Saturday
Feb212015

My Summer With The Beatles

My Summer With The Beatles

A True Story, Mostly

By

Christopher P. Cassone

9459 words

c. 2014 All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 The thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen.

                  – Frank Lloyd Wright

 

 

A dream you dream alone is only a  dream. A dream you dream together is reality.

                   -John Lennon

 

 

PROLOGUE

Belief is a life-changer.  Once you experience its power and see it work, you'll no more do without it than oxygen or water. When an individual can believe so strongly that it actually can come true, that is power.  When a group believes in the same outcome, look out.  History is loaded with examples of small groups overcoming great odds.  This is my story about belief. It's a story about 250 boys believing in something so strongly, it became true.   "Faith can move mountains," Jesus said at the Sermon on the Mount and after the summer of '65, I learned the true nature of belief and faith as one huge mountain was moved.  For in that summer, against all odds, the Beatles arrived at my Scout camp and performed a private concert, just for us.  We believed and it happened.

 

 

1.

The summer of 1965 started off hot.  Late June saw the hottest day of the year in our small village just north of New York City and a drought with water shortages was in the news.  For my parents that might have been the news.  The headlines for me and the boys were that Ticket To Ride hit number one on all the radio stations, Help! was soon to be released and the Beatles were coming to America again.  The summer, and the year, were more or less divided into Beatle segments.  Winter was I Feel Fine and Beatles 65.  Then Eight Days A Week was #1 by March.  Help! was on every radio station in anticipation for the fall release of the film.  Then Beatles VI  hit the stores by June.  And this is not including their busy recording schedule where they would finish Yesterday,  Act Naturally and most of Rubber Soul.  But we never saw behind the curtain. All we knew was their music – the LP’s, to have and to hold, and to play endlessly.  And playing endlessly, stacked on our record changers were all five: Meet The Beatles, Beatles 2nd, Introducing The Beatles, A Hard Days Night and Beatles '65.  Endlessly.

     The films and newsreels from then, with the screaming, crying, fainting girls, can hardly show that feeling we all shared, boy and girl alike.  They fainted and cried but we boys understood why.  Our hearts leapt with theirs when we heard them on an interview or saw them on TV. Being a teenager my insides were all askew anyway.  Add to this the indescribable feeling of indentifying with them and you start to get to the beginnings of Beatlemania.  They talked for us.  They spoke to us.  They sounded like we wanted to sound.  All we had were twelve-inch square album covers with the vinyl record inside and we read and listened, and poured over and listened, and gazed and listened some more.

As it turned out their manager, Brian Epstein, knew this.  The four of them didn’t understand.  Not yet, but their manager was way ahead of the curve. He had already gotten them on the Ed Sullivan Show the year before and scattered performances around the country.  By April of 1964 they owned the top five spots in Billboard’s Top 100, with twelve in the top 80.  They were breaking records and molds everyday.  So when impresario Sid Bernstein made his first inquiry about booking them in an outdoor arena, Brian Epstein was receptive.  When he was 21, Elvis filled the Cotton Bowl in Dallas in 1956 with 27,000, the record at the time.  So the thought of doubling that figure was a calculated risk Brian and Sid would take.

 

2.

It was a curious time to be fourteen.  We were too young to drive but old enough to be left on our own.  As long as we did our homework and stayed generally out of trouble, newly minted teenagers could have a lot of freedom in our little village of Port Chester.  The War in Vietnam was still a far-off worry.  We were the generation who witnessed the Kennedy assassination in real time as we also watched the space race.  We knew each of the Mercury 7 astronauts by name and had posters of them on our walls.  We had just visited the World's Fair in Flushing and been awed by its measurement of humanity's recent accomplishments and, more importantly, mesmerized by its description of the what was next, on rides like Futurama.

     There was no pressure to work, just yet, but some us caddied at the many neighboring golf courses.  The spare money from these "loops"  went for bicycle adornments, firecrackers, comic books, and records - and most of those records were the Beatles.  For sure, I also loved the Kinks and the Stones and the folksiness of Donovan and Simon and Garfunkel but Beatlemania had a hold on me and as they grew, so, it seems did I.  And while I had no clue as to what was really happening with them, little did I know in June that by mid-August, through a series of fateful coincidences, our paths would cross at of all places, our Scout camp nestled in the foothills of the Berkshires.

 

  When I was ten, my uncle had bestowed upon me his Handbook for Boys, an early Scout manual from the forties.  I fell in love with the world it envisioned, one of unity with the forest through Indian lore and campcraft skills.  It answered many questions about life that a 14 year old needed.  You know, important things like tracking the snow hare and beaver in winter...and lashing together a monkey bridge to ford a rushing river.  And never forget the all-important "how to treat snake bite" in the desert.  After pestering my parents for most of my tenth year (admission was only for eleven year-olds and up) with their blessings I joined Troop 11 and I was soon immersed in everything Boy Scout and I loved every bit of it.

     We baby boomers helped the Boy Scouts of America enjoy a monstrous leap in membership in the early sixties.  When I walked into Our Lady of Mercy's school basement, the troop was overflowing with kids from all over town.  I was an outgoing lad and a quick study.  Soon I had buddies of my own, and we palled around even out of Scouting.  Dennis and Fitz lived a block from each other in a development on the outskirts of town.  Ferrara lived several miles the opposite way.  His first name was John but in teenager land, he was dubbed Ferrara and I, Cassone.  Our common denominator besides the Scouts was music.  And this year the four of us would spend another summer vacation away at Camp Siwanoy together.

 

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