By Patti Holdraker
There was a time, in my early teens, when I ate, drank and slept anything “Beatle-related”. Anyone from that era, in their teens to early 20s (and many adults as well), were enthralled with this music sensation.
I listened to the spectacular tunes, coming through my friend’s transistor radio… sometimes scratchy and far away…on “Juicy Brucey’s” WBZ Boston radio station. The DJs got us all hooked – The phenomenon called “Beatlemania” was an imported affliction. We had not seen their faces, when we first heard their music, but the frenzy was about to hit the United States in 1964 (via the Ed Sullivan Show). We had finally seen their faces in British fan magazines, imported by our local drugstores and “record” stores. And OH… those faces! Especially one very handsome, smiling, foreign, and dreamy one – that of Paul McCartney. I knew, as did my best friends Nancy and Jean, everything about these fab four, before they hit our shores. We were interested in where they were born, what their hobbies were, what their favorite color was and… if they had girlfriends. Why? Because we loved them…and, of course, were sure we could find a way to marry them.
In the summer of 1964, local Rochester Radio station WBBF, was running a contest. You were to ask your parents to pick up a special ticket every time they went to fill up at the gas station. The ticket would have a number printed on it and, if YOUR number was called, you could be on your way with a friend to see the Beatles LIVE in Concert in Toronto, Canada. Only 50 lucky people and their one friend each would win.
You have no idea just how coveted this prize was to a teenage girl in that year. Nancy and Jean, and I, walked around the Town of Greece, to every gas station we saw and asked, coyly, if they had those tickets that the radio station was giving out? Some told us that you had to purchase gas to get one, others said “They’re over there – take one.” We proceeded to help ourselves to as many of these tickets as we could get our hands on. (It was not cheating, it was being creative and inventive!)
On the week that the drawing began – (you had to listen to the station hourly, even in the early morning hours), to see if your number was chosen) – we used three handwritten sheets with all the numbers we acquired in numberic order. Each of us took a shift to listen for the numbers called. In the end, one of the numbers was called from Jean’s sheet! She could only choose one friend and we drew names. Nancy won! Devastated, I continued to listen, using all three lists..and on the 49th pick of 50 winners, my number was called. I chose another girlfriend of Nancy’s to accompany us and we were on our way to Toronto.
The bus trip was long, the excitement high and the temperature for early September was sweltering.
I was told later that I fainted twice. Once on the bus (heat or anticipation?) and once at Maple Leaf Gardens. Our seats were nose bleed…the further seats from the stage possible….but we were there! They were there! The opening acts are a blur…I’m not sure we even, with the screaming, heard a word of the concert, but we were in the same room with the Fab Four and Paul was actually just ahead of us.
I remember nothing else of that day, that night or the week after. I just floated on a cloud for ages.
The following year, we heard they would return to Toronto. We HAD to go. This time we would buy our own tickets, although they were now more expensive than the 1964 tickets. We had to shell out $5.50…each! My dad agreed to drive us. He left us off on the streets (unbelievable today) in Toronto in front of the Prince Edward Hotel to scream and gaze at the hotel windiws in which they might appear at any moment. (They never did..although we were sure we saw them.)
We proceeded to follow the crowd to the stadium. Dad had taken himself to a movie for the day and would pick us up later. (We had not even set a plan about exactly where to meet or at what time…but somehow we connected).
This time the seats were better but not close. It was during a time before big screens were available to give you a good view. All the acts appeared as ants on the stage. We decided, before the Beatles appeared, that we would try to get down to the stage. There were security guards everywhere, but they seems more concerned about people breaking in to the concert without a ticket, than what the crazed fans did inside. We made it to the stage…we froze at the edge and looked up as the Beatles took the stage — John Lennon’s leg just inches from us, Ringo close enough to toss a cheap ring to, Paul (sooooo far away – really only a few feet) and George near the center. We were not listening just screaming… Why? Because we were in love and oh, so close1
PAULLLLLLLLLL! We screamed. Well Nancy and I did. Jean was a George fan. We took incredibly close photos with our black and white polaroid camera (Yes, cameras were allowed). I have the photos to this day. (I have included them in the story, for bragging rights).
I remember also trying to record them with a small cheap tape recorder. It had worked, but when we played it back at home., all we really heard was ourselves and others screaming. The Beatles even sounded a little out of tune… who can blame them… they could not possibly hear themselves. The tape has since disappeared, but the ticket stubs and pictures are still mine to treasure and share with anyone who will indulge me. (see above and below)
From that time on, at ages 13, 14, 15 and even 16…I fervently read the newspaper every night. That sounds very intellectual, but it was because on the inside of page one of the Rochester Times Union at 4:00 pm every day, there was a column with celebrity news and nearly every night something about the Beatles was featured. We followed every word. And when Paul began dating Jane Asher the British actress, we would cross our fingers and pray that, when we opened the paper, we would not read that he had not taken the leap to (gasp) marry her. We wrote short fantasy stories about ourselves married to the Beatles. We took turns being married to Paul. We would write scenarios about bad guys trying to break us up or hurt the Beatles. Our villains were always some other British group…usually the Dave Clark Five (I don’t know why?)
As sure as we were in Toronto that we could just dress as hotel maids and get to meet the Beatles, we were sure that someday we would meet Paul and he would fall in love with us — me.
This went on for years. My love and fascination for all things Beatles..and especially Paul.. endured.
It began to evaporate a bit when I started dating boys and going to dances in high school. Reality was becoming much more fun that worrying about something that would never happen. But my love for Paul never waned.
Anytime a story came on where his name was mentioned… my ears would perk up (still happens). When he finally married Linda Eastman, I was happy for him. He seemed very in love and I no longer wanted to rip the eyes out of any girl he wanted.
Over the years, I read magazine stories, and books and watched specials on TV about Paul and his family. I was touched by his growing number of children, his friendship with his Beatles buddies, his music advancements…his face!
I told my husband, Ron, when I married him in 1976, that I was only marrying him until Paul McCartney called, and then all bets were off. We have been married for almost 40 years and that veiled threat is still there.
In December of 1989, in a horrible ice storm, my best friend, Myrna and I saw Paul for the first time in years…at the Skydome in Toronto. He was no longer with his band, the Wings, and his wife Linda and their new band were wonderful and funny and so nostalgic. It was the “Flowers in the Dirt” tour and it was the first time that Paul had embraced his past and played Beatles songs on his tour.
My husband was very supportive again, when in 1993, Myrna and I decided to see Paul in concert for the “New World Tour” in Toronto at the Canada Exhibition Stadium. He was no longer a Beatle, nor a Wing, he was just his own man, singing his own songs. We were again, not disappointed, as even in our nosebleed seats, the concert (with big screens) was outdoors on a hot June evening in 1993 and was spectacular and thrilling for everyone of us (in our 40’s). The nostalgia took us back to our teens and that crazy, wonderful carefree era. The songs were every one we wanted to hear. We danced on our seats and left with joy in our hearts.
The “Choas and Creation” Tour came to Madison Square Gardens in October of 2005. I introduced “my Paul” to another of my friends, Sandy, who had never been to a concert of any sort. She enjoyed the atmosphere as well as the concert. We were teenagers again…Paul does that to you!
With each new concert I attended, Paul had just released a new album. While many of the songs were just various versions of “a Paul McCartney” song…. each album had one or two incredible, unique and cerebral tunes .
Well now…I have evolved past the tantrums, and the “I’ll just die if he gets married” past, and the desire to run off with him to a desert island has long faded.
I still read any articles written about him — his causes, his losses, his children, his music, his awful divorce and now happily, his new marriage.
I was sort of coming down from the hysteria of being somewhere near him…when in April I heard he was coming to New York State for yet another tour!!
He has added another date to his summer “ Out There” World tour and would play his first gig after an awful debilitating bout with a virus he contracted in Japan. He would come to Albany, New York (just 3 short hours away). His set list would include songs from his most recent album release and, of course, his classics.
I immediately booked two tickets for Albany’s July 5th concert. My husband, though he likes Paul’s music, was not overly anxious to go with me. I chose a good friend, Stephanie, to accompany me and, like two silly little fans, we headed out.
After a slight mishap with hotel accommodations, we settled in, ate a fabulous dinner in Albany and proceeded to the Times Union Center for the show. Although I had made a valiant effort to secure press credentials, I was, alas too late in the process to come by them. I appealed to security guards, with my local press credentials, and was able to get permission to bring my camera in with me. Our seats were on the floor about 20 rows back from the stage…all-in-all, pretty nice!
Paul, who just turned 72 in June, put on a show that would make a 20 year old sweat and fall over. The phenomenal artist put on a rocking and rolling (no sitting down for any of us in the multi-generational audience) show of 3-1/2 hours! No opening band, only a short break for the FIRST encore (at the 3-hour mark) and a short breather before the SECOND encore. Each encore gave us three more heart-stopping selections. Paul’s new band, spanning the last 10 years: Paul “Wix” Wickens (on keyboard), Brian Ray (bass/guitar), Rusty Anderson (guitar) and Abe Laboriel Jr (drums) – were a huge part of the phenomenal show.
Lasers and pyromatics accompanied many of the numbers, memorably “Live and Let Die.
A very sweet part of the final encore was when Paul welcomed to the stage, a couple from Rochester, who had held up signs reading: “He won’t marry me until he meets you”…and “I have the ring, and I’m 64”. Claudia and John were escorted to the stage, where Paul asked John to sing a quick rendition of “When I’m 64”, which he did admirably, and then John gingerly fell to one knee and proposed. She said yes, and Paul shook their hands and hugged them both. (Lucky, Lucky fans!!!) By the Way, John (Dann) is originally from Wayne County, and taught in Lyons.
I will still stop and listen when I hear Paul’s name, I will never tire of reading all about his life. I will always cherish any photo of him in the newspaper or magazines, but I think I can say, finally, at my age (almost 63 not quite 64)…that my husband can breathe easy…I’ll be staying with him. (Forty years is a long time to put up with each other. Love (and understanding) certainly helps.
I Love You, Paul…Ron!!