What are your earliest memories of The Beatles? How did your journey with the Fab Four begin? Jude Kessler, author of The John Lennon Series, shares her sentimental journey and encourages you to share yours! Our panel of judges will award 3 prizes for the best very brief stories in our Comments section below. The winners will get to expand their stories and be highlighted as our Featured Fest Bloggers in June!
Here’s Jude’s true tale:
I’ve told the story at least a hundred times: how 9-year-old Pattie Holly Singer — clasping an early Beatles 45-rpm photo jacket — waylaid me en route to class at Horseshoe Drive Elementary in Alexandria, Louisiana.
“These are The Beatles!” she exhaled, her eyes dancing nervously. “Everyone’s in love with them!!! You’ve gotta pick one to fall in love with…by recess!” That was the beginning of it all, really — the sojourn into the frenetic and frantic land of Beatlemania.
All the rest of my memories that year center on The Beatles. I can’t recall anything else “in my life.”
My father, Dr. Tom Paul Southerland, the Rapides Parish Assistant Superintendent of Schools, was not impressed. Each month, he’d call me into his office and sit me down to begin the standard lecture: “You’re in love with that John Lennon, and it has to stop! He’s a hoodlum, I tell you. A hoodlum!” But the more my dad divulged that “fact,” the more I was attracted to the almond-eyed guitar player with his razored wit and deep, gritty voice…the more “The Leader Beatle” invoked devotion.
Despite my father’s despair over Lennon-mania, though, he saw sense. When “A Hard Day’s Night” came to Alexandria’s Don Theater, late that summer, he offered to take me to the film. He even did some research on it and commented on the cautious drive downtown, “I hear these Beatles are a lot like the Marx Brothers. Some people say they’re the Marx Brothers and the Keystone Cops, all rolled into one. In fact, down at the office, they tell me this movie really shows that side of their comedy.”
I don’t remember my response; I’m sure it was polite and agreeable. But in that fat, baby-blue-and-white, four-door Buick, I do remember thinking that I’d seen “You Bet Your Life” on TV and that John Lennon was nothing whatsoever like gruff, bespectacled, OLD Groucho Marx. I saw no correlation between Marx and Lennon, and frankly, I couldn’t imagine anyone who could! I bit my lip and sighed and thought my father and I, worlds apart.
At the end of film that afternoon, as the credits rolled across the screen (names I would come to know intimately in my adult life…some, like Victor Spinetti, whom I would meet and interview at our own Fest for Beatles Fans), I sat in the darkness and wept. I cried because I’d loved every minute of John’s film. (As Susan Ryan said to me years later, “What??! The other Beatles were in that movie????”) I sobbed because it had ended all too quickly. And I wept because there was no one there to understand my heart.
“Would you like to stay and see it again?” my father leaned over, asking me quietly. I was floored. Stunned! The man who had railed against The Beatles for months got it!!!! Somehow, he understood. And he was offering to devote two more hours of his life to a film he really didn’t want to see. It was a moment…one of the best of my childhood. My father had unwittingly conspired with The Beatles to create a forever memory.
Today, I live about two hours from Alexandria — or “Beatle Town,” as I call it. Every time I have an occasion to drive through the city or visit friends there, I fly back to 1964. I remember it all. I remember asking for my first Beatles album on my November birthday and getting, instead, a black-and-white LP by The Liverpool Beats singing, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There,” right alongside “Joshua” and “Maybe I Will.” I vividly recall fighting back hot tears over the sound of “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you…” and trying to act thrilled over the errant record looming next to my chocolate cake. I also remember climbing into bed that night and writing a very early letter Santa, who surely, in just a few short weeks, would right the wrong and deliver the treasure I so craved.
On a very chilly and early 25 December 1964, as I tore into the thick, crimson foil encasing Capitol’s “Meet the Beatles,” my introduction to “the lads” was finally complete. In twelve short months I had found my passion for a lifetime and stepped into my future career. I had selected not only “a Beatle to love,” but had chosen the direction for my college course of study and the path of my professional life. From that day on, it would be all John Lennon, all the time.
And yes Virginia, it still is.
Now…it’s your turn. Share your first and earliest Beatles’ story with us in the Comments below…let the memories Shine On.
Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series: www.johnlennonseries.com
Jude is represented by 910 Public Relations — @910PubRel on Twitter and 910 Public Relations on Facebook.
It was probably 1962 or 1963 and I was 7 years old. I was on vacation visiting family in Rosemead, California. I just adored my cousin Sharon who was going to Rosemead High School. Also at Rosemead High School was Angela, a girl from England and a close friend of Sharon’s. She brought over a tape she wanted Sharon to hear. We got my grandpa’s reel to reel tape player and sat in Sharon’s room waiting to hear what Angela was so excited about.
Then Angela hit “play”. All we could really hear was screaming and some faint music in the background. It was very scratchy. “It’s the Beatles,” Angela told us.
Not too long ago, Sharon asked Angela if she still had that tape, and unfortunately it was lost.
And that’s how I first heard of the Beatles!
I was introduced to The Beatles by my eldest sister Diane. Unfortunately I was in a terrible car accident in 1976 and in a coma for awhile ! My doctor’s told my family to play music so my favorite band “ The Beatles” I am told was always playing but one song “ All You Need is Love” I some how reacted to! And I have also had the great opportunity to see Paul McCartney and Wings, and the great Ringo Starr and his All Starr band ! Fantastic performers!!!
August 13, 1964 – I bet as I’m reading this now I’m a grouchy old 40 year old mother with about 10 kids (I only want 2. Well, if I am – straighten up ole kid! Remember you were going to be an understanding mother? Well, are you? I should hope so. I’ll bet that now you probably will look back and say, “how could I have liked those creeps.” I also bet you love classical music. How disgraceful.
There’s a lot to love about going back and reading your diaries again after many years. Of course, you have to prepare yourself for a lot of grimacing and the humility that will be involved in the process, what with sentences insinuating you will be old at 40 and running around after 10 kids on top of that. But hey, I did end up with “only” two kids, so I stuck to my guns, I guess. And classical music was the antithesis of loving the Beatles’ music? Oh, dear.
But I am so grateful that I did keep a diary fairly consistently from 1964 through 1967, the years when the Beatles were never, ever far from my thoughts When I go back and read those innocent entries I am simultaneously chagrined and proud, amused and emotional over the heartfelt words that are written there for all to see. As I said many times in those pages, I expected them to be read sometime in the future by myself or members of my family and did not seem to be the least bit ashamed of that.
Over the years there have been times when my love of the Beatles has been pushed into the background, where thoughts of that period of my life lie a bit dormant save for moments when I’ll hear a song or see an old picture of them. And then there are times, like recently, when something will force those memories solidly into my view and there is no escaping the torrent of feelings that sweep over me. The last two years are a prime example. The release of Paul’s album, McCartney III, his book The Lyrics nearly a year later, and then last winter the enormously captivating and important documentary Get Back. Through all this I came to realize that Paul is a treasure we need to hold dear; that we all greatly underestimated him when back in the early days of Beatlemania he was labeled the “cute” one and none of us really were able to see that he was perhaps the real driving force behind the group. But how were we to know. He was evolving just as we all were.
What true Beatlemaniac, and those who were simply intrigued by studying a great band’s approach to writing, wasn’t rivited to the screen. And I started tol wonder why, after all these years, the feelings remained so strong. In viewing and listening to all these new releases in the last couple of years I found that the memories they brought back were as profound and heartfelt as if I were back there in 1964 or “65 or ’66. I had to ask myself why this would be. Is it simply that memories from our youth hold more power over us? Does having a love so strong at that impressionable an age, a love that continues for many years of that development, cement the object of those feelings into our very core so that they become very close to becoming a family member? That love, then, is never really lost, just as you would never forget a beloved family member no matter how long you live or have lived without them.
A few years ago there was yet another moment that brought this realization home to me. My daugher was cutting my hair in the basement of our home where she had a salon set up at the time. I loved this arrangement as it gave me a big chunk of time with her to do nothing but gab. And we’re good at this, since we have a great connection and understand each other well. She would often put on an album while she worked since we have all our records in the basement along with an old turntable. She was a music major in college then, studying jazz and music performance, so she knows her stuff. She often put on a Beatle album, and one time she had chosen Sergeant Pepper’s Lonelyhearts Club Band. We were kind of singing along and at one point she stopped, shook her head, and said, “they were just so amazing.” I agreed, chuckling, and said that yes, they were. She wasn’t telling me anything new. Then I asked her why she thought they were so great and what about them appealed to her. I wanted to hear it from someone who had not grown up in that era. And she started telling me that they were obviously musical geniuses (meaning Lennon-McCartney), that their chord changes were incredible, their harmonies were spot-on and they were basically just perfect in everything they did. I took this all in for a second and then, horror of horrors, I started tearing up, if not actually coming close to crying. And we had a little laugh about that. But the thing is, it was such an immensely profound moment and it hit me so hard. It may sound like a little thing, but it felt huge. Because as Sergeant Pepper’s was spinning and this group of young men who had meant the world to me for so many years were singing, their magic was being explained to me by my child. Whew, It had a circle of life feel to it. An it doesn’t get any better than that.
August 12, 1964 – Oh, Gasp, Gasp, how absolutely fab! The movie, you know. Oh, they were ALL so darling. Ringo IS really a natural born actor. He was so cute! And George!! Oh, I love him so much. He was gear! John was real funny and Paul was gorgeous as usual. Many photographers were there and Channel 2 took films of the lines standing outside the theatre. When the curtain opened I screamed and cried real HARD – at the same time. I was screaming a lot, but I got an awful sore throat so after awhile I just sat there and jumped around a little in my chair to the beat of their fabulous music. That’s as good a feeling a screaming almost.
What a wonderful story. It is very heartwarming to know our kids get what touched us so much, all those years ago. Their music is timeless and will be appreciated and love hundreds of years form now!!
Peace and Love,