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The Beatles And Me

ARTHUR NEAD ILLUSTRATION

I achieved Beatles immortality on the day that the group played in New Orleans, Sept. 16, 1964. I will admit that it’s a rather shaky link to glory and that it was appreciated by only one person who I didn’t even know. Nevertheless, given the improbability of my ever being associated with rock idols, I settled for what I could get.

My lunge to fame began that afternoon after I had returned from school. The whole town was buzzing about the Beatles, who were performing that night at what was then called City Park stadium. My cousin, Marla, had come in from Central Louisiana to be there. I was to be her escort.

She was more excited about the Beatles than I was. As a guy, I didn’t swoon over Paul McCartney’s cuteness. I didn’t know about John Lennon’s brilliance or George Harrison’s zaniness, which really hadn’t emerged yet. I might have been the only person going that night who was more interested in Ringo Starr, not because I knew much about his musicianship but because I thought he had the coolest name ever. We American boys grew up with westerns. None of the heroes of the range had a name that seemed more appropriate for fighting outlaws than did Starr. Such a name should have been native to Dodge City rather than Liverpool. When the Earp brothers faced down the Clanton gang on the streets of Tombstone, someone named Ringo should have been at their side. Instead, Starr’s fate was to be in the back rather than the forefront of his particular gang.

I was interested in the cultural phenomenon, which was underscored that afternoon when the home phone rang. On the line was a girl who identified herself as a friend of a second cousin who had told her that my father worked for City Park. She asked if that was true. I confirmed that it was. That is when she became excited. She was actually talking to someone who was related by blood to a person who worked at the same place where the Beatles were going to be. “You must be the luckiest person in the world!” she gushed. At that moment my fame had reached its crescendo: I was her link to the Beatles.

That night I could barely see the group perform.  The stage was at the open end of the horseshoe-shaped stadium and there was no big screen TV. The real spectacle was the screaming girls who rushed the stage and the gallant police who tried to restrain them.

I never heard from the girl again. I was no doubt irrelevant to her by the end of the evening. Over time, the music from England would take its own course bouncing through posterity, like a rolling stone.

To this day I think of the event as being less of a concert and more of a rodeo. Fittingly, keeping the beat was a guy named Ringo.

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