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.