In the beginning, I’m just like any other teenage girl…
- Mid-January 1964: Somebody at school mentions a band called The Beatles. Yuuch. They sound like bugs.
- Our January 31, 1964 Life Magazine issue is delivered to our house in Queens, NY. Their pictures are on the cover. “First England fell…” the copy reads. I hoard the magazine and stare at their pictures all week. Can’t wait for Ed Sullivan. Four more days.
- Sunday night, my brother, mother and I sit down to watch. My father, who feels that any music written after Debussy is crap (and he is somewhat ambivalent about Debussy), paces, refusing to sit down with us.
- The Beatles take the stage. “Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you…” Endorphin surge. George. The lead guitar player. Him. We could play music together. He’s mine. After the show, I go upstairs and close the door to my room. Tears on my fretboard.
The obsession takes over. I have an advantage. I’m a musician from a family of professional musicians. I have a chance.
- I get their record. My acoustic nylon string Goya ain’t gonna make it. My brother, who’s already a guitar whiz, helps me choose a Gibson electric and an Ampeg amp from a music shop on Union Turnpike.
- I’m going to marry George. Once he sees what a great girl guitar player I am, he won’t be able to resist. So far, that’s the plan.
- I sit in the basement and learn every single song from Meet The Beatles!. The chords. The guitar solos. The words. All the harmonies. OK – this takes some time, but I’ve got about three of them down in the first week.
- The Beatles are still in NY. Nancy Jacoby can sing melody and play a few chords. She and I grab our acoustic guitars and a subway to Manhattan. We join the throngs of screaming teens outside the Warwick Hotel. In lieu of screaming, we take our guitars out of their cases. We perform “All My Lovin’” and “I Saw Her Standing There.” Nancy, play “Don’t Bother Me” I yell. It’s George’s one tune on the album. He won’t be expecting that song. As soon as he hears it, he’ll invite us upstairs. So, with thousands of girls screaming all around us, Nancy and I perform “Don’t Bother Me.” Far above us, a window opens in the Warwick Hotel. It’s George!!! I scream at Nancy. He can hear us! Now that I’m sure he’s watching, I’m going to show off. I play the guitar solo George played on “Till There Was You.” Perfectly. I mean I think I played it perfectly. I couldn’t really hear it above all the screaming. I just assumed it was perfect. I’d practiced it all week. But George can hear it. Doesn’t music rise above screaming? Didn’t I learn that in physics class: the co-efficient of linear screaming? He’s going to invite us up! A disembodied arm waves to the crowd from a Warwick window high above us. The crowd goes crazy. Nancy! Hold your guitar up so he can see it! The window closes. Nancy! Service entrance, NOW! George saw us. I know he saw us! The crowd suddenly surges toward a black English cab. IT’S PAUL!!! Girls scream as they rush the cab. I glimpse a mop-topped young man behind the tinted window in the back seat. It’s a decoy. The Beatles must have sneaked out in the other direction. We’ve been punked.
- I’m sitting in the 6th row at Shea Stadium with the members of my all-girl Beatle band, “The Mauds.” I’m trying to shush all the screamers around me so we can hear The Beatles. Shhhhhsssh! These screamers are beginning to piss me off.
- The Mauds, our moniker chosen for its proximity to Mods (viz Mods & Rockers as opposed to “maudlin”) rehearse a lot. Our lead singer, Olivia, is tall with Chrissie Shrimpton-esque flowing blonde hair. She can carry a tune. Judy, our bass player, and Karen, our rhythm guitarist, come from Brooklyn. Our drummer, Lorraine, can really play. Her father plays trumpet in the Broadway pits. Lorraine’s big number is “Wipe Out.” I’m the lead guitarist and best singer (ahem). But, Olivia is gorgeous and needs to be up front. I write our first hit, “Swingin’ Type Guy.” Phil Shapiro, another Broadway trumpeter who is also Miriam Makeba and Jerry Vale’s agent, is impressed. Remember, this is 1964. We’re an all-girl Beatle-style band who write our own songs. He wants to sign The Mauds. He’ll put us into choreography for a month, then book us on an 8-week gig in Venezuela. Upon return, we will open at the Copa! Wow! OK gals. Who’s ready to quit school…? Answer: no one. Sigh.
- George marries Patti. I get the news during class. I start to cry. My teacher sends me to the school nurse’s office. Racking sobs. I’m sent home for the day.
- The Mauds break up over James Brown. Lorraine refuses to play anything but James Brown.
- College. Musicals. Bands. I leave law school because my rock band opens for Quicksilver Messenger Service in the Lincoln, Nebraska Civic Auditorium. Said rock band breaks up shortly afterwards. Losers, I think as I get with the Lakota Sioux in South Dakota and learn their songs.
- Mid-1980’s, I get involved with a faux George from the original cast of Beatlemania on Broadway. The show had closed several years before. Actually it never officially “opened” on Broadway. There was some concern about using the Beatles catalogue, images, costumes…some threatened litigation. I didn’t care. I got me an ersatz George. So what if he was a Jewish guy from the Bronx who had to wear a false chin on stage? No need to criticize. Turns out, there were lots of gigs for members of the so-called “Original Cast of Beatlemania.” I got to be the fifth Beatle. I played keyboards and percussion. Aside from the solos (Billy Preston’s “Get Back” and George Martin’s “In My Life”) I played all the “Sgt. Pepper” horn parts, the “Lucy” hook and all the “Strawberry Fields” mellotron samples. For 6 years, we toured the Northeast. We played Iceland and the Dominican Republic. “Are you Yoko or Linda?” I was often chided by fans. “Neither. I’m a musician,” was my sweet response. We opened for Soupy Sales at Browns in the Borscht Belt. “Who are you?” asked White Fang’s keeper. “Billy Preston,” I deadpanned. The Soup fell over laughing. He must have been high. Faux George eventually split with his Rickenbacker 12-string. No matter. I still have my Shea Stadium ticket stub.
I’m better now…
- These days, I keep it all alive by attending as many Deconstructing The Beatles shows as possible. This summer, Road Scholar is sponsoring a DTB Atlantic Ocean crossing featuring DTB’s very own Scott Freiman. Five days of Beatleology then Liverpool, London. I want to go. A lot.
- Maybe if I bring my acoustic guitar to the embarkation point and sing “Honey Pie,” they’ll let me walk the plank:
Oh honey pie you are driving me frantic
Sail across the Atlantic
To be where you belong
Photo Credit: Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison at the London Palladium by Les Lee/Getty Images