frankie Valli—there was no true indigenous European rock then, it was either American records or French, German, or British covers of American songs. Within a year, our dorm resounded with the new music (and I, one of the newest arrivals from the States, was no longer the go-to guy for pop music—but I didn’t care a bit). I was hooked.

[I regret I never got to see the Beatles in person when they were appearing on the Continent before their American stardom exploded. I don’t know if they played in Switzerland, where I was in school, and if they performed beyond Hamburg in Germany, where my folks lived, I never knew about it. But I began buying their records right away. My copy of Meet the Beatles, the first album I believe, is actually Mit die Beatles, the German release. (My Rubber Soul is the French pressing, with, I think, two additional tracks.) Among my own Beatles mementoes is Die Beatles, the 45 recording they made for Odeon Records (Cologne) of “Komm gib mir deine Hand” and “Sie Liebt dich,” the “Erste deutsche Original-Aufnahme” (first German original recording) The Boys made of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You” as a tribute to their German fans, the first outside Britain to take the band seriously. I also still own the 45’s of “Can’t Buy Me Love” backed with “You Can’t Do That” and “A Hard Day’s Night” backed with “I Should Have Known Better,” both on Capitol. But two other curiosities are in my collection, too, something that was rare in the U.S.: a pair of 45 rpm extended-play disks from Odeon. The Beatles’ Hits has “From Me To You” and “Thank You Girl” on the A side with “Please Please Me” and “Love Me Do” on the B; The Beatles contains “She Loves You” and “Do You Want To Know a Secret” on one side and “Twist and Shout” and “A Taste of Honey” on the other. All sung in English, of course, three of the songs on The Beatles were listed on the disk’s jacket with their French titles in parentheses: “J’ai un secret à te dire,” “Twiste et chante,” and “Un homme est venue” (literally, “I have a secret to tell you,” “Twist and sing,” and “A man has come”). Oddly, that last is “Taste of Honey,” but don’t ask me how come. I must have bought at least that last record in Geneva; I don’t know why else it’d have French titles and not German. Die Beatles was a souvenir, a keepsake; the other four I bought because I wanted the songs to play in the dorm. (None of these records is dated, but I’d guess I got all of them in 1964 and 1965.)

[The recording of “Hard Day’s Night” has another connected memory. The movie was released in Europe in July 1964, less than a year before I took a trip to Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union over spring vacation with a group from school. (The French title was
Quatre garçons dans le vent, literally “four boys in the wind,” but its idiomatic sense is “four boys in fashion” or, more colloquially, “four hip guys.” The German title, by the way, was simply Yeah Yeah Yeah.) The songs from the film were in all our heads, and one of our group, a boy from a really wealthy family, had brought along an electric guitar and a complete portable amp system (which we had set up in the train compartment for our cross-continental journey from Geneva to Warsaw). I’m sure he played the soundtrack and we sang that song over and over on that long train voyage. Skipping ahead a couple of days, we were in Moscow and on our way to Leningrad when I remembered something vital: our adult chaperone was supposed to have arranged to pick up my visa for Hungary from the Hungarian embassy in Moscow! The Hungarians had refused to issue me a visa through the embassy in Bern the way all my schoolmates had gotten theirs—I carried a diplomatic passport and visas for Western diplomats had to be issued by the foreign ministry in Budapest—so I was supposed to pick it up in Moscow. But the faculty leader had forgotten and so had I (I was all of 17 at the time), and we were en route to Leningrad. When we couldn’t get the visa at the Hungarian consulate in Leningrad or, next, in Kiev, we had to arrange for me to fly over Hungary and meet the group in Vienna. So they all took off by train to Budapest and I waited in Kiev for a plane to Vienna the next day. Alone and without rubles except what I needed to get through the day, I had to kill time somehow. So I wandered around the city—I spoke a little Russian but no Ukrainian—and sang “Hard Day’s Night” to myself over and over. I was a little relieved to get to Vienna—Austria was a relatively free country and I spoke German by then, so I could get around and talk to people—but I still had almost no cash until the group arrived in town some hours after I did. So I walked and sang “Hard Day’s Night” some more! To this day, I can’t hear that song—which I still love like most Beatles tunes—without flashing back to that spring trip to Warsaw, Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, and Vienna . . . but not Budapest; I never got there.

[Kirk says that Pat stopped following the Beatles as an adult. I haven’t. Not like Kirk—I don’t go off to concerts by the remaining Beatles—but whenever I hear a Beatles song on the radio (I’m a frequent listener to WCBS-FM), I have to stop and listen. And sing along. Sometimes I even tear up. Talk about the soundtrack to my youth!]

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