Thanks to TCM network’s airing of a great, innovative movie this past Saturday night, I found myself looking back on one of the big events of my life. The particular event also took place on a Saturday; but it happened in 1964, rather than 2017. In the summer of ‘64, the Beatles, who changed what popular music sounded like, what fashion looked like, what was considered groovy or grotty, announced the release of an LP and movie, both entitled “A Hard Day’s Night”. All around the world, teenagers anxiously awaited their chance to see and hear the new creations from their Fab Four.
In Yakima, the Capitol Theater was the venue where the movie’s premier was slated to take place. And, I was there! Were you? Those of us who were, enjoyed an amazing summer Saturday afternoon that we’ll most likely never, ever forget.
Arriving around noon, we Beatles super-fans, dressed in our coolest Brit fashions (“clothes for teenagers”, to quote the movie), bought at stores like the Bon Marche and People’s, paid for our tickets, joined a long line which snaked around the block, and began our seemingly endless wait for the Capitol’s doors to swing open. The line was composed pretty much equally of boys and girls. — And, I doubt anyone beyond college age was in attendance.
BTW, not to be outdone, I was wearing my very own Beatle boots. I’d purchased the beautiful black boots to wear when I played rhythm guitar in the Esquires, a Naches surf-rock band I joined when I was fourteen.
The Capitol’s massive doors finally opened, and we streamed into the theater, stopping for a minute in the lobby to stock up on hot buttered popcorn, Junior Mints, bon bons, sodas – our favorite treats. Then we moved through the inner doors, walked down the carpeted, sloping ramp, and found our seats.
The excitement in the air was palpable. Everyone was chattering away, laughing, gossiping, meeting new people; but mainly, waiting. Waiting in the historic theater for one of teenaged Yakima’s biggest moments to begin. (We had yet to refer to the Capitol Theater as “historic”– that’s a modern-day description.)
Suddenly, I heard a bunch of girls scream, so I looked around; and I saw Rob Haney, a Davis High student, running to the front of the theater, where, wearing a big smile, he waved to everybody. The girls were screaming because long-haired Rob looked an awful lot like Paul. It was definitely Rob’s big day. – I don’t know how he got away with sporting a Beatle haircut. At my school, West Valley High, a boy got sent home from school for wearing long locks. – Because grownups….
Finally the lights dimmed to the point where the Capitol became completely dark. And then, we heard that opening chord. You know the one! “A Hard Day’s Night” had begun. – And you know, it was like watching someone land on the moon or something. It was just amazing.
One of the best parts of the movie, filmed artistically in black and white, was getting to see John, Paul, George and Ringo sing and play. The boys performed a bunch of great songs, many of which were brand new to us Yakima kids. Each and every time a certain Beatle was shown playing his instrument, those audience members who considered him their favorite would yell and scream. I even got in on the act, yelling “Ringo!” whenever my favorite Beatle was shown shaking his head, with hair flying, while he pounded away on the drums, harder than any drummer I’d ever seen. Occasionally, the screaming became so loud that it was hard to hear the songs – just like at one of their concerts.
Periodically, the big auditorium got quieter, for example, when Ringo took his long walk along the river, “going parading”, while an instrumental version of “This Boy” played in the background. But most of the time, there was a good deal of audience participation, in the form of screaming, yelling, and even crying….
No pun intended, but the funny thing about the movie is, it was a comedy. The Beatles could have just put together a bunch of backstage scenes, and shots of them performing, and called it a movie. But they took the extra step, and made a hilarious film. — I recently learned that virtually every line was scripted. I found that surprising, because the Fab Four’s banter was so authentic and casual. It turns out that one of the film’s writers spent a good deal of time with each Beatle, in order to nail down each one’s style. The witticisms and figures of speech in the movie came rapid-fire, each topping the preceding one. — Honestly, the movie helped change the way the world talked.
I thought it was so much fun to see Paul’s grandfather, the “clean old man”, get into mischief. I loved his spunk. — I find it pretty darn funny to I realize that I’ve surpassed him in age! – Well, at least I’m a “clean old man”….
As much as I enjoyed the antics of Paul’s grandfather, my favorite scene was the one that featured John Lennon, dressed in his signature cap, playing with a tub-full of toys as he sang “Rule, Britannia!” — Imagine a grown man, submerged in a mountain of suds, sinking a toy boat, before he himself disappeared beneath the waves.
Well, after a truckload of popcorn, candy and soda was consumed by the crowd of ecstatic young people, after a dozen dynamite Beatle songs were played, and after a truly amazing 87 minutes of pure fun took place, “A Hard Day’s Night” had to come to an end. And a theater-full of exhausted, totally entertained teenagers slowly filed out of the Capitol, to be met by that famous Yakima sunshine, our lives forever changed.
I imagine the movie soundtrack LP, with its iconic red, white and black color scheme, literally flew out of the record bins of the Bon Marche and other Yakima record dealers. I know my girlfriend, Janie Will, got herself a copy. We listened to it constantly in her room at her family’s apartment near Westpark. We learned about tender teenaged love, while “If I Fell” played on Janie’s record player.
It was the Beatles who influenced me to become a musician. I’ve been playing guitar now for over fifty years. Not long after seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, I asked my folks to get me – not a guitar – but a set of drums. I was crazy about Ringo’s great playing. However, Mom and Dad said, “We don’t really want a noisy set of drums in the house. But we’ll buy you a guitar”. – What was I to say, but yes! Then, when it arrived in the mail from Sears, I didn’t like it. Because it wasn’t a set of drums, which would someday “loom large in my legend”, to quote George Harrison. But my BFF, Tony Rogers, came over one afternoon, picked up the new guitar (it was just a cheap little Silvertone acoustic) and played “Louie Louie” on two strings. I was knocked out. I asked him to show me how to play the song, which he was glad to do. – And I became a guitar player.
Here’s the theme song. Not played by the Beatles. Due to copyright issues Beatle songs get zapped from YouTube as soon as they’re uploaded.
Hey, does anyone know how things turned out for Tony Rogers, from WVHS?