I had turned 5 on May 12th, 1957. It was a different world…a different time and place. Gasoline was 24 cents a gallon. I vaguely remember the grownups complaining about the Dodgers leaving town. The folks were talking about spending $79.95 on a new Stereo Hi-FI music system at Korvettes. Dad was working at the TV station in New York City. That July day we were at the favorite family summertime escape up in the New Paltz area of New York State at a small bungalow colony. Every morning I’d get up and walk down to the creek, bucket and fishing pole in hand hoping to catch a fish or two…or maybe I’d be chasing down a crayfish under a stone over by the waterfall that fed the small pool. If my memory serves me well it wasn’t a brutally hot summer. Just a warm sunny season, cooled by the trees and mountain breezes. We were living in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn in those days and spending time in the mountains was a great escape for the adults, and certainly for a little kid used to asphalt, concrete playgrounds and car horns. It could just be the haze of the passing years but it seemed like a quiet, peaceful and happy time. Some guy named Elvis was all the rage but I wasn’t exactly sure why. Halfway around the world an event was taking place that would change the course of world history. A young man with a strong voice and lot of confidence was in the midst of setting up his equipment. He and his band, THE QUARRYMEN, were scheduled to take the stage at 8pm that evening, in the garden courtyard of a small church in Liverpool, a grubby industrial seaport town in England.
That would’ve been right about the time I was headed to bed up in the mountains. As the 16 year old John Lennon was busy getting ready, one of the members of his band, Ivan Vaughn, introduced him to a younger school friend. “John said ‘hello,’ but as usual he was very withdrawn,” recalls friend and percussionist Pete Shotton. “He was always very suspicious of other people and wanted to make them come to him. He wasn’t always outgoing as a kid, but after a few minutes of standing awkwardly and saying virtually nothing, Paul, being the exuberant type of person that he was, got his guitar out and started playing, and then he and John had this thing in common.” The then 15 year old Paul McCartney introduced himself and within minutes was doing an impromptu audition. He whipped off a few rock n roll classics from Gene Vincent, Little Richard and the like showing young Lennon his capabilities. After they chatted for a few more minutes THE QUARRYMEN began their show for the evening.
McCartney remembers the scene. ““I just thought, Well, he looks good, he’s singing well and he seems like a great lead singer to me,’” McCartney said of Lennon’s performance to Record Collector magazine in 1995. “Of course, he had his glasses off, so he really looked suave. I remember John was good. He was really the only outstanding member, all the rest kind of slipped away.” McCartney was also taken by Lennon’s clever word play. “He was doing the Delphonics tune “Come and Go With Me” but he had changed the words to “Come and Go With Me to the Penitentiary”. After the show, Lennon and McCartney went to a pub together. Lennon was so impressed with McCartney’s natural talent and knowledge of music that he and the other members of the group later asked McCartney to join them.
Years later Lennon said he was a “bit hesitant to invite such a powerful figure into his group”. “I had a group, I was the singer and the leader,” John recounted to Jann Wenner in an interview with Rolling Stone in 1970. “I met Paul and I made a decision whether to — and he made a decision, too — have him in the group: Was it better to have a guy who was better than the people I had in, obviously, or not? To make the group stronger or let me be stronger? That decision was to let Paul in and make the group stronger.”
About a year later Paul introduced John to George and the rest is as they say “History”.
By 1961 I was struggling to learn French in the 4th grade at PS. 186 on 18th Avenue listening to the hit records of that time…The Everly’s “Dream”…Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang” and Ricky Nelson’s Travellin’ Man”.
Little did I know..little did the world know, that a simple meeting of two teenagers in a church garden would irrevocably change not only the course of popular music, but also the areas of pop culture, fashion, politics and media. The profound effect THE BEATLES have had on the world continues to astound writers and pundits the world over. Their recordings, books, memorabilia, and concert tours by both Paul and Ringo, continue to delight multi-generational audiences in many different countries. The LOVE show is a massive Las Vegas hit and all things BEATLE are always newsworthy. Tribute bands abound and Festivals of every kind celebrating their genius are a regular event.
All of this because two kids were introduced by a friend on a warm summer’s night…July 6, 1957… in a seaport town far far away…while I was playing BINGO in a barn in upstate New York.