Islanders tell their Beatles stories

In a Bel Air, California, backyard, the four Beatles signed this card for Island author Susan Branch. — Courtesy Susan Branch

Fifty years ago — on Sunday, February 9, 1964 — The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. The Times asked Islanders to share their most vivid Beatles memories, from that first appearance on TV to the movies and concerts and the songs that made us think or see (or hear) the world differently. We got so many responses, we will be running them in a series over the next week. Got a good Beatles story? Remember where you were when they were on TV, or when you saw A Hard Day’s Night, or when you first heard Hey Jude? Have a personal run-in with John, Paul, George, or Ringo? And tell us: What’s your favorite Beatles song? Your favorite Beatle? Writes us at

Sue Branch

So, Ed Sullivan: There was lots of excitement about the event, everyone at school was talking about it, it was on the news, they were on the radio constantly. We already knew all the words to all the songs. My family all knew the Beatles were going to be on TV that night. Not that we ever missed Ed Sullivan anyway, but that night it felt like Christmas around the dinner table, there was that kind of excitement in the air.

Sue Branch at 16, surrounded by sisters (she also had three brothers), around the time of the Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Sue Branch at 16, surrounded by sisters (she also had three brothers), around the time of the Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

I was sixteen and the oldest of eight children.  After me there were four boys and then three girls; everyone was about two years apart. We had two TV’s, one in the family room and one in the living room. I spent the entire time running between the two TV’s followed by hordes of children — I was trying to be alone so I could concentrate, just me and the Beatles, but because I was the “teenager” everyone wanted to be with me while I was watching them. My brothers wanted to know if I felt like screaming, was I going to scream. So they followed me, leaping around in their pajamas. They watched me, sang along with them, yeah, yeah, yeah, and I couldn’t get away. But I saw them, got to choose my favorite, they were wonderful, and they were mine.  And that’s all that mattered.

OK, How to choose one song?  Are people able to do that?  Girl; All My Lovin; For No One; Things we Said Today; Baby’s in Black, for starters.

Excerpted from Ms. Branch’s book, “Girlfriends Forever:”

Karen Bennett was…my best friend all through high school…

Our most famous escapade is that (get ready) we MET THE BEATLES! Yes! After their first concert at the Hollywood Bowl, on a tip extracted from an overwhelmed cab driver, we stalked them into Bel Air (stopping first at a gas station to make ourselves beautiful, just in case). There were four or five cars out front when we found the house, too many for us, so we parked a couple of streets away and began to reconnoiter the neighborhood. Whispering our plan, we went through backyards in unfamiliar territory, arriving just in time (about midnight) to see them (the boys) get out of the pool and run to the house in the moonlight in their little tiny English bathing suits.

After a few minutes we followed them up to the wide porch where we could hear piano playing and singing and laughing, but couldn’t see anything because the curtains were pulled. We had a perfect view of the staircase, however, and as we stood there trying to figure out what to do next, John came bounding down the stairs, in his underwear (jockeys). Karen saw him first and threw herself against a well. I was behind her, didn’t see him coming and suddenly we were eyeball to eyeball. Very soon, a manager came out, scraped us off the floor and suggested we “come back tomorrow.” (Like this was easy.)

It took a full day of begging phone calls to my dad’s work the next day before he finally let me have the car. By this time the whole world knew they were there: “no parking” signs were everywhere and it was a teenage mob scene. But we had the lay of the land from the night before. Nonchalantly, we strolled past the Bel Air police, got ourselves into a backyard and we were home free — up past the pool and there they all stood on the porch!

John flapped his elbows at us and barked (despite our special beauty stop, he didn’t seem to remember us from the night before), Ringo flashed his rings, Paul was adorable, and George seemed shy.

We got their autographs and hid them under our clothes as we boldly walked past the police — discovering the police were just as excited as we were, wanting to hear about everthing!

We sang “I’ll Follow the Sun,” “Baby’s in Black,” “She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” all the way  home, our dream fulfilled, our lives blessed…”

Susan Branch is a Vineyard author, raised in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California. You can find her book at

Holly Nadler

I myself was always more of a Stones fan because they were bad boys and I was a spoiled teen. But now I’m in awe of the Beatles’ late work when John Lennon was turning into a great mystic. Think of the lyrics: “Black bird singing in the dead of night . . . you were always waiting for this moment to arise / you were always waiting for this moment to be free / black bird fly into the light of the dark black sky.” Isn’t that a perfect metaphor for the moment of death? And then after that? Who knows?

Holly Nadler, is a writer and frequent Times contributor.

For more Martha’s Vineyard Beatles stories, visit here.