The Hollywood Bowl 1964
By Kathy Mignosi
The new Beatles Fan Club newsletter
What first comes to my mind is not so much the actual performances witnesses at these marvelously enthusiastic shows. Rather the literally painful experience I would go through before getting my precious tickets and feeling such rendering anxiety, 24-hours a day. That was half of being the young, full-fledged Beatlemaniac that I was. You didn’t have to be looking at their photos in a magazine, or listening to their songs on a radio to always be aware of that gnawing sensation in the pit of your gut. It was constantly making you cry in y our pillow at night, or kiss the color portrait of Paul that hung over your bed on the wall until the image of his lips had faded. I remember doing my share of crying. It wasn’t something to hide. Rather a display of sacrifice of your inner most feelings of love for John, Paul, George and dear, dear Ringo. You’d make a mental note that if the need ever arose, you would gladly give your life to save theirs. But meantime, since you couldn’t’ follow in the footsteps of “Romeo and Juliet”, you hoped other sacrifices would do just as well.
Such was the state of mind of many a Beatlemaniac. Like so many others, I tried to find ways to save money so that I could go to the concerts. Losing weight wasn’t a fad – but a must if you wanted to use your lunch money towards seeing the Beatles in person. I spent much time outside of classes with transistor radio plug in one ear to catch any word there might be on ticket information while the days dwindled towards the big day. While wondering if I’d get them in the mail, I’d do a daily vigil on the phone after school to the local teen rock station (in this case, KRLA) which ran contests on the hour for sets of Beatle concert tickets. I never succeeded in winning such a catch so easily, but as it turned out, I always managed to see them when they’d come my way during their three state-side tours.
The days of one warm and balmy August in 1964 ticked slowly by. The radio deejays would teasingly and quite loudly announce, “Twenty-eight more days until B-day!” and go into Beatle triple plays. During the months that the group would be appearing in the area, radio stations would average three songs an hour by the Fan Foursome. Was it any wonder then that the hours before the Beatles strolled on stage were filled with such electricity? There was a time-bomb ready to go off, and it had been set over a month ago. The bomb was us and we were going to pieces!
My first time attending any kind of teenage rock concert happened to have been at the heralded Hollywood Bowl concert in 1964, seeing the Beatles. I was 13. I also was to be there in ’65 and at Dodger Station in ’66 for subsequent Beatle shows. But for the first one, I couldn’t anticipate what was to happen—the scene being unique to me. Probably to most the other kids as well. The faces were all scrubbed, anxious and animated. The flush of youth was all about. Not to mention people selling anything they could get money for with the Beatles image on it. But that didn’t matter. The throng of fans grew steadily as we waited outside of the Bowl before the box office opened to let us into the open-air arena. The summer night was full of noise and excitement. Lights from hundreds of motorists trying to pass through seemed like a galaxy of flash bulbs going off in our faces. We all stood around in gangs – carousing with other kids we knew—acting like dozens of glee clubs at a gigantic rally. Here and there you could catch strains f a rousing chorus from a Beatle song being played on someone’ radio. We tittered and squealed, feeling almost uncontrollable as we watched news and cameramen wearing about the crush of bodies, shooting angles of the crowds from afar. Two hours passed as the sun went behind the hill the Bowl was set in, the evening air grew comfortable, and the crowd surged nervously. The tension was unbelievable as we finally were able to file into the Bowl to our respective seats.
It wasn’t until we were looking for our seats that we saw a lovely sight. In the remaining dim light of day I could see clearly the Beatles’ equipment on stage. Some of us went to the box seats to get a close look, spying Ringo’s Ludwig drum kit sitting atop an elevated platform, the embossed letters saying “The Beatles” on the bass drum standing out invitingly. A wave of appreciative screeches was let out as the guitars propped up against Ringo’s platform were recognized. I remember feeling awed, seeing Paul’s violin-shaped bass guitar, standing there alone. I sat for a long time, taking in the empty stage that would soon be occupied by the Liverpool Lads.
My friends and I, as well as the rest of 20,000 attending the concert started jumping up and down, shouting and waving our programs as a local DJ stepped out for a few words. It seemed as if a stray cat had walked out instead, our reaction would have been the same – feelings as keyed-up as we did. The air was thick with the energy each of us gave off like sparks flying from a piece of flint—making us feel even wilder.
My senses were fast slipping away in mass hysteria as I suddenly realized IT WAS HAPPENING! Oh God—there they were—in a sea of twinkling lights from a thousand cameras. All reflected in a huge pool that lay in front of the stage. The wildlife around must have wondered what had hit their hillside that night as the peaceful August evening was erupted into one joyful wail.
Four slender boys in tight, black suits and boots rambled and bounced about as they donned guitars and drum sticks, preparing to attack the night with a battery of sound. It was all so blurry and yet crystal-clear as I proceeded to beat myself to a pulp, watching Paul stomp his booted foot in 4-4 time, as Ringo smashed a cymbal, and the Beatles rooled into their first number, “Twist and Shout.” During the group’s touring years, “Twist and Shout” was the song that got the show going. The concert version was shortened to avoid wear-and-tear on John’s vocal chords. His beautifully, gruff, nasal voice rose about the roar of the fans—“shake it up baby now” while Paul and George huddled together at the other mike, harmonizing. The song ended quickly with a bassy chord, and the four took their low and formal bow that had become so famous. The songs rocked on, broken up now and then by the boys cracking up over a personal joke, or something said during an introduction. Paul stepped up to the mike, being the one who would introduce a large portion of the songs while the others made amp adjustments or changed instruments. Again he emphasized the starting beat with his body, swinging his bass guitar, skipping about with his long legs and belting out “All my Loving.” The music floated out over the arena filled with hysterical girls and bewildered adults. I heard myself happily squealing, which could have been more disastrous to the lungs of someone normal! Occasionally, I became aware to my amazement of the intense sound that the audience was producing. The screams were, as a while, shattering. I h ad never heard anything like it on such a grand scale. That, plus the rocking and reeling music drove us simply mad. There came a pause in between numbers as we momentarily heaved a sigh, the screams ebbing somewhat, while John took over the mike. For this trip, the famous black leather cap was missing. For the other concerts I saw, he would pull some funny tricks with a cap. Throwing it high into the air and racing about the stage. He delighted the audience. He even went down the side steps of the stage and back again. John would plant himself firmly in front of his mike; feet spread to each side, and break into the next song, singing the high notes with a strained, squinty-eyed expression. One funny spot would be when he would forget what album a song was from (the boys understandably confusing the American and the English arrangements), and mumble something while scratching his head, looking over at Paul who would dimple and crinkle his eyes up in a loud laugh. The lull in the audience would immediately shatter into squeals, and the boys reeling into “A Hard Day’s Night”. At one point in the show, Paul assumed role of spokesman again, thanking everyone and inquiring if we were all having a good time. Of course this produced a tremendous chorus of screeches, to which Paul would pull a face at John, who would then laugh weakly and check George who was by one of the amps, changing his guitar. “This next number,” Paul spoke out, breathless, his accent thick, “will be sung by a member of the group who doesn’t get to sing much…” The audience was full of anticipation, knowing what was coming next. Paul continued, his voice getting higher with the build-up “and here is, singing ‘Boys’ –RINGO!” If there had been a roof over us, it surely would have come down. The clammer grew to an all-time high as Ringo sang in his not-so-strong but very lovable voice. It was a treat for us to be able to see the little silent Richie suddenly commanding the spotlights for his one song. The others played along, dancing a bit, hamming it up and looking back and forth at one another. The song ended with an extra low bow form our drummer boy, and a quick “thank you”. I can’t remember all the numbers that were sung, though I supposed if I tried, I could. But I am sure the main essence of the concert comes through. Everyone was having a ball as the songs rolled on in quick succession. The music pounded out of the amps, throbbing from Paul’s driving bass as he put on a constant display of boyish energy while belting out a song in savage fashion. There was lean George being coolly aloof, breaking his deep concentration on his articulate playing now and then, with a broad grin or a quick jig. John’s famous antics and mannerisms made us crack up in-between screams; his dirty old man leering made us squirm fitfully. And then Ringo –sitting above it all—swaying and flashing his endearing smile as he kept up a powerful beat. With every little twitch or movement form the boys, the level of screams rose quickly to a frightful pitch. The group’s personalities, as individual performers and certainly as a whole came across as fuel to the fire. And though we were innocent of the fact that the Beatles’ lives were hellishly grueling at that point, the ently lively, spiced with the sexually exciting visual effect the boys had on me.
But like all fantasies, they must end with a rude awakening. The dozen or so songs were run through, and our loves were whisked away, into an armored car, and off to their hide-away in the hills. It was only the beginning for me, even though the concert itself had ended. And though things have changed in so many ways especially since then, I can’t help but feel that it hasn’t really ended yet.