I was four and a half years old.
The excitement from my three older sisters was palpable. They were giddy.
This rock and roll band, The Beatles, were landing in North America for their first gig on the Ed Sullivan Show that weekend. Their show would captivate the continent. Over 73 million viewers tuned in for the first show.
Please Please Me. Do You Want to Know a Secret. Love Me Do, anthems, epic songs I had been exposed to every day since they had released their first album less than a year earlier. Now the second album was out, and the iconic I Want to Hold Your Hand and I Saw Her Standing There were already memorized and blaring across record players all over the continent. My sisters sang in harmony every little nuance to the Fab Four’s repertoire.
With New York being just down the road from us in Montreal, I remember going outside, my little face looking up into a bright blue sky in search of the plane on its way to deliver the goods to my sisters. Sure enough, I saw one and instantly convinced myself it was their plane. I remember running inside to tell the girls just what I’d seen.
Uh huh. And they went back to singing in harmony.
Now I realize it probably wasn’t their plane, but it definitely speaks to my lifelong ability to convince myself of things that aren’t happening.
The Beatles’ North American invasion began on February 7, 1964 when the band’s Boeing 707, Pan Am flight 101, left London Airport early in the morning bound for New York City. It was to be a monumental introduction between the Fab Four and the west. By the time the band returned to England two weeks later, they had appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show twice, done concerts at Carnegie Hall and the Washington Coliseum, played a hotel in Miami Beach and met Cassius Clay, who was training for his dismantling of world heavyweight champion Sonny Liston.
Icons meet icon.
Seven months later that year, the band would play Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, the first of three shows they would play in that historic building in three years. A whole generation of Canadian history is tied into the Fab Four.
Now, I know one person who was there, though just like Woodstock five years and 400 kilometres away, many hundreds of thousands say they were present, too.
But my friend and colleague Suzanne was most definitely there. Possessing an angelic smile, and incredible poise, this highly qualified psychologist still gets teary eyed, almost breathless when she talks about September 7, 1964. She was a young teen at the time and remembers every little detail. How she got to the Gardens. Who she was with. The lineups to the bathrooms. The set list. A true fan.
I need to tell you more about her true love for the John Paul, Ringo, and that other one. Especially that other one.
Over 50 years after the band’s first of three shows in Toronto, I went to a Beatles tribute show with Suzanne in Nanaimo, B.C. In a brief lull between songs, she stands up beside me, and with great passion yells, “I love you George!” to the young man playing George Harrison.
The audience laughed in loud unison. The band members grinned. And I was gob smacked how this quiet counselor could let herself be so in touch with her love of the Fab Four, that she would express it in such an unapologetic manner.
Passion is passion.
Just like my sisters, Suzanne most certainly did love that band.