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by William H. Benson

February 10, 2000

     In early February of 1964 I was in the fourth grade.  One evening I was sitting in the chair at Don’s Barbershop getting my hair cut and watching television when I heard Walter Cronkite announce that the Beatles had just arrived in New York City.  “What are the Beatles?” I asked.  No one, including the barber, seemed to know because they did not answer.  I watched and noticed that their hair was longer than normal for 1964, and here I was getting a crew cut.  Little did I realize it at the time, but sitting in that barber chair, I was witnessing a revolution; the English were invading America.

     Later I learned that their names were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr and that they were from Liverpool, England.  That Sunday night they were on the “Ed Sullivan Show” singing “She Loves You, Yea! Yea!”.   What was amazing was the effect those four had upon the crowds of girls who were either sobbing or shouting or both.

     In August of that year the Beatles returned to San Francisco for a 23-city tour of America which solidified their complete hold upon America’s music.  At one time five of their songs held the top slots on the charts.  Their songs initiated a new direction in rock music with a sense of melody rather than just a strong beat, and the imaginative lyrics were much more meaningful.

     Who growing up in the 1960’s could ever get those Beatles’ tunes out of their heads?  “Love Me Do”, “Please, Please Me”, “A Hard Day’s Night”, “Eight Days a Week”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, “Nowhere Man”, “Eleanor Rigby”, “Michelle”, “Yesterday”, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, “Hey Jude!”, “Come Together”, “Something”, “Get Back”, “Revolution”, and “Let it Be”.  Each of them brings on a flood of memories that cannot ever be stamped out.  Vastly influential and wildly innovative, the group achieved unimaginable fame and wealth.

     By 1970 John and Ringo were thirty, and Paul and George were twenty-eight.  It was Paul who decided to end the group.  He said the split was the result of “personal differences, business differences, musical differences–but most of all because I have a better time with my family.”

     John deteriorated into weirdness–Indian mysticism, fad diets, drink, cigarettes, and drugs, all done alongside Yoko Ono.  Then, in December of 1980 a guy from Hawaii, Mark David Chapman, shot and killed the very strange John Lennon in front of his Manhattan apartment.

     Meanwhile, Paul married Linda Eastman and carved out a respectable life.  Their marriage lasted twenty-nine years, and they raised four children.  The Queen thought he was exceptional when she knighted him “Sir” Paul McCartney.  Absent from that event though was Linda who was battling breast cancer.  She died on April 17, 1998 at their private ranch near Tucson.  Paul’s statement said it best, “We will never get over it, but I think we will come to accept it.”

     Then, on the night of December 30, 1999 Michael Abram broke a window in George Harrison’s home (thirty miles west of London on the Thames), crawled in, and stabbed the former Beatle in the chest.  Just the month before the attacker had been released from a hospital psychiatric ward.  His mother said, “He has been running in pubs shouting about the Beatles.  He hates them and even believes they are witches and takes their lyrics seriously.  He started to wear a Walkman to play music to stop the voices in his head.”  Harrison suffered a punctured lung but will, no doubt, redouble his home’s security.


     Thirty-six years ago the Beatles arrived and ushered in new music, new lyrics, a new hair-style, and even new clothes.  It was a successful and bloodless Revolution;  America was ready for it.  But, as it always does, life marches on, and the Beatles lived long enough to share in its tragedies.  However, the songs just do not change;  they still bubble with that Liverpoolian vision of youth and life and love.  “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away.  Now it seems they’re here to stay.  Oh, I believe in Yesterday. . . . Nowhere man please listen. . . . and strawberry fields– forever.”