It Was 40 Years Ago Today
It’s hard to believe we’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of the release of the Beatles’ comic gem, A Hard Day’s Night.
When I heard about a special screening of the film on the radio last month, it made me realize once again how lucky my sister was to have seen the Beatles in concert—twice.
The Beatles visit to Philadelphia in 1964 was big news for my 12-year old sister and her friends. The moment they heard about the concert, they began to plan for the special event, even though their parents wouldn’t allow them to attend.
Not even lack of permission couldn’t stop the wills of four girls determined to see the Fab four. The day tickets went on sale, they cut school. All four of them attended a Catholic school, so dressed in their uniforms, they met on the corner that morning, just like every other day. Instead of walking toward school, they hopped on a bus to Convention Hall.
Standing in line with the rest of the crowd was as exciting as anything else they’ve ever experienced in their young lives. They chatted with other Beatle fans, sang songs and shared stories. Little did my sister know that she was photographed, and would end up on the front page of the Philadelphia Bulletin the next morning.
They were caught. The parents were horrified that their Catholic school angels would do something so underhanded, and the girls were promptly grounded. A few weeks later, after their punishment was served, the parents softened, and decided, in my mother’s words, “to let them see their favorite combo.”
A few days before the concert, scheduled for September 2, 1964 at Philadelphia’s Convention Hall, a race riot erupted on the streets of the city. This news sent shivers up the spines the parents, and for their girls’ safety, their right to attend the concert was revoked again.
Still, they weren’t about to give up their dream. They had come too far.
The night before the show, they ran away from home, planning to spend the night outside of Convention Hall. Outside the building, they stumbled upon a large rock that covered a hole in the ground. They pushed it aside and curious about where it lead, discovered it was large enough to slide down. That’s what they did.
When I first heard the story years later, I asked them what they were thinking. They weren’t, they said. They thought it would be an adventure.
The hole in the ground led to the basement of Convention Hall, a perfect place to spend the night. The next morning, upon hearing voices, they panicked, ran into a nearby room and hid in the closet. They heard the voices say, “This is a good place. You can bring them in here.”
Eyes wide with anticipation, and trying not to scream or giggle, they huddled together in the closet. They were certain they were about to meet the Beatles.
The Beatles never made it to the room before the show, but my sister and her friends lived with the anticipation all that day that they would. Right before the concert, they walked up steps, which led to the middle of the concert floor, and settled themselves into front row seats, where they remained in for the entire show.
My sister doesn’t recall the punishment that awaited her when she finally made it home that night, but she does remember that it was definitely worth it.
My Own Lennon Experience
My Beatle adventure also occurred when I was 12. It was February 1972, two years after the Beatles had broken up. John Lennon and Yoko Ono were in Philadelphia for a week to host the Mike Douglas Show.
At that time, the show was filmed in the same building as the local news, and John had been spotted doing weather reports for the news team.
Seeing him on television drove my friend and I concoct our own plan. We took the bus to the station the next afternoon and waited outside. Hours later, just as we were about to go home, we hit the jackpot.
John and Yoko came out to the parking lot and signed autographs for the small crowd that had gathered. John was dressed in a khaki suit with a cap on his head of the same material. In the cap was a pin of a yellow submarine.
I remember saying, “I like your yellow submarine pin.”
He looked at me, smiled and replied, “Why, thank you very much.”
It was all he said, but it was enough. I had his autograph, and we shared a minute of our time. He was kind to me despite the fact that I was a kid who saw him as a Beatle, something he tried very hard to move past at that time.
I may never have seen the Beatles in concert, but I did get to speak to my favorite member of the Fab four, and it was a moment I will never forget.
--Jane Conroy, Philadelphia, Pa.
July 26, 2004