“You could hear the elastic in ten thousand training bras expand and contract…”
One-by-one the opening acts were delivered by limousine from a building at the far end of the track to the stage in the middle of the field; The Cyrkle (Red Rubber Ball), Bobby Hedd (Sonny), The Ronettes (Be My Baby), and one or two more. All the time, the pandemonium was building. Finally, after the last opening act, everything at center field just stopped. No more limousines. No activity of any kind. The anticipation began to turn to something else. Was something wrong? Whispers started circulating that The Beatles weren’t even there, which is why there were so many opening acts…(we were kids, logic didn’t enter into it).
The seconds turned into minutes which, through some abstraction within the space-time continuum stretched to infinity – though it was probably no more than ten minutes; then all of a sudden a light went on in this little fabric-and-pole structure in the middle of the field, and out lopes this fellow. The bulk of the audience in the stands didn’t even notice at first, they were all craning their necks up the field to watch for the limousine they expected to carry The Beatles to the stage. Then a few people began pointing at the oblivious interloper in the middle of the field. Had someone on the maintenance crew not gotten the memo about a concert?
By this time the little guy had arrived at the steps leading up to the stage, which he proceeded to climb! He went right through the security police, and they made no effort to stop him! Maybe he was going to tune the guitars. (Imagine that! Someone to tune Their guitars!) Then he sat down behind the drums, took his hat off, and shook out a head full of hair that reached all the way to his eyebrows! Within seconds, the three remaining Beatles jogged out of the tent or whatever it was and joined him on the stage. Ringo was already pounding out the bass drum beat for Long Tall Sally by the time J, P, and G strapped on their guitars.
You think you’ve heard noise? You think the low rumble of a shuttle-launch that takes hold of your corpuscles and squeezes the fluid from them, is noise? Wait ’til you’re surrounded by fifty thousand ecstatic teenage girls trying to outdo one another screaming support of their favorite Beatle as if the balance of the Universe depended upon it!
Have you ever taken a very long, very sharp metal spike, white hot – having just been removed from a crucible – and stuck it repeatedly first in one ear, then the other? Neither have I, but thanks to those girls I have no difficulty imagining what it might feel like.
The experience would have given Torquemada some novel ideas.
As for the music…I heard nothing after John’s “Well, I saw Uncle John, with Long Tall Sally, he saw Aunt Mary comin’ and he ducked back in the alley, oh baby…” until George stepped to the mic about mid way through the concert, and held up his hand.
Fifty thousand screaming voices fell instantly silent, hanging on every syllable as, in that ultra-thick Liverpudlian accent, he announced: “Now, Paul’s going to do a little ditty for ya, called Yesterday. Paulie?”
Pandemonium again as Paul strapped on his left-handed acoustic and stepped to the mic. Then silence again. You could hear the elastic in ten thousand training bras expand and contract. The only movement was that of a girl in front of me, perched on her boyfriend’s shoulders. Apparently she was blocking the view of a young female to my right, who made no secret of her grievance and, for her troubles, received a stiletto heel to the side of her head, (All You Need Is Love was still a couple of years away…)
Paul sang the song flawlessly, the VOX amps on stage – the only sound in the place, no monitors, no remote speakers – must have been cranked, but the sound was perfect. As the last note trailed away and he stepped back from the mic to retrieve his bass (the Höfner, I think) an almost unnatural swell started somewhere in the grandstands. It was applause, at first, then became cheers, then shouts, then screams, then John stepped up to the mic and the first jangling notes of Twist and Shout heralded an auditory tsunami that swept away the night.
Two weeks later my ears were still ringing. Part of me wondered if it would ever stop; another part was afraid it might …