Last time I shared the story of my encounter with Sir Paul McCartney and asked you to share your own Beatles stories. As promised, this week my favorite KLOS 95.5 deejays Cynthia Fox and Gary Moore are jumping in with their own stories. But, before I hand it over to my friends from KLOS, I wanted to share two other personal Beatles-related episodes. One is about John Lennon; the other Ringo Starr.
When I started working at ABC World News in the late 70s, I discovered the executive producer I worked for was a big as music fan as I was. As is typical of newsroom staffs, we pretty much worked together and spent our free time together too. The Upper West Side was central in our lives: ABC News was on West 66th Street, my boss lived at the end of the block, the restaurants and bars we frequented were within blocks, my apartment was on West 82nd Street - and John Lennon and Yoko Ono were Upper Westsiders too.
Those were the years John and Yoko were seen everywhere even the same pastry shop I bought sweets at. They were happily ensconced at the Dakota on 72nd and Central Park West. They were public to the world except for interviews. I started writing letters to John and Yoko, requesting an interview with them for ABC News. Sylvia Chase, anchor of our news broadcast, was to conduct the proposed interview. Every few weeks, after not hearing a word from the Lennon/Ono household, I penned another heartfelt request for an interview. Months went by, I lost hope, and I gave up with my letter-writing campaign.
And then came the surprise. It was one of the couple's assistants who contacted us. John and Yoko were not doing any interviews but appreciated the letters and would seriously consider us once they were ready to be public again. By the time John and Yoko emerged, with the release of their album "Double Fantasy," my ABC boss and I had moved to WNBC New York. News director Ron Kershaw and I were intent on snagging John and Yoko for our daily newscast "Live at Five." My letter writing effort to the Lennon-Ono household restarted. We were confident an interview would finally fall into place. But things don't always go as planned. On December 8, 1980 John was murdered in front of Yoko's eyes. We spent the night along with tens of thousands standing across from the Dakota in shock and disbelief.
A lifetime later (or what felt like it), the backdrop is now sunny southern California and the location is KCET. I welcomed Ringo Starr and his wife Barbara Bach to KCET's green room. We were pledging a music special featuring Ringo and his All Starr Band and Mr. Starr was as funny and warm as we imagined. He didn't mind signing an autograph for anyone who asked. And that night he lit up our pledge set with KLOS's Cynthia Fox.
Cynthia Fox: My earliest Beatles memory is linked to my Dad. He was a classically trained pianist, so our world growing up was a world of classical masterpieces-but he wasn't a snob, he loved the Beatles!! The last movie he took us to before he died was 'Yellow Submarine'..and it was music that helped me at age 11 work through my grief.
Do many moments in school linked to the Beatles: 8th grade typing class-my friend Wendy, always hipper and more creative than me, somehow convinced the teacher into letting us listen to the White Album (!) as we furiously typed away...I remember how I blushed when I heard 'Why Don't We Do It in the Road'!
And then the big debates in our Home Ec kitchens-was Paul really dead? Flash forward to college-we were serious students at that point and into serious rock, so what was Paul thinking with 'Silly Love Songs'? Wasn't this too lightweight? But as years passed, the gentleness and optimism of Paul's work has endured and we have come to appreciate its value.
Through college radio I land an internship at KMET which evolves into me being on the air! Suddenly I am in the wonderland of music-getting to pick and play the Beatles songs I love-Revolution, All You Need is Love, Two of Us, For You Blue, Rocky Raccoon, Carry That Weight, Hey Jude, Across the Universe...and even Why Don't we do it in the Road!! Life opens up with possibilities!
And then the night John was taken from us. For many of us-we learned the news from Jim Ladd during his 10pm-2am show. Jim articulated our grief, our shock and our rage...he put listeners on the air to talk...we were all numb for days as the entire KMET airstaff played Beatles songs non stop and tried to find the words to express what we were all feeling.....years later I meet my future husband and he is a huge Beatles fan-which I take as a good sign. A sign of optimism and hope.
We raise our girls on the Beatles music and films-turns out they love Yellow Submarine! And yes, they went to Beatlefests and carried Beatles lunchboxes to school... so imagine how overwhelmed we were to be in the KCET studios the night Ringo co-hosted pledge breaks! I had the honor of co-hosting with him and he was every bit as charming and funny and upbeat as you would expect...my family was a bit tongue-tied but he jollied them up with his great humor and heart...and the studio was electric with the feeling of Beatlemania! Such joy and enthusiasm!
Later as a family we visited New York and saw Strawberry Fields and saw how it is possible to transform loss into a work of deep love and hope....and then later as a family we went to see Paul McCartney at the Staples Center!.....in the row ahead of us was George Thorogood. At the end of the show he turned to us, grinning from ear to ear and said 'How does it feel to be 17 again?'.
Gary Moore: We didn't have a Shea Stadium or a Hollywood Bowl in my small college hometown of Murray, Kentucky during Beatlemania. But it didn't matter--The Beatles showed up anyway. EVERY DAY.
Like every other American city, our local AM station--WNBS--played their latest singles every hour, freshly harvested from Chuck's Music Center on Main. And often preceded by a half-second, a cappella jingle shouting out "THE BEATLES!" You didn't even have to leave your Fab Four-postered sanctuary for that. But when I did, The Beatles again surfaced a half-block down the street at Ed's Grocery in bubblegum card form (unless they were sold out, which was most of the time). The Beatles were everywhere--they were bigger than television! About once a year, they showed up downtown at our Capitol Theatre just off the court square. Every other kiddie movie cost just 35 cents. But The Beatles made our parents cough up a whopping FIFTY CENTS.
When "Help!" was released, it was the greatest combination of chords, vocals and beat I had ever heard in all my seven years on the planet. Unable to cope with random spins on WNBS, I made my best friend Tommy Pasco play his sister Patty's single of "Help!" over the phone line to me again and again until both moms yelled at us. It's still my favorite Beatles song. But it wasn't all skies of blue and seas of green in a cartoon submarine. There was the devastating and unfathomable--to me--band breakup. And when I watched the great Grammy rip-off in 1969, when "Hey Jude" lost TWICE to "Mrs. Robinsson" and also to some stupid song called "Little Green Apples"--clearly a dig at the Fabs' own label--I stormed out of the den, locked myself in the sanctuary, played "Hey Jude" at least 20 times while crying my eyes out and swore I'd never forgive the brain-dead Grammy voters. And never still means never.
Okay. Now it's your turn. Share your Beatles story with us! We'll have one more installment, where I'll share my encounter with Ringo Starr (Cynthia makes a reference to it above), which was made possible by KCET.
Thanks - Bohdan Zachary