#201 – I’m A Loser by The Beatles
– When it comes to personal memories, this song is a double-edged sword. Good vs. evil. The White Knight against The Queen of Darkness. It represents a battle in the generation gap war that I lost at the time, but felt I’ve gone on to win. And in my own convoluted way, I’ll tell the tale…
Like probably every first generation Beatles fan in North America, I first heard I’m A Loser on Friday, October 7, 1964 when a film of their live performance was aired on the ABC television show Shindig. This was a highly anticipated big deal since we didn’t actually see the group very often. There were no VCR’s or even a science fiction thought of YouTube, so fans only “saw” The Fab Four during their three February appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show (rerun on CBS that summer), a clip of Ed interviewing them on the set of A Hard Day’s Night followed by the performance of You Can’t Do That (edited out of the final concert scene in the feature film), or by going to the theater to see their first movie (as John Lennon called it, “The black and white one.“).
Many lucky fans saw them in person during the August – September tour or closed circuit theater showing of their first U.S. concert at Washington Coliseum. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of those.
But other than that, all we had were the records and magazines.
So when ABC started running advertisements for their appearance on Shindig, I put it on my mental calendar as a “must watch” event. But I never realized that because it was on a Friday evening I would be called out as a “wannabe Beatle” in front of my classmates by an evil old school teacher.
Sound harsh? Yeah, I know…
Thursday February 23, 2017 – Stow, Ohio!
Join The Classic Rocker for a FAB evening of Beatlemania!
Doors open 6:30 pm – show time 7:00
FREE admission – reservations suggested
Friday evenings in the fall were “supposed” to be reserved for high school football games. I had been going since I was a little kid, mainly for something to do. We had absolutely no interest in what was happening on the field and spent our time running around under the bleachers and eating junk food. And since we lived in a small town in northern Ohio there was no danger walking to the games and home with friends. It was nothing out of the ordinary.
Not like seeing The Beatles on Shindig. There was nothing ordinary about that and was well worth skipping one game out of the entire season. So I stayed home to watch.
The next day I saw a kid in my class who told me our sixth grade teacher had been at the football game. From what I remember, she made a BIG DEAL out of going to only one game a year and wanted to make sure all her students were there because that’s where we were “supposed” to be on a Friday night. During her only appearance in the fall of 1964 she saw the other guys from my class and asked where I was.
They told her I stayed home to watch The Beatles. My friend said she wasn’t too happy about that.
Maybe I’ll set this scene a little deeper. I mean, why not. I’ve already said I sound harsh…
The two teachers I had in sixth grade were a humorless old woman and old man that split the mornings and afternoons with two classes. They both should have retired years before. They were truly old school and I honestly don’t remember either being supportive or nurturing toward students. Their shared attitude was “learn this or suffer the consequences” and I blame them for making an entire year of school essentially joyless. To say they were verbally abusive to anyone that didn’t follow their golden rules would be an understatement.
In fact, I’ll go even deeper. The woman had been my father’s third grade teacher. My dad was an excellent trumpet player and taught me a lot about music. She’d also had our neighbor in her class, who was a teenager in the 1950’s. He was an excellent basketball player (earned a full ride to Ohio State University) but also liked Elvis Presley. When he was gone I’d sometimes sneak into his room with his younger brother and we’d listen to his record collection. Both were good students and good kids. So was I.
By the Monday morning following The Beatles appearance on Shindig, she’d had all weekend to stew over my absence at the high school football game and her BIG DEAL appearance. It was almost as if I had cussed out my mom, given apple pie to the communists and spit on the American flag. I have a vague memory of walking into the classroom and hearing her talk about being at the game, but not seeing everyone who should have been there.
Then class started.
20% OFF Author Signed Copies!
The Beatles At Shea Stadium
The story behind their greatest concert and making the TV special
20% OFF Retail Price with FREE Shipping (Continental U.S. Only)
Signed by the author and only through the website – BeatlesSheaStadium.com
When she asked anyone a question, it was mandatory for the student to stand next to his or her desk to answer. I don’t remember whatever outdated nonsense she was trying to shove into our young minds, but before I knew it I was standing next to my desk and being asked a question I had no answer for.
That’s when the other edge of the sword came down.
She was determined to make me the loser in front of the entire class. Immediately she was shouting full volume at me. But it wasn’t about not knowing the answer – but the fact that I had skipped a high school football game and stayed home on a Friday night to watch THE BEATLES ON TELEVISION! In her eyes I was the enemy of all that was good and decent and a pervert among angelic high school football fans. Her exact words still ring in my ear:
- “Your father wanted to be Harry James!”
- “Your neighbor wanted to be a hound dog!”
- “And YOU want to be a BEATLE!!!”
I had been singled out in front of my friends and classmates and verbally attacked like I had done something wrong. After flushing her anger about me and disapproving musical memories of my father and our neighbor out of her evil system she told me to SIT DOWN!
At the time I was shaken up (what 11-year old wouldn’t be?). But you know what? It was the only thing she ever said to me that made sense. I won’t give her any credit as an inspiration, but I think it’s pretty cool I went on to write two books about The Beatles and none about high school football.
Harsh? Yeah, but I look at my books as being the fun result of the double-edged sword!
I’m A Loser assaulted this Dream Song List on April 28th. It’s been a favorite since I watched the Beatles on Shindig and is on my digital playlist. That also places it into the recent memory category since I had just heard it.
I’m A Loser is also especially memorable because the group already looked different on Shindig than earlier that summer in A Hard Day’s Night. Their hair, especially Lennon’s, was a lot longer. He also had a harmonica hooked to a metal contraption around his neck that allowed him to play it and his guitar at the same time.
I had seen photos of Bob Dylan with the same setup, but he was still considered a “folkie.” Lennon as a pop-rocker made it cooler.
But there was definitely a Dylan influence in this Lennon-penned song. The lyrics were a lot more introspective than we’d heard on The Ed Sullivan Show only seven months earlier. It also signaled a more country-twang feel in some of their newer songs such as Honey Don’t, Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby and I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party.
Even though we’d heard I’m A Loser in October 1964, we couldn’t own a copy until the U.S. LP Beatles ’65 was released on December 15th. On first listen I immediately remembered it was the song from Shindig with John Lennon playing the harmonica contraption and acoustic guitar. He was cool and the song was cool – and this hit of countrified Beatlemania went a long way to make my personal sixth grade double-edged sword a lot easier to deal with.
Here’s a video of The Beatles performing I’m A Loser on Shindig from 1965
To purchase Beatles ’65 with I’m A Loser visit Amazon.com
Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing