It was 36 years ago yesterday, Dec. 8, 1980, that John Lennon was shot and killed in New York. We thought we’d reshare this story we published almost three years ago, on the the 50th anniversary of the Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
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 onIsland@mvtimes.com.
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.
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 susanbranch.com.
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.
Fifty years ago the Beatles arrived and barnstormed through the hearts of teenagers all over America. The Times asked Islanders to share their most vivid Beatles memories, from that first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show to the movies, concerts, and songs that made us see, or hear, the world differently. Oh, and the time John was on Circuit Ave….
My family hardly ever watched TV, but we pulled it out of the closet and watched the Ed Sullivan show when the Beatles were on. Even at seven I was amazed by their sound and their look, their hair, their little suits. Then a few of the cool boys in my class decided to start a band so they could be like the Beatles. None of the cool kids cut their hair ever again.
Favorite Beatle: George Harrison, of course, because if given the choice between a sensitive, messed-up junkie and anyone else, I’ll always go with the sensitive, messed-up junkie.
I think they stayed socially and politically involved each in his own way. Lennon with his peace mission. George Harrison raising money and awareness for Bangladesh. I think they made young people who were not necessarily aware start to think about things. I think people learned more about the world from the Beatles than through what their parents were sharing.
I was planning to send my picture to George Harrison. I wrote a note on the back. I chose this picture because I was dressed up for a costume party so I was allowed to wear lipstick and I thought I looked grown up enough to interest him.
Timi Brown lives in Oak Bluffs.
My favorite Beatles song? “I’ll Follow the Sun.” I know it’s obscure, but it hits me. I remember when I was 12 — it was my 8th grade and the West Tisbury school was doing an exchange program with a Manchester, England school. I was getting really excited about riding double-decker buses and watching cricket matches and British music and meeting boys with British accents. I delved into my parents Beatles record collection, even though tapes were the medium at the time, and I fell in love. I studied every lyric on the album inserts. They had every album and I was hooked. I made myself a mix tape of my favorite Beatles songs by holding a tape recorder over the record player speakers, and I took it with me to Manchester. Listening to those Beatles songs takes me back immediately to my 8th grade year at West Tisbury school and the exciting (and sometimes anxious but bountiful) emotions of early adulthood.
Sally Taylor is a part-time Vineyarder, musician and the producer of Consenses, a multimedia art event.
A friend and I saw the Beatles in 1964 at the Atlantic City Convention Center. Our mothers stood in line for hours to get tickets for us while we were in school, bless their hearts. The only Beatles album out at the time was Meet the Beatles — you know, the first one released in the U.S. that had “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There” on it, which we had both listened to obsessively. At the concert, the entire venue was filled with teenage girls (like us) who screamed through the whole event. You couldn’t hear a thing. I have no idea what they played, but it was completely and inexplicably exhilarating! I remain a devout Beatles fan (none of this “I prefer the Rolling Stones” for me) and was lucky enough to see Paul McCartney at Madison Square Garden when I turned 50 — he actually gave me a Happy Birthday Barbara shout out at the end of the concert, but that’s another story. He did all old Beatles songs, did a beautiful tribute to George Harrison on the ukelele, and another one for John. It was fantastic!
Favorite Beatles song, that’s a tough one. I’ll go with “Let it Be,” but for dancing, there’s nothing better than “I Saw Her Standing There.”
Barbara Oberfest is the publisher, with her husband Peter, of the MV Times.
Ah, it was the best and craziest of times and because of that, my memories are a little cloudy!
I’m not sure of the exact year but it was the mid ‘70s. My husband at the time and I had gotten a call from his brother saying that a mutual friend, Isaac Tigrett, was coming to the Vineyard for the night and was bringing a friend, but couldn’t tell us who it was, and…could they come for dinner?
Isaac Tigrett was the co-founder of The Hard Rock Cafe (and later the House of Blues). He was handsome, spiritual, powerful, excessive, and slightly scary to me. He would eventually marry Maureen Starkey, Ringo’s first wife. That’s just a little background.
Anyway, the whole afternoon was shrouded with curiosity as to who this guest was that he was bringing. I had decided to go with chicken, rice, and salad for dinner (always safe). I’m thinking there was probably homemade bread and yogurt, and I’m pretty sure there was beer, wine, whiskey and something to smoke also…
Eventually the time came for them to arrive — Isaac, my brother-in-law, and John Lennon got out of the truck and sauntered in.
(I have failed to tell you that I was a crazy-in-love Beatles fan as a teenager. I was sure that if I stared hard enough at their posters in my bedroom, Paul would come alive and fall for me too. I was lucky enough to see them as a group twice in concert, which consisted of seeing them way off in the distance on the stage, and an audience of screaming girls. Myself included.)
So, needless to say, being then in my mid-twenties, this was one of the greatest moments of my life. I remember being so nervous in the beginning, that I kept staring at his brown, well-worn boots, with the perfect well-worn heels that fed perfectly into his slightly belled bluejeans. I won’t go on, but I could.
We were all sitting around our dining table; our then 6-year-old daughter was there. It was all very relaxed and comfortable and very, very cool.
But I do remember being panic stricken as to what music to put on. It was the 70s and music was always supposed to be playing. What records do you play when John Lennon is at your house??
Eventually the time came for them to go, they were looking to party some more and being parents, we stayed home.
Enter North William St. and Bonnie’s story [below]…
Wendy Whipple moved to the Vineyard permanently in 1970. After a long career in retail on the Island, she now works at the Granary Gallery in West Tisbury.
My friend Jackie used to work at the Boston House on Circuit Ave and she saw John Lennon drive by in a Maserati or something. I went to pick her up and she ran out and said, “John Lennon’s here! Come on!”
We were young, I think I was 24 maybe. We went into Larry’s [Larry Bilzerian’s Take it Easy Baby store on Circuit Ave. in Oak Bluffs.] Then they went over to Wendy and Kenny’s house. I had to leave them — I was working at the Colonial Inn. Then I said to myself, what are you out of your mind? I was waitressing — in September — when John Lennon was at my friend’s house!
So I remet them and we went up to Menemsha to see the sunset. My girlfriend and I had been living in a little cabin in the woods that we were moving out of. We had a wood stove and an Irish Setter named Malcom with three and a half legs.
Because of the woodstove, we had a hatchet in a stump. Malcom, the dog, saw the car driving up and started running around. John saw the hatchet and the three-legged dog, and said, “What are you, the Manson girls?”
We went to another house we’d just moved into — an old sea captain’s house on William Street in Vineyard Haven. John kept saying the Vineyard reminded him of Scotland. We hung out at the house. Then we put John and his friend in a room. My friend Jackie said she just had to say goodnight again.
John came out wrapped in a chenille bedspread and ended up sitting up with us — on a bed with three women, in a bedspread — ‘til three in the morning, talking. He said he felt like he was in a girls’ school in Scotland.
Next morning, he was standing in kitchen, near stove, with the chenille bedspread still. He was trying to figure out the coffee pot. I helped him and we put coffee on. It was crazy!
We were going to take them to Ice House pond. I think his friend was sick, so they had to leave. Word spread like wildfire. People driving by the house later, seeing what we were going to do with John Lennon.
It was not even a day. I remember my friend Jackie saying to him, “You look just like your album covers!” and he said, “Don’t you look just like your pictures?”
Pretty amazing, now that I think back on it. John Lennon in our midst, in a chenille bedspread on Judy’s bed in this house on North William Street.
In the sunroom having coffee and chatting. It was like an out of body experience.
We were trying to be very cool. No one was going to fool around with him… we didn’t want to act too much like crazed fans. Like it was just anybody. That’s the Vineyard way.
Bonnie McElaney Menton has been living on the Vineyard and teaching yoga since the 70’s. Her favorite Beatle is John, and her favorite song is “Imagine.”
I was writing on the television show The Odd Couple with Klugman and Randall. We would go down to the stage Wednesday and Thursday to watch a run-through of that week’s show that we’d film in front of a live audience on Friday.
One Wednesday we noticed two bodies sitting in the dark at the top in the audience seats. We writers wondered who it could be. During the week it was a closed set. But we thought it could be studio or network execs. But during the show we heard huge laughs from these mystery guests.
At the end of the run-through, Tony Randall came up to us and asked: “Would you like to meet John Lennon and his son Julian? They’re big fans of our show.” We walked up to the last row of the bleachers and shook their hands. I said, “What can I say? Thanks for the music.” And he graciously shot back, “Thanks for the laughs.”
It was 1975 and it was soooo cool!
Marty Nadler, a longtime Vineyard resident, now lives in Florida and works as a script doctor.
The first day they came to the country, Carly and I were teenagers, living in New York. We listened to top 40 radio as if it were a profession for us. Every time a new top 40 came out, I’d sit and write them all out.
There was a lot of hype about these British mopheads coming. We were crazed like everyone else and watched them on the Ed Sullivan show. We had a small gathering of friends and made a little ritual of it. We didn’t know what to expect. As soon as the show was over we all looked around and said wow, our culture’s never going to be the same again. We knew it. We wanted to buy every Beatles song, and play it ‘til the grooves wore out.
She liked different ones than me. I think she liked Paul McCartney more than I did (I’m not sure though).
I followed every progression of their career. When they grew their hair long, I did. When they went spiritual, I did. I took their lead. Hippie clothes.
When they broke up, I was lost. I had a lot of other great music by that point, but I felt, who am I going to love next? So I wound up loving George Harrison’s first solo album.
Carly was living a block away from the Dakota [in December, 1980] and she heard the shots. I was living in Boston and she called me. She didn’t know what was going on. An hour later I heard on TV Howard Cosell announcing the death of John Lennon. We were all devastated.
That was the end of rock and roll in my opinion. That glorious golden era. Then I moved on to reggae, and Bob Marley took his place.
My favorite Beatle? George — the most spiritual, closely followed by John. Favorite song: “Across the Universe.”
Peter Simon is a photographer and owner, with his wife, Ronnie, of the Simon Gallery in Vineyard Haven.
I was one of over 70 million people who watched the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan show. I don’t remember much except the black and white and gray image of the band on that sound stage and the inner feeling of excitement and joy in seeing them perform.
Seven months later on September 12, 1964 my sister and I and some neighborhood kids went to see The Beatles at Boston Garden. My parents dropped us off and we sat in the last row of the Garden in $3.50 seats. We could barely hear the music over the screaming and we could barely see John, Paul and George and Ringo, being so far back.
My favorite Beatle was Paul, but later changed to John. My favorite songs: Tomorrow Never Knows, Norwegian Wood, A Day In The Life, You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.
Barbara Dacey was the longtime program director at WMVY and is a producer at www.mvyradio.com. The most played Beatle song on mvyradio is “Across The Universe.”
Get your Beatles here:
Ray Whitaker hosts the popular “Beatles & Brews” trivia night at Offshore Ale on Friday nights (see the Times story here.)
Q: What are the toughest Beatles trivia questions you have?
Hmmm… The first night I started doing the “Beatles & Brews” thing at the Offshore I was ri-damned-diculous with my questions (lots of blank stares and “What are you talking about?” looks….). The one that really drew the crickets out was:
“What was the last Beatle song ever recorded, and which Beatle was not present at the recording session?” (Answer: “I Me Mine.” John Lennon was not in attendance)
Q: Any locals in particular who are really good at Beatles trivia?
Tom Dresser is always good. A few other guys here and there. Truthfully, the most lively participants who are really into the spirit of the night are weekend visitors. They’re tolerably rowdy, respectful and fun. It’s also pretty cool when a listener to my radio program comes out for the evening. We usually launch into a Beatles/Overall Classic Rock Nerd-Like Conversation for a while…
Q: What are your fondest Beatles songs and memories?
1967 – My brother received the brand-new “Magical Mystery Tour” album for Christmas (I quickly absconded and whiled-away the hours in the living room listening to it). The “Help!” soundtrack is one of my faves because it’s happy-sounding, and I love the George Martin instrumentals (same goes for “A Hard Day’s Night”). Also love “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” for its innovation.
Ray Whitaker hosts the “Just Four Guys” show at www.mvyradio.com on Tuesday afternoons at 4 pm and at www.beatlesarama.com on Sundays at noon and on Monday- Friday from 12 noon to 3pm.
Favorite Beatles songs of Island musicians
I’ve always been fond of George’s songs, especially a song called “Long, Long, Long” off the White Album.
– John Stanwood, Dukes County Love Affair, aka DCLA
My favorites? From the sixites: “This Girl.” Ever: “Maybe I’m Amazed.”
– Jeremy Bennett, The Sultans of Swing
Sergeant Pepper’s was one of the first records I played (along with Sweet Baby James). I played it constantly and lived each song with vivid ideas of the characters as well as incorporating all the music pretty deep in me. “She’s Leaving Home” was my first heartbreak. “Fixing a Hole” my first home improvement. “Sergeant Pepper” my first to rock n’ roll. It was all a pretty good way to start to incorporate music. Then I saw Let it Be and the rooftop concert. For a little kid, magic.
– Jeremy Berlin, solo musician and member of Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish
“Strawberry Fields Forever.”
– John O’Toole, Rockfish
My favorite Beatles song is “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” because of the trippy lyrics and their absolute refusal to admit that it’s an acronym for LSD. I also love “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and “Back in the USSR.” I like them all, to be honest.
– Nathaniel Horwitz, former MVTimes intern and harpist