I remember so clearly February, 1964, when the Beatles appeared for the first time on the Ed Sullivan Show. The hype preceded them, giving birth to what would become Beatlemania. A month shy of my fifteenth birthday, I knelt on the cold terrazzo tile floor of our den, up close to the television. When the boys finally appeared, I screamed and pounded my hands on the floor, imitating the teenage girls I’d seen on the news. It was a turning point in my life and the beginning of my dream to see the Beatles in concert.
Not that I had a rat’s chance of that, even when they appeared in Dallas and Houston. My father, appalled by their hair, their clothes, and their Britishness in general, thought they had been sent by the Russians to destroy our country and poison our youth. Between him and my mother, who didn’t believe in going anywhere but Disneyland, I would never get to see the Beatles in concert, at least not until I grew up and was on my own.
Of course, by that time the Beatles had broken up and no longer were seen together anywhere. The decades passed and like most fans, somewhere in the depths of my heart, I clung to the hope they would reunite for one last hurrah. Then John Lennon was murdered, and George Harrison died of cancer. That put a damper on my hopes.
Fast forward to 2013. As Bryan and I watched a fundraiser forPBS , there they were–the Beatles–not as they would have been now, even if they were all still alive, but as they were in 1964. The four moptops in tight-fitting suits and Beatle boots, hair unbelievably long for the times, delivered their songs with youthful enthusiasm and cheekiness. After a break to campaign for donations, the boys were back, this time in the ridiculous, wonderful satin costumes of their Sgt. Pepper phase. One more costume change later, they appeared as I remembered them in their final days, John in a white suit with long hair framing his face, Paul well-coifed and heart-stoppingly handsome, George, my secret favorite, thin, dark, and brooding, and Ringo, who changed so little over the years, gazing out past his nose and drumming his little heart out.
It was the tribute band, The Fab Four. They looked like the Beatles, they sounded like them (passing muster by two fans who knew every note of every album), and they had the accents, body language, and gestures down cold. Bryan and I were entranced. Once we learned they were coming to Austin in May, it didn’t take a lot of arm-twisting from PBS to get us on the phone, pledging the amount required to get two free tickets to the performance. We donate every year anyway, and this premium was too intriguing to pass up. Then the host explained that, for an additional donation, we could get two tickets to the Meet and Greet, where we would meet and greet the band members before the show. How could we pass that up?
The day of the concert finally arrived. Aside from trying to figure out what I should wear to meet the Beatles, our plans went smoothly, we arrived at the Paramount and were herded into a corner to wait with the other Meet and Greet people. Watching the less favored come in and head for their seats, I was struck by the parade of former pretty, young girls and sweet, young boys, now shuffling by as senior citizens. A few young people came, and there were even a few children, brought by parents or grandparents wanting to pass the magic on to that generation.
Finally we were led backstage, where we gathered around the drum platform and neatly arranged instruments. Then the boys appeared and greeted each of us politely and warmly, shaking hands, joking, and giving every appearance of being thrilled to meet a group of slightly dazed AARPsters. Then they moved in front of the huge backdrop screen and dutifully posed with us, two at a time, as someone took a picture with our phone camera. It turned out dark, and soon George Harrison had our camera, trying to adjust it. I stood in a totally surreal situation, Bryan and I wedged between the four Beatles, looking straight off the album appropriately named “Meet the Beatles.” That we did!
As we moved quickly to our seats, I automatically threw a “thank you” over my shoulder. I chalked up another surreal moment as a Liverpudlian accent called, “You’re welcome.” We had hardly sat down when the fun started. They encouraged the audience to scream (mostly at the end of a number so we actually got to hear the music), clap to the beat, dance in the aisles, and sing along anytime we felt like it. The people filling the theatre sang every word in unison, surprisingly on key. I thought of the throngs in Vatican Square, responding to a papal mass as one person.
We got our money’s worth and then some. The show, which started promptly at 8:00 p.m., ended at 10:30, by which time I was screamed out, boogied out, and worn out. I might not be fifteen anymore, but I’d had the time of my life, and so had Bryan. We got to relive together the youth spent before we knew each other.
So hooray for dreams that finally come true, in a way and 50 years later. It wasn’t the real thing, but dreams aren’t about reality. It sounded like the Beatles, looked like them, felt like them, and I probably appreciated this “meeting” more than I would have when I was fifteen. It may be that dreams come true when they should. This one did.