I think I was in seventh grade when the Beatles first appeared in Toronto. In those days, Toronto might as well have been as far away as Antarctica; there was no way I was going to persuade my parents to take me as far away as Canada, a whole different country, especially to see the Beatles. Besides, tickets were $5 and that would have eaten up a few months’ worth of my allowance.
Well, someone in my class – I wish I could remember her name – did go to see them and she returned to school with a prescription bottle filled with air from Toronto. Air that Ringo might have breathed! We all took turns looking at the bottle with great reverence. Wow. Beatle air.
Fast forward 50 years (gulp) and I find myself sitting in a metal chair in the middle of a lightning storm at Artpark, waiting for Ringo and his All-Starr Band to take the stage. Soaked to the bone and holding a metal umbrella, I flashed back to the 13-year-old me, and laughed out loud.
I wanted to be a drummer like Ringo and I used to prop up encyclopedias on my pillow and bang along with the latest Beatles records. If I had known back then that I would be seeing Ringo in person, I would have had to have been hospitalized.
I think the majority of the 12,000 other people at Artpark might have been having similar thoughts, as they milled around smiling, buying Ringo shirts and hats, dancing and laughing at the official pronouncement that as the lightning approached, we should “seek shelter.” (Under the tall trees? Under the metal lights?)
Well, the storm passed and Ringo took the stage to thunderous applause and as I watched him on the big screen (I couldn’t even see the stage from my seat on the hill) it was as if no time had passed, and it seemed as though Ringo felt the same way. He joked, danced, flashed the peace sign and laughed through all of his familiar Beatle songs. For a few hours, the world was a little more light-hearted, as if it were 1964 again. I wore my “In Case of Emergency, Call Ringo” button, and in spite of the hour we spent trying to get out of the parking lot, everyone continued singing “Yellow Submarine” and laughing.
There is a phenomenon we’ve all experienced in some way. A certain sound, smell or thought takes us right back to another time and we don’t just remember it, we experience it again for a moment.
For a split second, I can relive the feeling of walking down the street to my Aunt Becky’s house to watch the Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” kneeling in front of the small black-and-white TV with my brothers and cousins. Or the Christmas morning when I saw “Rubber Soul” under the tree. Or getting the new 16 Magazine featuring groundbreaking journalism such as “Ringo’s Likes and Dislikes.”
It was a time of simple pleasures. I know that there have been articles written that claimed the Beatles achieved their stratospheric level of popularity because Americans were starved for something to make us feel better after the Kennedy assassination. That’s entirely possible.
I personally think it was a lot more. The Beatles were fun to watch and they were just out of reach, back in the age without the Internet or TMZ. Their music was great and they changed with the times. But I think there is one reason and one reason only why they were so much fun and why Ringo’s show made me so happy.