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Musically Speaking: My First Beatles experience

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JJ Rocks Article # 136:
From St. Croix Music Magazine, Issue # 28, January 2009
I was 11 years old. It was a time when Elvis ruled! Nobody in the world could tell me any different! He was the guy who made music worth playing and stars worth reaching. It was a great time. But then one day the TV stations started showing an advertisement that said “The Beatles are coming!” and I remember saying “So what! No one will ever top the king!”

I didn’t want to hear that a band from another country was going to try to out do Elvis Presley, and I didn’t care that all the kids on my block were talking about it. I was a guitar player and they were just playing stick ball in the school yard and there was no way that they were as musically informed as I was. So I just sat back and waited for that Sunday night on the Ed Sullivan show for these “foreigners” to fall flat on their faces.

I’ll never forget that night as long as I live. My mom and her new truck driving boyfriend were out at some bar and as usual I was home by myself fixing a TV dinner. It was still a little early for the show on that memorable Sunday, so I brought my aluminum foil covered cuisine into the living room from the kitchen and sat on the couch scrolling the 3 stations that were on the TV. I even remember putting the thin “tin foil” from my food on the rabbit ears antenna to try out the “UHF” channels while I was waiting for the “Fab Four” to make asses out of themselves trying to win over the dedicated Elvis fans of the world.

I think it was around February because it was very cold and my mom must have turned down the heat to save money while she was enjoying herself somewhere far from the confines of a Baltimore row house in the dead of winter. So all I could do was sit with my cheap dinner in my lap and huddle over it like it was my best friend and stay warm while I patiently waited for the so called “new phenomenon” from across the giant pond.

After trying to eat my meal so slowly that it got cold, the Ed Sullivan show finally came on. I think there were a few acts before the Beatles but that’s still a little foggy in my head. All I know is that every time their name was mentioned the girls in the audience were having a spontaneous orgasm which to me at the time was very ‘icky”. I can remember saying “come on! Let’s get it on! Elvis will kick your asses!” And then it happened. Even though the screams were so loud that you could barley hear the music, I could still hear something that forever changed my life. But it would be years before I admitted it. And to top it all, Ed Sullivan read a note from Elvis to the Beatles that night wishing them the best or something like that. It felt like someone just reached in and torn my 11 year old Elvis loving heart and tossed it to a bunch of insane pony tailed teen age girls.

To add insult to injury, it got so cold in our little Baltimore apartment that I started to light matches to try to warm my hands. And I remember having to go to the bathroom on the commercial and to my shock after returning to the living room, the couch was on fire! Smoke was filling my lungs and I was about to piss myself! I opened the front door and smoke started to fill William Street! The next thing I know there was a fire truck outside of our house and firemen were dragging my mom’s prize couch out onto the side walk. Words can not describe the fear that was inside of me. And after a lecture from Baltimore’s finest I sat on the bedside and waited for the return of someone who I knew was going to kick my ass from William Street to the inner harbor.

And as the hours of fear went by on the little clock with the hands that light up in the dark, I suddenly heard my mom’s voice say “is that my couch on the sidewalk!” Then I heard the grinding sound of the key turning in the lock and I slowly tucked my head between my legs and kissed my ass goodbye. But believe it or not, she was so pissed off that I think she was afraid of killing me so she just said “get your ass to bed!”

My mom may have said or done things to me that I would never mention in an article, but that night was a night that I will always be thankful for. It’s also the night that I swore that I would never listen to the Beatles again! Thank God we moved shortly after that down to the shore because it was very hard facing my friends on my block calling me a “firebug”. Hey, it was just and accident, but I was to forever hold those “mop tops” from England responsible. Well, at least until a few years after moving away.

But before we moved I got together with some friends and snuck into the Baltimore Civic Centre and actually saw the Beatles perform. I use the word “saw” because we couldn’t hear much of anything through all of the screaming! And the next day the maids from the Holiday Inn where they stayed were selling 1 inch pieces of sheets that they were claiming that the Beatles slept on. Each piece was going for 5 bucks! I remember saying to my friends “I wouldn’t by it if I was a millionaire!”

After moving and living a totally different lifestyle down in Orchard Beach Maryland, I became a dedicated Stones fan. I would even try to imitate the moves of Mick Jagger in the mirror! The last thing that I wanted to hear was the Beatles. I can recall the bus ride every day to school when all the jocks and their sweater wearing girlfriends would be bouncing up and down in the bus seats when the Beatles came on the bus radio. It was obnoxious! But a few years later my stones buddies invited me down to one of their after school basement hang outs and said “hey, check this out! This is the newest Beatles album called Sgt. Peppers”. I almost walked out the door! But as it played on their old record player my feet seemed to be glued to the floor. My life of Beatles denial was over.

After that I had to go back and learn about all the previous Beatles albums. And even though my Monkees records became Frisbees, the Stones simply became another other side of my daily listening and not discarded. This was the beginning of my versatility as a musician and a listener. I had no more reservations about hearing something new. There was no longer any music that I wouldn’t at least give a one time listen to. My close minded musical mentality went up in smoke, just like my moms couch.

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