The day that I took down the horse posters in my bedroom and put up pictures of Paul McCartney, my mother had a conniption. "What's happened to my little girl?" she cried.
When I begged my dad to give me 10 bucks to buy a black leather cap like John Lennon's, he went berserk. "No daughter of mine is walking around in a man's cap, let alone something those hooligans wear!" he roared.
And, shopping one day with my parents, I should have known better than to purchase my very first Beatles LP in their presence. I nearly died of embarrassment at the comments they made to the sales clerk: "Yeah, yeah, yeah. What kind of song is that?" "Can you even understand the words they're singing anyway?" That's the day I became a teenager. Something changed. And it was because of the Beatles.
Those magical years, between 1963 and 1970, came back to me in a flash flood of memories this week when we watched Ron Howard's new documentary, "Eight Days a Week." The movie contains concert and studio footage, hysterical fans, press conferences, and still images we've all seen before, songs we've heard a hundred times. Yet somehow it is entirely fresh and engaging. It carries an emotional punch that is part nostalgia, part joy and tons of fun. Certainly there have been other films about the Beatles, but this one made me feel like I had time-traveled back to junior high.
February 9, 1964 was one of those, "Where were you when?" moments. I was sitting on the floor, in front of a black and white television, in a friend's living room getting ready to watch history being made on the Ed Sullivan Show — the Beatles' first North American appearance on TV. The adults present made it almost impossible to concentrate, what with all their inane chatter: "I don't mind that long hair provided it's clean!" "Look at those girls. Screaming like that! Where are their parents?" Somehow I managed to tune those old fogies out. I was swept away in the wonder and excitement of seeing four totally SUPER cute guys who were singing crazy, rowdy songs to us; yes, US! Us KIDS! It was beyond exciting — all the way to exhilarating.
I fell head over heels in love. I lined my room with posters and pictures. I scribbled devotion all over my record album covers: "I LUV Paul! The Beatles 4-EVER! Long live the Fab Four!" I got every fan magazine I could get my hands on and stared at each photo as if I could somehow magically make Paul, Ringo, George and John emerge from the pages. I adopted the Twiggy look, bought tights by Mary Quant, and started talking like a Brit: "Cheers mate!" "Watching the telly," and "Where's the loo?" I began corresponding with a pen pal in England, who sadly, never met the Beatles and had nothing of interest to report.
My best friend and I spent hour upon hour making up stories about how we would meet our favorite Beatle. The circumstances varied in each scenario, me meeting Paul, and she, John, but the outcome was always the same: love at first sight, a kiss, and then happily ever after. She and I saw "A Hard Day's Night" three times at a movie theatre downtown. I was insanely happy to see the four guys actually being real live human beings! Running, sitting, talking! It was all too FAB for words! My friend and I recited lines afterward in our best Liverpudlian accents.
At bedtime I slipped a transistor radio under my pillow so my parents couldn't tell that I was listening late into the night for the latest song.The songs! How could they have been more perfect? From imagining a kiss with Paul, "If I fell in love with you, would you promise to be true?" to slow dancing with a boy at a basement rec room party with Rubber Soul on the record player, "In my life, I loved you more," to doing homework in my room puzzling over "Lucy in the Sky" on the Sgt. Pepper album, and "I am the Walrus" from Magical Mystery Tour. The years of my youth played on accompanied by the White Album and then Abbey Road. In grade twelve, our school's choir director chose ballads like, "Michelle" and "Yesterday" for us to sing. We loved him for it.
My parents even came around in time and admitted that some of the songs were "very nice," especially when they heard some lame orchestral version of a Beatles melody on their easy-listening radio station. As we know now, those wonderful songs have stood the test of time.
The final LP, Let it Be, was released in May of 1970. In June of that year, I graduated high school. The soundtrack of my youth was done; like in a film written just for me, the Beatles music had underscored the emotional arc of my teenage storyline.
My generation must certainly be the luckiest ever, of all time, to have been teenagers growing up accompanied by the Beatles —the music, the hair, the clothes, the peace and love sensibilities, all the amazing bands that followed, all the kids we knew who picked up guitars and got drum sets and learned to make their own music because they were so blown away by the Beatles — it was everything that shaped us. Ron Howard's lovely documentary film just gets it. I hope you see it. If you are my age, I hope it brings back wonderful memories for you. This is OUR story.