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Meet the Music Division!

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I was going to launch In the Muse, the Performing Arts Blog, with an introduction to the rich collection of what is one of the premier Performing Arts archives in the world.  I was going to guide you, the reader, into the deepest recesses of the Performing Arts Encyclopedia, and highlight the world-renowned concert series  in the Coolidge Auditorium. But first, this news:

Paul McCartney is coming!

The Music Division made national news with the announcement that Sir Paul McCartney would be awarded the third Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The staff is understandably excited about next year’s all-star concert (TBA), and what better way to launch the Performing Arts blog than with a look at the staff behind the scenes. Meet four staff members who may be the most excited of all; they lived through Beatlemania in the flesh – or close to it. Not only did they share their reminiscences with me, but they agreed to help me recreate the iconic back cover of Meet the Beatles. Here are their accounts of hearing the Fab Four:


Nancy Seeger, Acquisitions and Processing: It was August 1966, the Beatles last concert tour. My sister and I got tickets to their concert at what was then called D.C. Stadium. The memories are fading but what I remember most was the screaming. You could barely hear the songs because so many of the fans were screaming so loudly. The Beatles were tiny figures in the middle of the field and I remember that someone ran onto the field and actually got close enough to the stage to touch John before police hauled him off. Even though I couldn’t hear or see them very well, just the experience of being in their presence was a thrill that I’ll never really forget.


Jan McKee, Reference Librarian, Recorded Sound Reference Center: I saw the Beatles at the Baltimore Civic Center in 1964. I was fourteen and lived in Rockville, so even getting there was a huge challenge. I went with three other friends and I have no idea how Arthea talked her mother into driving us to Baltimore. When we got there, Arthea’s mother threw us out of the car and went shopping for the next couple of hours. We were on our own.

It was the first concert I ever attended. Jackie De Shannon opened for them. I’m sure she was good, but we wanted the Beatles! And then, there they were. Actually, we had terrible seats on the upper level, so they were sort of far below me, but I could really see them live on stage. We all went crazy. The screaming was contagious, intense and very loud. I never really heard anything they sang, but it was a great concert. John looked up at our section of the balcony once and smiled, the balcony went wild, my life was perfect.

Howard Jaffe, Music and Bibliographic Access Team: We were living in Queens, and my sister (who was 4 years older than me) was going with my father to see the Beatles in their first concert at Shea Stadium in Flushing Meadows Park. My mother took my hand (I was only 7 years old at the time!) and my father was walking with my sister. I was too young to actually attend the concert, but the one thing I do remember was the screaming of the girls in the stadium. You could hear the sound from blocks and blocks away. Now it is 44 years later, and I can still remember how shocking it was to hear those screams …

Dee Gallo, Head of Acquisitions and Processing: On Feb. 7, 1964, three friends and I sneaked out of the school building to huddle around a transistor radio to hear reporters announce the Beatles’ arrival at Kennedy Airport. Two days later, my father drove us to see the “Fab Four” perform for the first time in America. And I mean the first time because, thanks to my friend’s aunt who worked at CBS, we had tickets for the dress rehearsal of the Ed Sullivan Show. Later that night, a nationwide audience would see them, but that afternoon, we were in the presence of John, Paul, George and Ringo when they stepped on stage. Stopping and starting, they repeated their songs as the crew worked around them. Whenever they finished singing, we, who had screamed over every note, shrieked out their names. They laughed and waved back, even shy George who looked up only once. Ringo actually called back at us. Like every girl there, I was sure that my favorite Beatle was somehow seeing just my face in that sea of teenyboppers. As my disgusted father drove us home to Jersey that day, we giggled and grabbed each other’s hands. Today, as a Music Division staff member who works on the Gershwin Prize, I’ll probably meet my favorite Beatle, now Sir Paul. I’m absolutely positive he’ll recognize me as the girl he waved at in the balcony of the Ed Sullivan Theater that Sunday afternoon in 1964.

Comments (11)

  1. I too remember the Ed Sullivan show and our black and white Zenith TV as we sat on the floor in front of it, listening to the show. We were all mesmerized. Although I would not have been able to articulate it at the time, I’m sure it was not so much the “shock” of hair as it was the rich, harmonies that converted us all in the first chorus.

  2. Hi, Pat–
    Wonderful shot of aging LC rock fans–My age! The Beatles were the first and last group I ever liked in popular music, except for Manhattan Transfer and the Swingle Singers, if you can call that popular.
    I am a huge fan of the Performing Arts Encyclopedia. I am a docent at the LC, and three other docents and I have put together a sort of tour of the Music Division and Donna Sokol fr Visitors Services Office has made a PwrPT presentation from our notes, so we have mined your online resources for our show and tell, esp. so we can stay within Copyright laws. One of my favorites is the Lemonheads doing a ridiculous version of Amazing Grace. We’d love to take you on our tour and get your comments.
    Just last week, I was thrilled by a photo of Carl Engel together with Ernest Bloch that Ray White put into his presentation on Bloch for the Coolidge lobby for last Thursday’s concert and pre-concert celebration of Bloch. I have been searching and searching online for a photo of Carl Engel with no luck. I even went to P& P and found a not great side view of him and another in MSS Division’s Library Archives that had a big black blotch and there were no negatives in the boxes. Since then, I have written Ray White for a copy of that photo he used, then have been hunting down a nice digital camera to use.
    And this AM, voila! a photo of Engel and Bloch right at the top of the news about the Bloch Collection being available in the PAE!

    You’ve done it again, PAE! I always mention the PAE when I give a tour. It is so amazing!



  3. I have a feeling that In the Muse is going to be one of my favorite blogs! It’s brillant! Congrats Pat and Music Division!

  4. @Dan – thank you for posting our first comment! I love to hear everyone’s different recollections of that era. @Rebecca – thanks so much – I’d love to take the tour sometime! I’ve been on the PAE team since its inception, several names ago, so watch this space for announcement of new presentations and collections. @Jennifer – thanks! Looking forward to collaborating soon!

  5. August, 1965. I’m right out of library school and about to marry the sweet boy I met as a freshman at Berkeley. Our wedding’s to be at the Cabana Hotel in Palo Alto. We and our families and guests arrive the day before, and what a hullabaloo! It seems the whole staff is frantically preparing for our event, working around last-minute repairs and installations. Trucks are hauling in equipment, floors are being polished to a glistening shine, doormen and bellmen are spiffied up. Why, ours must to be the most special event the hotel has ever hosted! But, wait. It turns out we’re merely a sideshow, a blip in the catering department’s schedule, for the day following our wedding, those sensational Beatles are arriving and are staying at this very hotel for their concert. The great dilemma for us is, do we stick around with the screaming teenyboppers to welcome them the next day and forego our honeymoon in Sausalito? Alas, romance prevailed. We left after our reception and missed the entire British Invasion.

  6. I also remember clearly seeing The Beatles on Ed Sullivan on their first appearance. My father dismissed their robust playing and close harmonies as “hollering” but my brother and I were instantly converted. For Sullivan’s show the following week, The Beatles were in Miami, and my mom decreed that we would not watch! When THe Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan in August 1965 in advance of their US tour, my brother burst into the kitchen and announced that The Beatles were performing with a string orchestra — referring to McCartney’s performance of “Yesterday.” My mom said, “You mean they finally wrote something pretty?” I have been a lifelong fan of The Beatles and have read every book that has come out about them. As a committed fan and guitar player, I committed to learn how to play — note for note, nuance by nuance — at least 100 Beatles songs. I shared a performance with my parents a year before my mom died. I was astonished at how many songs she remembered, many songs that she had heard on my brother’s transistor radio only a time or two nearly 40 years before. Today I still love The Beatles, who were more than a rock ‘n’ roll band. The Beatles changed our consciousness and changed the world for the better.

  7. @ Rebecca … you wrote: “I am a docent at the LC, and three other docents and I have put together a sort of tour of the Music Division … We’d love to take you on our tour and get your comments.”

    Will it be a Magical Mystery Tour?

  8. This past summer my wife met the gentleman who had been the town barber in Midway, Ky. for decades (even when my 63 yr. old father was a child). She mentioned what a satisfying job that must have been. He told her a host of reasons that it was not and ended with the fact that “The Beatles were the ruination of the barber business.” He didn’t think it was the least bit funny, either.

    Good point, actually. I suppose the lads were the death of the town barber.

  9. For reasons that I will not go into now I was a teenager with ridiculously short “long hair” who arrived at the Manila, Philippines airport a day or two after the Beatles disastrous departure there. The customs officials went through everything with a fine tooth comb and charged me (actually, my dad) huge tariff duties for an amplifier that I was carrying in my baggage as well as a monstrous sum to “import” a selection of records, some Beatles, some not, that I had picked up in various record shops around the globe. My mother was sure that the negative reception that my brother and I received and the huge bill my dad paid to get us through the airport bureaucracy was Sir Paul and his friend’s doing. I don’t hold it against them, or the folks at the airport, for that matter.

  10. I remember lying on my belly with my feet in the air all in a circle with my brothers and sister around the record player.We watched the fourty five spin round as we listened to I Want to Hold Your Hand. I was not more than seven at the time. Everyone was excited and we all loved the music. The love for Beatle music has never diminished in our family. We all still love it. Now my children adore The Beatles and my sixteen year old has an adorable old fashion crush on Paul. She had a dream that she was telling Linda McCartney (She Loves her too) how much she loved Paul. Lind kindly responded with a knowing nod, “I Know” She said. I find it very sweet that young and old, almost everyone likes the Beatles.

  11. Thank you for all the great comments!

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