Beatles 1964

Sweet memories of Forest Hills in '64

The Beatles in 1964. [LIBRARY OF CONGRESS]

A remembrance by Frances Scanlon, published in the Irish Echo, Aug. 27, 2014

Aug. 29: just another date in time; maybe, maybe not.

A quick glance at any "This Day in History" listing for Aug. 29, 1964 will invariably note the presence of the Beatles on tour in New York. Similarly, 1958 will be highlighted as the birth date of Michael Jackson alongside the death of Eamon de Valera in 1975, not to be up-staged by Shays' Rebellion, an armed uprising of Massachusetts farmers, in 1786.

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Time is a fungible good, no doubt about it.

It's also a funny thing, that intersection of memory and history – sometimes a sweet, sometimes a sour spot.

Assuredly on the night of Aug. 29, 1964, what living soul could have ever predicted that the Beatles would ironically perform their last concert before paying fans in San Francisco's Candlestick Park exactly two years later to the date?

I believe some things take seemingly so long for actualization to us mere mortals if for no other good reason than to remind us that forever is a very short time in the lead-up to eternity.

For example, as a teenager engulfed in the heart-stammering throes of Beatle-mania in 1964, the night of Aug. 29 was longed for more than the release of Walt Disney's "Mary Poppins" and Mickey Mantle's tying Babe Ruth's career strikeout record (1,330), both of which came to pass on that weekend, as well.

Listen: do you want to know a secret?

On Saturday night, Aug. 29, 1964, dressed in the innocence of imagination, with a sweater of expectation, penny loafers of unparalleled excitation and madras walking shorts of purity's length, I was fetched and ferried in a Gold Cadillac, courtesy of the parent of my classmate, Elizabeth Fox, to the West Side Tennis Club, in Forest Hills, Queens.

Elizabeth and myself were embarking on a life changing experience: we knew it, were ready for it, and what a magical mystery ride indeed!

Within the intimacy of Forest Hills Stadium and 15,998 other screaming fans, we witnessed the Beatles perform their standard live set of 12 songs, including "All My Loving," "She Loves You", "Can't Buy Me Love", in other words, everything we wanted to hear but couldn't and didn't really care as "A Hard Day's Night" echoed in the reverb.

The fact that the opening acts, in order of appearance were: the Bill Black Combo, the Exciters, the Righteous Brothers and Jackie DeShannon phased us not, a nod to the heady legal intoxication that adolescence wrought, fueled by the unstoppable passion of desire realized.

But not quite and not so fast.

Elizabeth and myself needed a memento, not a trifle like a ticket stub or some such. A collectible beyond all others - something that only we two might share with the Beatles, as well.

On the august grounds surrounding that living jukebox that very night we encountered a grounds keeper who instantly – upon recognizing that we were still in the grip of Beatles frenzy and in direct reply to our plaintive cry "Is there anything we can take home?" – cautioned us to await his return.

In a lifetime of satiated desires none seeming took longer nor perhaps still more satisfying to our youthful eyes than what beckoned: that kindly gentleman's return with two pieces of cake from the larger sheet cake that the Beatles had just then enjoyed in the Tudor-style members-only 1913 clubhouse.

What Elizabeth and myself neither then appreciated nor knew experientially was that within the prior 24 hour time-frame, the Beatles had encountered Bob Dylan and cannabis, simultaneously, for the very first time in a hotel room at the Delmonico, after their Friday night's performance at Forest Hills Stadium.

If that inhalation lived up to reputation, then any lingering residue might have sweetened the Beatles' taste buds for that wee decorative party favor.

Elizabeth and myself declined the generous offer to immediately partake of the sweet and instead implored that guardian of our desire to return with the wee pastry enclosed in silver foil where it remained – courtesy of the indulgence of our respective parents – for exactly one year hence in the upper berth of our family refrigerators.

Even though "A Hard Day's Night," the 1964 black-and-white comedy film directed by Richard Lester was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Screenplay Best Score (Adaptation), for myself and Elizabeth, nothing could ever imitate the cinéma vérité of that very sweet day's night, not then, not now, not ever.

 

 

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