Beatlemania at KCET, Pt. 1

Over the last few weeks I've had great fun coming up with a special Beatles night on KCET that I hope you'll enjoy. On Wednesday January 13, 2010 at 9:00 PM, KCET will begin its two-hour block with a wonderful documentary about the power of Beatlemania in the Soviet Union. "How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin" retells how the Beatles prevailed against government tyrants' futile efforts to suppress their music. The documentary ends triumphantly with Paul McCartney playing for the first time in the former USSR in Moscow. And that leads us to the second show on KCET, "Paul McCartney in Red Square," airing at 10:00 PM. Here's a clip from that historic concert.

One of the things I've learned programming the two docs is that nearly everyone - young and old - has a Beatles story. I'll share mine first, but I'd love to hear yours in comments below.

To my great surprise, I met Sir Paul McCartney and his wife Linda at Madison Square Garden in 1976. I had recently moved to New York City. My good friend Danny Fields invited me to see Wings in concert. We arrived earlier than most of the crowd and I had no idea why a private security guard was leading us through a maze of underground tunnels. The dressing room door opened and out stepped Linda and Paul McCartney. I almost fell backwards when they shook my hand. Little did I know we would get a half hour private audience with the couple.

Danny and Linda (longtime friends) sat on the couch, immersed in a spirited conversation, catching up on each other's lives. And there I was -- right in front of Paul McCartney -- lump in my throat and my heart beating fast. Paul was incredibly engaging from the minute we met. First, he complimented me on my 'cool shoes' (old sneakers I'd hand painted) and engaged me in conversation all about me. He particularly enjoyed hearing about my home life in Detroit, loved that I spoke only Ukrainian until I was six years old (one of the reasons "Back in the USSR" had special meaning for me), and that I secretly listened to "Abbey Road" on headphones every night before I went to bed.

But what really made Paul chuckle was the story I told him about the first time I saw the Beatles. It was a Sunday night in 1964. As always, our household (mom, dad, brother, sister and my grandparents who lived with us) gathered in front of the black and white television set for the Ed Sullivan show. The minute Mr. Sullivan introduced the boys from England and the girls in the audience began shrieking, my siblings and I pushed up next to the TV set and turned up the volume. 'Turn that noise off,' my grandfather shouted repeatedly while we sat spellbound by what we saw and heard.Imitating an old man, Paul said "Turns those noisy Beatles off." With a laugh he added, "I probably would have said the same thing if I was in your grandad's shoes." From that moment on I forgot I was with superstar Paul McCartney and imagined he was an old friend I was catching up with. (My grandfather laughed too when I told him of my encounter with Paul McCartney many years later.)

My encounter with Paul in 1976 would be followed by a near-miss with John Lennon and then a great evening at KCET with Ring Starr. I'll save that story for a later post, as well as stories from two of my favorite KLOS 95.5 deejays - Cynthia Fox and Gary Moore - about their Beatles memories.

But now it's your turn. When did you first hear the Beatles? (Also, don't forget to tune in on January 13th for our night of Beatlemania.)

This image was taken by flickr user pinkisawayoflife. It was used under the Creative Commons license.