It's hard to forget your first concert when it's the Beatles
It took almost exactly 37 years for the other person who lives at our house to forgive me for going to a Beatles concert without her.
We'd been dating for six weeks in the summer of 1965 when a buddy and I took a Greyhound bus from Waldport to Portland to see the first of two Beatles shows at Memorial Coliseum. But I had promised classmate and fellow Beatles fan Harry Davidson back in the spring that we would go together, right after my grandmother gave me two $6 tickets to the show for high school graduation.
Two years later I would marry the same young woman (who, by the way, has made it clear that if I name her in the newspaper she will stab me to death in my sleep). However, it wouldn't be until Paul McCartney came to the Rose Garden in 2002 where he performed far more Beatles songs (and with much better sound) than the Beatles did in '65 that this dark blemish would be extricated from my marriage.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The story really starts 50 years ago, on Sunday, Feb. 9, 1964. That, of course, is the night the Fab Four appeared on the The Ed Sullivan Show. They came on at the beginning of the show and performed three songs: All My Loving, Till There Was You and She Loves You. At the end of the evening they returned and did I Saw Her Standing There and I Want to Hold Your Hand.
It wasn't exactly cool for a guy to admit, back in the mid-'60s, that you cared about these tight-pants, long-haired musical outfits (their target audience, after all, was teenage girls) but I did.
I liked their music. I liked their look. I liked what they seemed to be saying to the world.
In a world where I could get in trouble with my former Marine Corps dad for having hair touching the top of my ears (not to mention similar treatment from coaches, teachers and pretty much everybody else over 21), these guys were a blast of fresh air. The fact that they went on to turn the music business on its ear by writing (and owning) their own songs, as well as pushing the pop format into brand-new places only made them cooler.
I not only worshipped them (and a few others of their ilk); I wanted to BE them. I got myself a bass guitar and, with a few friends, formed a group we called the Statix. And, like every other group of rock and roll wannabes (from Elvis to the Beatles and beyond), we dredged up old R&B songs from the past and attempted to make them our own.
But I really didn't see the light until the afternoon of Aug. 22, 1965.
That day the Beatles would do two shows. The matinee, which I attended, featured a whole musical revue, including the King Curtis Band, Cannibal and the Headhunters, Sounds Incorporated, the Young Rascals and more. The first hour and a half was other performers, and the Beatles closed the show with 11 songs: She's a Woman, I Feel Fine, Dizzy Miss Lizzy, Ticket to Ride, Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby, Can't Buy Me Love, Baby's in Black, Act Naturally, A Hard Day's Night, Help! and I'm Down.
Several things impressed me about the concert, which of course was my first.
First of all, this was a very good rock band. It had the same rumbling bass, crashing cymbals and crunchy rhythm guitar sounds you'd hear at the local armory, where you might dance to such Northwest groups as the Kingsmen, the Sonics and the Wailers.
But probably the most bizarre aspect of a Beatles show was the strange behavior of the girls.
Dressed like they were going to church or a school dance in their empire waist dresses and every teased hair in place, they were extremely ladylike, from the national anthem through the last supporting act. But then, as soon as the announcer introduced the Beatles, they all instantly became hysterical.
The final lasting impression I took away was how many Portland police officers lined the space in front of the stage. There must have been 30 or 40 of them, presumably to stop the rushing girls from storming the stage even though that would have been impossible, since the stage was a good 10 to 15 feet high. No one could have gotten on that stage without grappling hooks.
Just going to Portland was kind of a big deal back then. Harry and I stayed at the fleabag hotel just off Burnside where my grandmother worked as a night desk clerk. In those days it was the Nortonia. Years later, it would be reborn as the upscale Mark Spencer.
Before coming home, I bought my girlfriend a pendant at a downtown jewelry store, where I got a lesson in the markup on such items. The asking price was $30, but when I said I didn't have that much, the sales clerk asked how much did I have. When I said $11, he said that would be fine.
In May, we will have been married 47 years. She still has the necklace.
And I still like the Beatles.
(Former managing editor of several community newspapers, including the Woodburn Independent, Lake Oswego Review and the Times papers, Kelly is chief of the central design desk for Community Newspapers and the Portland Tribune, and he contributes a regular column.)