Monday, February 10, 2014

She Loves You, the essay

I've learned that the podcast of my essay is only available in Canada. Only in Canada, you say? Pity!
So, for Carole and my other friends overseas, here it is:

  On Tuesday January 14 1964, I turned on the big brown radio in our Halifax kitchen and twiddled the knob from CBC to CHNS, where the cool D.J. Frank Cameron was spinning the latest hits. At thirteen and a half, I still played with paper dolls and read Nancy Drew. I’d not taken much interest, yet, in the Hit Parade.
And there it was, the sound I had been waiting for: the new group from England called the Beatles, singing “She Loves you.” The music exploded from the radio, and my heart burst right out of my body. By the time the song ended, I was a teenager.
And not just a teenager, but a Beatlemaniac. I borrowed my neighbour Ricky’s old transistor, and spent evenings with the tiny machine, as small as a deck of cards, pressed to my ear. Waiting for Them: John. Paul. George. And even, reluctantly, Ringo.
Everything changed again a few weeks later when I bought my first L.P., Beatlemania. Each song was perfect. But there was one in particular… That soft, clear husky voice singing “Till there was you.” Whose was it?
It belonged to the cute Beatle – Paul. Paul McCartney. That was the voice, that was the boy for me.
I’d just made the most important decision every kid my age had to make – which Beatle? I was, and I would always be, a Paul Girl. When the Beatles appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” on Sunday February 9 - fifty years ago today  - I and all North America saw them for the first time, in person and in tight black pants. And when Paul sang “Till there was you,” I thought I would pass out.
What followed, though, was a lonely and difficult time. That summer, my father took us to spend a year in Paris. I turned fourteen in a city where I didn’t speak the language and had not a single friend. But I did have a dreamboat. I had Paul.
Romantic fantasies consumed my every waking hour. I wrote endless stories - my buddy Paul helping me with my math homework; my boyfriend Paul and I travelling around Europe, in his snazzy Aston-Martin; my husband Paul catching pneumonia and nearly dying – until I reached under the oxygen tent to hold his hand. The doctor couldn’t believe his patient’s sudden recovery. “It’s a miracle, Mrs. McCartney!” he cried.
I was attending an all-girls’ French lycĂ©e, and had no way to meet real boys. Paul was everything. He saved my life. They all did, the Fab Four. Their music pulled me through.
At the end of our stay in France, incredible news – the Beatles were coming to Paris, to play two shows in one day! For the matinee, I paid an expensive $6 for the best seat they had, in the eighth row centre. For the evening show, my $2 seat was on the side but still close.
The concerts were rapture. And agony. There was my love, a living doll, more adorable than I’d ever imagined - and I couldn’t touch him, talk to him or take him home. All I could do was scream. So I did.
On our way back to Canada, my classical-music-loving father - who hated the Beatles, and the fact that his daughter was obsessed by a hairy Neanderthal with a guitar - my father arranged for us to sail home from my city of dreams – Liverpool. I walked the streets my idols had walked, and best of all, I went to the dank, dark Cavern Club, where they got their start. Yes, I went with my mother. But I was there.
Back in Halifax, I turned fifteen in a co-ed high school and immediately had a crush on most of the boys in my class. I discovered a great American folksinger with a terrible nasal voice and powerful poetry, and all kinds of fab rock groups. But the music that flooded my soul, always, song after song, was Beatles.
The summer of 1967, my friend Mark invited me to come sample some marijuana, along with his new album. I was just seventeen, with long curtains of hair and a purple mini-dress, smoking mary jane, and listening to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, for the very first time. Far out. Groooovy. Wow.
And then the best band in the universe broke up. I didn’t believe it - of course they’d get back together. In the meantime, through the seventies, I was busy with boyfriends, school, then work. And there were always new solo albums to listen to – my Paul playing every instrument; John and Yoko, doing crazy stuff for peace. Until that terrible day in 1980 when John was killed, and the dream of a Beatles’ reunion died too. But I was pregnant with my first child then, heartbroken but immune.
As my children grew up, they knew that if they wanted something from me, they had only to put on Abbey Road or Revolver or Beatlemania, and I’d get mushy and say yes. Even my father came to appreciate their music. One of my fondest memories, shortly before Dad’s death, is of him and my mother whirling around the kitchen, singing along with their favourite Beatle tune, “When I’m 64.”
In the last decade, I’ve been to three Paul McCartney concerts. Though nowhere near the eighth row centre, I sit enraptured, tears streaming down my face, as this ever-youthful, generous, brilliant man plays the music of my life.  
And this year, I’ll turn sixty-four myself. I’m grateful for a fierce new love - my grandson, now almost two. From only a few months old, whenever he was fussing, I’d put on Beatles’ music and bounce, and he’d stop crying. As soon as he could stand, he bounced too. Now, when he’s tired but won’t sleep, I hold him tight in my arms, and as we dance, I sing “Hey Jude.”
“Take a sad song,” I sing, “and make it better.”

And we do.


  1. I absolutely love this, Beth. As my favourite fridge magnet says, "We may be old, but we saw all the cool bands."

    1. Thank you Beth for the 'fab' memories; we were both so lucky to experience those years. Do you ever look back and think that your year in Paris was meant to be as not only did you see The Beatles TWICE and pop in to the Cavern , but your creativity, confidence and independence was nurtured ?
      Your final paragraph brought a lump to my throat , it's good to know that Beatles' music will live on. Just missed your dulcet tones!
      PS " Til there was you " is one of my favourite Paul songs along with "Blackbird"
      Loved it! Carole