Monday, February 7, 2011

The British Are Coming

If you are as old as I am, which is to say not at all, then you may remember that February 7 was the day the British Invasion began. No not the one in 1775, or that other one in 1812. I'm referring to the Beatles landing at JFK on this day in 1964. Do you remember where you were? I sure do. I was in high school and, like most boys my age, my two primary concerns in life were cars and girls - not necessarily in that order. Having grown up on rock and roll, I was more of a Buddy Holly and Elvis man myself and wasn't quite sure what to make of these new mop-toppers. Besides not being able to hear a word of what they were singing over the screaming masses of teenage girls, there was something else about them. They were just a little too, well, British for my tastes. I know that sounds silly now, but at the time it seemed odd to have some band from across the pond come over here and take over "our" music. But then again, there were all those screaming teenage girls. It became increasingly clear that boys my age had a decision to make: you're either for 'em or against 'em. It took about five minutes to figure out which side of that equation I wanted to be on, and I have been a fan ever since.

Hey, did you know that when the Beatles played The Ed Sullivan Show two days after their arrival that over 73 million viewers watched it on television? That was 40% of the country's population at the time folks. Talk about making an arrival! Although you'd never know by watching the footage of their famous press conference, George Harrison had a 102 degree fever and was unable to even rehearse with the band. While in New York, the Fab Four stayed at the world famous Plaza Hotel. For about $700/night you can do the same, and retrace their steps through the Big Apple. Or, you can go right around the corner and rent a 1 bedroom/1 bathroom timeshare at the Manhattan Club on RedWeek for about $100/night. Your call. Either way, Gotham offers a slew of treasures for the Bealtemaniac, including the very touching Strawberry Fields memorial across from the site of John Lennon's tragic murder in 1980.

From New York, the boys headed by train to Washington D.C. to perform their first U.S. concert at the Washington Coliseum. This was a small indoor arena, holding about 8,000 screaming fans, with the stage set up in the middle of the crowd - like a boxing match. And while they only played for about an hour, they rearranged the stage four times, so that everyone could get a good look at them. Can you imagine a band doing that today? And get this....ticket prices for that historic concert were only $4. Are you kidding me? If you were lucky enough to catch the show and held onto your ticket, it is worth about $1,400 today. Now that's what I call appreciation!

I cannot really recommend the Washington Coliseum as a Beatle-worthy travel destination. You see, it went out of business as an arena and was a trash transfer station from 1994-2003, and has been an indoor parking lot since. I guess what I am saying is that you'd need to be a seriously committed Beatles fanatic to hit this spot. But you can still rent a timeshare in nearby Alexandria, VA and take in the rest of the DC sites (most of which are free by the way).

The Beatles did not stay in the nation's capital very long, however. They went immediately back to NYC to play Carnegie Hall on February 10, and then flew to Miami Beach for their second Ed Sullivan Show appearance, taped live at the Napoleon Ballroom of the Deauville Hotel on the 16th. At the same time, a young prizefighter with a loud mouth was training in Miami Beach's 5th Street Gym for a fight that would shake up the sports world in the way the Beatles were rocking the music world. I am talking of course about none other than the Louisville Lip, a.k.a. Cassius Clay. You probably know him as Muhammad Ali, or simply, The Greatest. But at the time, he was a 6-to-1 underdog to lose to reigning champion Sonny Liston. Rumor has it that the Beatles tried to get an audience with Liston, in hopes of aligning themselves with a winner. They settled for Clay instead, and the few minutes they spent clowning around with Ali for the assembled press proved to be a seminal moment in American popular culture. Ali famously broke the ice with the Liverpool lads by saying to John Lennon, "you know, you're not as dumb as you look," to which Lennon immediately replied, "but you certainly are." They made fast friends after that, and each went on to make history in their respective realms. You can visit the 5th Street Gym and everything else this vibrant city has to offer by renting a Miami Beach timeshare on

Well, I am off to my guitar lesson. I've had it on my "bucket list" to be able to play Blackbird from the White Album for years now, and I've decided that 2011 will be the year I do it - or die trying. I recently read that Paul McCartney drew inspiration for the guitar part from Bach's Bourree in E minor. Apparently both he and George Harrison attempted to master this piece in their youth as a "show off" song to impress the ladies. And while my original motivation was likewise, it's now more of a white whale for me... nam daed no em nrut nam daed no em nrut nam daed no em nrut ...

1 comment:

  1. Wow Seymour. What a Beatles-File you are. Just a wealth of knowledge about their "first week in the US" history. I learned a lot reading this (since in 1964 I was not born yet!)