Category Archives: Ed Sullivan Show

#201 – I’m A Loser

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#201 – I’m A Loser by The Beatles

Beatles I'm A Loser – 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.“).

Interview Sullivan

Interviewing The Beatles

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…

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Thursday February 23, 2017 – Stow, Ohio!

stow-library-2017

Join The Classic Rocker for a FAB evening of Beatlemania!

Doors open 6:30 pm – show time 7:00

FREE admission – reservations suggested

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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.

Host Jimmy O'Neill

Host Jimmy O’Neill

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.

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The Beatles At Shea Stadium

The story behind their greatest concert and making the TV special

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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!

Harmonica Contraption

Harmonica Contraption

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

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

#203 – Billie Jean

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#203 – Billie Jean by Michael Jackson

Michael 1One of the best things about living in New York City (and there are many) is never knowing whom you might meet next. Sometime between the months of March and May 1983 I met a very interesting guy in my Gramercy Park neighborhood. Now don’t get excited and think I’m going to drop Michael Jackson’s name, because I can’t. I never met him.

But I was forewarned that his performance of Billie Jean on the television special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever was going to be earth shattering.

The guy that told me this knew what he was talking about because he had been at the taping. In fact, he played a big role not only behind the scenes but also on camera.

I hung with a tight group of friends in Gramercy Park. I’ve always compared living in NYC to living in a small town. It’s a BIG place made up of small neighborhoods. We’d go Uptown, Downtown, Midtown and to The Boroughs for concerts, dinners, ballgames – whatever. But when it was time to go “home” we’d end up back in our neighborhood. And the main hangout was our own Cheers style bar restaurant, The Honey Tree, on the corner of 3rd Avenue and East 20th Street.

It was the type of place where everybody knew your name. And when someone new walked in and got involved in one of our conversations, arguments or just plain stupidity (“How’s it goin’ Norm?!“) it made the evenings into late nights a lot more interesting. Some of the names that dropped in were Robin Williams, Peter O’Toole, Ed O’Neill and the entire band Journey.

But those are stories I’ve already told or saving for later.

The Jacksons

The Jacksons

Since most of us were in our late-20’s and had the ripe old age of 30 directly in our sights, we were pretty set in our musical tastes. The jukebox at The Honey Tree was filled with classic oldies from the 60’s and 70’s. If you wanted to hear disco or punk, there were other neighborhood hangouts, which is another great thing about NYC.

When you’re looking for something else it can always be found.

So even though you’d have to live under a rock not to have heard of Michael Jackson, in 1983 more than a few of us would rather listen to his old songs with The Jackson 5. We really weren’t looking for something else. These were the big Motown hits, I Want You Back, The Love You Save and I’ll Be There. My girlfriend (at the time) and I would be up and dancing whenever one of these songs was placed on the jukebox turntable.

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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)

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Of course The Jackson 5 was only one of the many artists that put Motown on the music map forever. Boomers grew up listening to The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder and the other amazing artists that made up the Detroit sound. And it was a big deal when it was announced the television special celebrating 25 years of the record label would air on May 16th.

Lester Wilson

Lester Wilson

One night during the months mentioned above, a guy walked in and before too long he was in the middle of one of our conversations. Or it might have been stupidity… But that doesn’t matter. He seemed funny and had a lot of personality, so he fit right in. His name was Lester Wilson and when we asked what he did, he said he was a dancer.

We didn’t know any professional dancers, so we started with the questions. He told us he was also a choreographer, had worked on Broadway and in films, and had just finished working on Motown 25. Since I’m working off memory, I can’t remember why he was in NYC at this time – but after checking out his bio online it had to be something good. I’ll also guess he was staying at The Gramercy Hotel which is why he was a regular part of our Cheers crowd for the next few months.

Lester told us about Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean performance. I can’t remember the adjectives, but mind-blowing would be a good description. He kept saying we’re not going to believe it when we see it. So on May 16th we watched.

jjkrcyOkay, we all know the legend. Michael reunited with his brothers to sing our favorite Jackson 5 hits. When they finished the brothers left the stage and Michael pulled out the sequined glove, the fedora and moonwalked into music history.

But what was especially cool for us was seeing our new pal Lester dancing center stage during the show’s gala opening number. If you want to check it out, below is a link for the entire show. You only need to watch the first four minutes – he’s the guy in the red sweater with the long hair. The group is also billed as The Lester Wilson Dancers.

Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever.

Since The Classic Rocker is all about memories I can’t simply focus on Motown 25 or Lester when I hear Billie Jean. Whether you like Michael Jackson or not this was his moment – similar to The Beatles debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. He already had a successful solo career, but this put him in the stratosphere of pop music. Elvis was the 50’s, The Beatles were the 60’s and Michael was the 80’s. The other decades have their own musical personas, for example the 70’s went from hippies to heavy metal to punk to disco. The 90’s were grunge, hip-hop and rap. But those periods never had a single artist that overwhelmingly dominated and influenced our popular culture as these three.

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Billie Jean dominated my Classic Rocker mind on the morning of April 26th. At the time I didn’t own a copy, but that’s changed since and now it’s on my digital playlist joining my Motown and Jackson 5 favorites. But because I hadn’t heard it for a long time until that waking moment, it’s on my subliminal music chart.

Temptations and 4 Tops

The Temptations and 4 Tops

Lester Wilson was a very interesting guy. I can’t remember how long he was part of our neighborhood scene, but that’s another thing about living in NYC. People come and go (including me) and when you’re part of it, life is rarely boring.

Since I’ve always been a huge Motown fan I remember going with my girlfriend (at the time) to see The Temptations and The Four Tops on Broadway. It was at least a year later because the show opened with Levi Stubbs (lead singer for The Tops) singing Marvin Gaye’s hit What’s Going On to open the show. Gaye had been murdered by his father on April 1, 1984 and this was soon after. The curtain was closed and just a single spotlight was aimed at the stage. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Stubbs finished, but within moments everyone was on their feet dancing along to one of the best concerts I was ever fortunate enough to attend.

Afterwards we went to our neighborhood Cheers for a nightcap and Lester was at the bar. We raved about the show and I remember saying he should have warned me Levi Stubbs had grown a beard. I wasn’t used to seeing him that way from photos. Yes, that’s a small detail – but one I remember from our conversation, which also helps put all these years in some type of order.

I did an online search for Lester Wilson and learned he was much bigger than he had let on during this time. Not only did he choreograph Motown 25 and Broadway musicals, but also the movies Saturday Night Fever (coached John Travolta), The Wiz, Funny Lady, Sister Act and others. But I’m sad to learn he passed away only ten years after we met in 1993 at the youthful age of 50.

As I mentioned above, you never know whom you might meet next in NYC. I may not have met Michael Jackson, but I had been warned the music scene was on the verge of changing by a guy who had.

Here’s a video of Michael’s performance of Billie Jean on Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever.

To purchase The Essential Michael Jackson with Billie Jean visit Amazon.com

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

#204 – I Got You Babe

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#204 – I Got You Babe by Sonny & Cher

– It was all about the look when this duo hit the pop scene in 1965. Yes, they had a very catchy number one pop song with I Got You Babe, but the look was a publicist dream and what landed them not only on the covers of teen magazines, but also featured in mainstream newspapers and magazines.

Their attention grabbing look – or in showbiz terms, hook – happened because no one else looked like Sonny and Cher.

In this era of The British Invasion, if someone wasn’t tuned-in to the pop music scene (think older generation or too young to really know or care), it was easy to confuse one group with another. The look for most of the British groups included mop top hair, matching suits, Beatle boots and guitars.

I’m pretty sure even my dad, who was cool enough to take me to a Beatles concert in 1966, had a hard time figuring out what group I was watching on The Ed Sullivan Show, Shindig or Hullabaloo. It could the The Hollies, Herman’s Hermits or The Animals. Was that Peter and Gordon or Chad and Jeremy? A lot of adults weren’t exactly sure.

If you lived through it – you know what I’m talking about.

Borscht Belt comics (think Jackie Mason, Milton Berle and Jack E. Leonard) and television hosts (think Dean Martin introducing The Rolling Stones on The Hollywood Palace TV show) made jokes about all of the pop stars looking alike. They couldn’t tell one group from another and they all made the same “noise.”

Then they got a look at Sonny & Cher.

sonny-and-cher

They got the look!

I’ll go ahead and call them the first hippies, even though the term (derived from being hip or hep in the 1940’s) hadn’t even been used to define the counterculture when I Got You Babe was topping the music charts in August 1965. Sonny’s hair was shaggier than even The Stones or The Kinks (noted for being shaggier than the combed and blown-dried Beatles) and Cher fit the Carnaby Street look with bangs to her eyes and straight hair over her shoulders. But the look went way beyond that.

The first time I remember seeing bellbottoms, other than my dad’s Navy uniform or in WW2 movies, was either in a photo or television appearance by Sonny & Cher. There were no suits or “party dresses” that talent managers convinced their acts to wear to attract a larger audience (think Brian Epstein getting The Beatles out of their leather gear). They wore fuzzy sheep wool vests, striped pullover shirts, silky bellbottoms, wide belts and whatever other accessories you might find wandering around thrift shops and beach shacks in Southern California.

Their outfits were certainly nothing we would ever find in a department store in the Midwest.

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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

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For comics their names became the punch lines. For adults they could finally pick out Sonny & Cher from the other acts. And for boomers, they signaled a new trend. Within two years the newly-named hippies took S&C’s look and added on.

I Got You Babe had the necessary music and lyric hooks to compete with The British Invasion and the oncoming American groups like The Lovin’ Spoonful and The Byrds. The song was constantly on the radio during the late summer of 1965 and impossible to ignore. And once it was in your head, it stayed there for awhile, which is how it landed on this Dream Song List on April 21st. I hadn’t heard it in a long time so it’s one of the subliminal tunes and has made a lasting impression.

It also has a lasting memory…

For a week in August 1965 my 14-year old cousin Johnny and I “camped out” in a large tent my dad’s cousin had set up for us in the backyard of his house in Sandusky, Ohio. I’ve been fortunate because most of my relatives are “colorful” people. That’s a term of endearment for me. I’ve always enjoyed being around people who are different, adventurous, opinionated, and in some ways a bit “crazy.” It seems my family has handed down those traits through generations, which makes reminiscing or eventually confessing to past discretions just as funny as a night in a comedy club.

Sign here please!

Sign here please!

I was only 12 years old and Cousins Carl and wife Melba were older than my parents – and at the top of my list when it came to “colorful.” I can’t remember ever being bored or not laughing when they were around. Their daughter and my cousin Mimi was a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall in New York, which always added more “colors” to our get-togethers. If you’ve read my book The Beatles At Shea Stadium, Mimi had dinner with The Beatles the night before the concert in The Rainbow Room at the top of 30 Rockefeller Center.

We were at their house in Sandusky when she told me the story and gave me Ringo’s autograph on the back of a Rockette rehearsal schedule.

Carl had set up a huge canvas tent in their backyard. I noted it as “camping out” earlier because it was nothing like that in reality. Yeah, Johnny and I slept in sleeping bags on army cots, but we had electricity through an extension cord plugged into the house and full use of the kitchen, bathroom, record player and television. There was no “roughing it” when we “camped out.”

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Since I don’t have an older brother, John (we’ll drop the “ny” for now since we’re both a few decades older) was given that position in my mind. Our families are close and I can’t remember a Christmas night we didn’t spend together while growing up. And since we only lived a couple miles from each other (and still do) we shared many adventures. One includes the Beatles concert mentioned earlier.

John taught me the fine art of being an “all-nighter.” We’d have sleepovers at each other’s houses, which included mini “vacations” each summer. At those events bedtime was nonexistent. Parents would go to sleep and we’d sit up playing board games and watching old black and white movies until the channels signed off. There was no such thing as 24-hour television in the mid-60’s and it took years of mental reprogramming to not think The National Anthem ended with an electronic signal and TV test pattern.

To understand what I’m talking about, here’s a video of a channel sign-off from the 60’s.

In the summer these all-nighters would be outdoor adventures. Either walking or riding our bikes we could be cruising through our hometown anytime between midnight and dawn. In the 1960’s it was safe and that’s undoubtedly why I still find the nighttime much more interesting and exciting. I’ve never reprogrammed from that mental state and there’s a good chance it will be closer to sun-up than sundown when I post these ramblings.

1964_blue_streak

Cedar Point postcard

But we didn’t limit ourselves to nocturnal travels. One great adventure included taking a ferry from downtown Sandusky to the world famous “roller coast” of Cedar Point Amusement park. We stayed until closing and while taking the last ferry back we were caught in the middle of a loud and wild, Lake Erie wind-blown thunderstorm. I still remember the lightening and heavy rain as the large boat rocked through the waves. But we didn’t see it as any big deal since we grew up on the lake and after walking the couple miles through the damp darkness to Carl’s tent we spent a few more hours playing Monopoly under electric candlelight and listening to AM Top 40 radio.

And speaking of Cedar Point, the next year John and I finagled our way into a Dick Clark television special and rode go-carts with Chad and Jeremy for a couple hours.

But since that duo doesn’t finagle their way onto this Dream Song List until later, I’ll save the story for now.

During one of our daylight treks we walked a few miles to a shopping center where I bought the LP The Early Beatles on Capitol Records. It was the same as Introducing The Beatles on VeeJay Records, which I’d had since February 1964. But as a dedicated fan I needed this version for my collection.

sonny and cher fur

I got fur babe!

I also picked up I Got You Babe. The look may have caught my attention at first, but the catchy tune got my money. And since I’d had every song on the “latest” Beatles album memorized for a year and a half (Capitol Records also had a way of getting our money), it was good to have something actually new.

“They say we’re young and we don’t know…”

That first lyric by Sonny Bono says a lot to the Baby Boomer Generation. But my best memory is that we were still very young when I Got You Babe came out – and were in the process of learning. It brings back the first real feelings of freedom and independence that continued to grow during our teenage years. Sonny & Cher never made an impact on our generation like The Beatles and The Stones, but at this moment in 1965 they had the look and the sound of being different. And that’s a big part of how many of us remember the 1960’s.

Here’s a video of Sonny & Cher performing I Got You Babe from 1965…

 

 

To purchase The Best of Sonny & Cher with I Got You Babe visit Amazon.com

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

#206 – She Loves You

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#206 – She Loves You by The Beatles

She Loves You – This was the drum roll into the 1960’s as many of us prefer to remember the decade. Yeah (yeah yeah), the “official” turn of the clock from the 50’s was four years earlier for U.S. baby boomers, but play any of us the opening of She Loves You and the reaction is similar to the first time we ever saw a color television.

Our senses took a direct hit and we were launched into the Swingin’ 60’s.

Okay, for a lot of us in early 1964 the only swingin’ we did was on a grade school playground, but it was obvious our world was changing. Only three months before (the length of summer vacation from school) JFK was in The White House and clean-cut pop crooners dominated the music charts. Folk music was considered edgy and the older generation(s) still made the rules.

Then it all changed. I set the date for this new wave at February 9, 1964.

My first notice of The Beatles was on Friday, January 3rd when Jack Parr showed a short film clip focused mainly on the group’s apparently out-of-control screaming audiences. At the beginning you can barely hear the song From Me To You. Then it switches to shots of The Beatles in collarless jackets performing She Loves You. This was after Parr’s tenure as host of The Tonight Show. Johnny Carson had taken over late nights in 1962 and The Jack Parr Program aired in primetime on NBC for one hour every Friday.

For many of us it was our first exposure to the now famous lyrics, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

That’s important to note because it became a hook for The Beatles early fame in the U.S. From my memory it was pretty common for the older reporters to throw in a “Yeah, yeah, yeah” somewhere in their headlines or articles referring to what “the kids of today” liked or the simplicity of pop music when compared to the older standards.

There was even a report from the British theater world about how the Beatles’ music and influence was infiltrating the upper society in a not-so-sophisticated way. When the 1963 Broadway musical She Loves Me debuted at The West End Theater in London, one of the characters says to another, “She Loves You.” And of course someone in the audience had to finish the obvious by calling out, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

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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

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Since the two song snippets aired by Jack Parr were not enough to really grasp onto, most of us didn’t experience the full force of Beatlemania until Ed Sullivan introduced them on February 9th. The first complete song I heard by The Fab Four was All My Loving. Reviewing their performance from that Sunday evening, it’s no wonder we were knocked into another dimension of pre-(or-full-on) teenager. Every song including their rendition of the Broadway showstopper ‘Til There Was You is considered a Beatles classic.

And with She Loves You we were hooked by three shaggy heads singing, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

Hold Your HandI still find it strange this wasn’t the song that broke them in America. That didn’t happen until their next single, I Want To Hold Your Hand started getting U.S. radio play in December 1963. Capitol Records, the Beatles’ U.S. record company, refused to even release She Loves You – at first. The 45 rpm vinyl came out on Swan Records and did absolutely nothing until Beatlemania hit about six months later. Then it followed I Want To Hold Your Hand as the No. 1 song in March 1964.

Capitol wised-up that the group was making money for a rival label and very quickly took ownership from Swan and included the hit song on The Beatles Second Album released in April.

I’m sure The Beatles, their manager Brian Epstein and also movie director Richard Lester understood that “Yeah, yeah, yeah” was an important element in the group’s carefree image portrayed in the film A Hard Day’s Night. Though She Loves You would have already been considered an “oldie” (recorded in July 1963) when the Beatles’ first film was released in the summer of 1964, it was still included with their latest songs in the final concert sequence. I Want To Hold Your Hand wasn’t.

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Painesville, Ohio – Monday, December 19, 2016.

1966 Poster

The Classic Rocker will present The Beatles In Cleveland at Morley Library. Doors open at 6:30 pm with a display of Beatles memorabilia and FAB music. Program begins at 7 pm. Admission is FREE but seating is limited. Reservations are suggested by calling 440-352-3383. Includes rare films of the riotous concerts at Public Hall and Cleveland Stadium and never-before published photos. Books will be available at a special library discount following the program (think holiday shopping!). Morley Library is located at 184 Phelps Street, Painesville, OH 44077. Hope to see you there!

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Now putting my personal memory to use…

Following their February 9th debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, kids I knew had to have a copy of I Want To Hold Your Hand. I don’t remember how I got to my local record store since February in northern Ohio has always been too cold for a bike ride, but somehow I scored a copy of the 45 rpm (backed with I Saw Her Standing There) that week. But I really wanted an album.

That Saturday night my parents went on a “date night” shopping trip and surprised me with the LP Introducing The Beatles. Yeah (yeah, yeah) I had cool parents. But I really wanted the album showing their faces in half shadow and with shaggier hair. A week later I tagged along on their “date night” (three’s a crowd?) and came home with Meet The Beatles.

But none of these included She Loves You (no, no, no!). Once again, since I was only ten years old and my bike was not going to see the light of day until after the first thaw of spring, I had to rely on frequent Top 40 AM radio play to hear the song. Eventually within a couple weeks I ended up in a department store record section with a copy of She Loves You.

swanIt was on the smaller Swan label – and yes I still have it.

The song earned a spot on the Dream Song List on April 16th. Of course I own numerous copies, but it hadn’t been on my digital playlist for awhile, so it goes down as a subliminal memory. But with a hook as powerful as “Yeah, yeah, yeah” I’m sure it’s also been subliminally stuck in many other baby boomer’s minds for over half a century.

The song’s brief opening drum riff immediately transports us back to this era. It’s as important to the Beatles unique soundtrack as the count “1, 2, 3, FOUR!” in I Saw Her Standing There and the opening chord of A Hard Day’s Night. The song could have just opened with John, Paul and George singing “She Loves You, yeah, yeah, yeah” but it wouldn’t have been the same. The powerful impact of the drums sets the frantic tone that follows.

RingoThis credit goes to Ringo Starr. A number of years ago some music novices tried to downplay his importance and even suggested he wasn’t a great drummer. I’m pretty sure these knucklehead critics were either shouted down or embarrassed into obscurity. Their preferred heavy-fisted drum pounders or light-touching jazz percussionists could never have had the same impact. Ringo’s playing enhanced the vocalists and kicked in a beat that set the song’s pace without overwhelming what followed.

In my book that makes Ringo one of the best rock and roll drummers of all time. Case closed.

In 2009 it was announced She Loves You was the Beatles’ all time, top-selling single in England. That’s more than Hey Jude, I Want To Hold Your Hand and all the others. I’m sure it had to do with the hook. “Yeah, yeah, yeah” is tough to forget – even more than a half century later.

And here they are – in the glorious early days of technicolor – The Beatles singing She Loves You (yeah, yeah, yeah)!

To purchase The Beatles 1+ with She Loves You and every “must have” song visit Amazon.com

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2016 – North Shore Publishing

 

#209 – Hey Jude

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#209 – Hey Jude by The Beatles

heyjude2 – It’s easy to look back at an event and think, “Yeah, that’s when that happened.” Time gives you a historical perspective or as the old saying goes, “Hindsight is 20/20.” To go even further with this thought and put it into Classic Rocker terms, I’ll borrow a 1972 a song title and lyric from Johnny Nash:

I Can See Clearly Now.

There have been countless books written about the Beatles and like most dedicated fans, I’ve read many of them. With the passage of time, more often than not researchers and historians who are not first generation fans write the latest books. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s similar to new books about George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. No one writing these books was alive when these presidents were changing the world, but that doesn’t mean the authors are not experts on their subjects. They just have to look at their subject’s life from a historical point of view.

In other words, researching and writing on what has already happened. They have the benefit of clear hindsight and already know how each story ends.

But people living through these important moments don’t know – at the time – how important they might be in the long run. For example, no one including Sam Phillips had any idea how earth shattering the results would be when Elvis Presley first walked into the Sun Recording Studio in Memphis.

John and Paul AppleThe same can be said when the Beatles released Hey Jude. When we first heard it in August 1968 there was nothing on the radar – or even a hint – that we were entering the final phase of their earth-shattering career as a group. It was tuneful, uplifting and joyful. It was the first release on their newly formed Apple Records and would eventually become the Beatles’ all-time biggest selling single.

But looking back clearly with historic hindsight, it’s obvious something was different. First generation fans just didn’t know it at the time.

The Beatles had always been seen as a group. Again with hindsight we can see that wasn’t always exactly the case. For instance, when they performed live the 1963 album track All My Loving, Paul McCartney and George Harrison harmonized on the final verse. This is how it was presented to U.S. fans as the first song during their debut on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. But read the back cover notes on Meet The Beatles (UK title: With The Beatles) and you’ll see Paul double tracked both vocals in the recording studio. Even during their years as a touring band Paul recorded as a “solo artist” on Yesterday, Eleanor Rigby and For No One. Beatles historians know this is also true with various songs by John Lennon and George, with the remaining three primarily serving as a backup band.

But to us they were still a group and everything we looked forward to in 1968 would still be a group effort. Hey Jude didn’t change that perspective, but the demise was on the radar and the final phase was in progress.

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In theaters with the new film Eight Days A Week

The Beatles At Shea Stadium – Restored and Remastered

Read the story behind their greatest concert and making the TV special!

Buy now at Amazon.com

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Following the Revolver album and final tour ending in August 1966, it was almost like they hung a Closed sign on the Beatles shop. After expecting at least two albums a year (more in the U.S. thanks to giving us less songs per LP) and a hit single every couple months, things went silent. The Monkees took over the Fab Four reign for younger teens and the rest of us had to wait until February 1967 for Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever. And it’s no strain of the imagination to say these songs signaled a new psychedelic phase that included Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour.

All the backward tape loops, studio effects and trippy lyrical images came to an almost immediate halt just over a year later in March 1968 with Lady Madonna. The song could be considered the group’s original Get Back – since it went back to a basic rock and roll feeling. I say almost because the flip side was the Eastern sitar raga rock track The Inner Light, which was George’s turn as a “solo artist.”

Then they seemed to close up shop again.

maharishi-mahesh-yogiExcept this time they should have hung up a sign saying “On Vacation” since they ditched their world-shattering ways and headed for India to meditate with their guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

In my opinion (and I’ll never say humble opinion because The Classic Rocker doesn’t have one) something happened. It wasn’t earth shattering enough to make the world news. In fact, if you’ve read enough books on the topic it basically seems like India was a laid-back (boring?) time of reenergizing by the most famous frazzled foursome of their era. But they definitely changed. I believe India is where the cracks that eventually caused the final split started. Each member vacationed into his own mind and spirit and stopped being the shared four-headed monster as Mick Jagger described them during his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech.

They wrote enough songs to fill the upcoming double album The Beatles (renamed The White Album by first generation fans) but when they returned to the recording studio and the public eye they weren’t the Beatles of All My Loving, Sgt. Pepper or even Lady Madonna. The dynamics had changed. Hey Jude was by Paul McCartney and the Beatles while the flip side, Revolution, could be credited to John Lennon and the Beatles.

And it would continue this way until The End (final song on Abbey Road). And by the way – I told you I’m not humble in my opinions. We didn’t know it at the time, but hindsight makes it all very clear.

Hey Jude joined the Dream Song List on March 20th. From my opinionated dissertation above you already know I own more than a few copies including my original vinyl 45 rpm. And though it’s hard to believe because the song is still the flag-waving “hey remember us!” standard everyday reminder of the Beatles earth-shattering and world-dominating career and is a constant on every respectable classic rock radio playlist – I hadn’t heard it in awhile. So surprisingly, it goes into the subliminal chart listing.

Wait – a Beatles fan that hadn’t heard Hey Jude in awhile? Please don’t go for a non-humble bad opinion of me. But I’ll have to admit if there is one Beatles song that could ever possibly be overplayed, this is it. Of course now that I’ve written these ramblings while listening to Hey Jude it turns out I can’t hear it enough. It’s currently set for an unlimited run on my digital playlist.

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August 1968 was the first new music we had from the Beatles in at least five months. It was only one month less than the length of time we waited between Revolver and Penny Lane. In hindsight it seems like a blink of an eye. But when you lived through it their absence made us feel they were on a permanent vacation and the shop was closed for good. Fortunately we still had a couple years left but in hindsight the writing was on the wall.

My first memory of Hey Jude was on a Friday evening at the beginning of my sophomore year in high school. Summer vacation was history and I was psyched and nervous for my first show as a member of the school marching band. Since I was still almost a year away from being old enough to drive, I was hanging around in my uniform waiting for one of my buddies to pick me up when this instant classic came on the radio. If he was outside in his car waiting I didn’t notice. There was no way I was leaving until the final “Na-na-na’s” had faded out.

Hey Jude CameraBut (another) wait – The Classic Rocker wasn’t a jock in school? Don’t make quick opinionated judgments. I had more fun playing music, even though I could run faster and jump higher than maybe one or two guys I went to school with. I proved that on the basketball and track teams through junior high and into high school. But when it became all too apparent I had zero interest in touching a basketball when there was a guitar or trumpet nearby and found running around a track as boring as listening to a radio station that didn’t play the Beatles, the jock stuff went on vacation and eventually closed down.

The decision wasn’t difficult to make, especially when an idiotic (told you I was opinionated) gym teacher (slash) basketball coach told me my (perhaps an inch long?) hair made me look like a girl. It didn’t because in those days there were still school dress codes for boys that included hair off our ears and collars. But wanting me to emulate his outdated crew cut style was a challenge worthy enough to be called a boomer generation dividing line.

And besides, like many musicians before and after, I found it was a lot more fun riding in the bus to sporting events and sitting in the stands with a bunch of girls rather than with a bunch of sweaty jocks. It didn’t take hindsight to know that at the time – and I don’t see it any clearer now than I did in 1968. And to prove that in historical proportion, years later I married one of the marching band majorettes from my high school – so score another one for the music department.

We can also score a HUGE classic rock hit for The Beatles with Hey Jude. Since they had stopped touring two years earlier, here’s the closest any of us ever got to seeing the group perform the song live. Because the musicians union in England prevented musicians from lip-syncing their songs on television, the instrumental backing is pre-recorded, while the microphones are live. Listen carefully and you can hear Paul’s recorded voice under his live vocals. The clip includes a fab introduction by TV host David Frost and an even “fabier” musical intro by the lads themselves.

 

 

To purchase The Beatles 1 with all their No. 1 songs including Hey Jude visit Amazon.com

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2016 – North Shore Publishing

August 15, 1965 – The Beatles At Shea Stadium

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– It started earlier than you might think…

sidbernstein

Sid Bernstein

During the winter of 1963 Sid Bernstein, a New York producer and entrepreneur, decided to expand his horizons by taking a course in Political Science. The instructor said if students wanted learn about democracy they need to study Great Britain, so Bernstein trekked down to Times Square every week and bought the British newspapers.

After reading updates about the government, he turned to where his real interests were – the entertainment section. He noticed the name of a pop group called The Beatles. At first the articles were small, but each week they continued to grow in size. They also included two words about their performances that caught Bernstein’s eye:

SOLD OUT!

To his producer’s way of thinking, these were the same words that described fame-predicting appearances by Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, two of the BIGGEST names in showbiz. Since expanding his horizons could also mean taking a chance, he located the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein and booked the group – then unknown in the U.S. – for two shows in February 1964 at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Epstein Beatles

Brian Epstein and “The Boys”

When dealing with Epstein there were always stipulations. If The Beatles were not getting radio airplay in the U.S. by December 1963, the deal was off. It was a long wait, but as history tells us they made the deadline. I Want To Hold Your Hand broke the airwave barrier, they were scheduled for three February appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show – and Bernstein SOLD OUT both shows at Carnegie Hall.

Following the Beatles summer and fall 1964 tour of North America, Bernstein took another chance and scheduled them to appear in the brand new, state of the art Shea Stadium in Flushing, Queens. Again there were stipulations that included no advertising without a paid deposit, but Bernstein made a bold guarantee and backed it up by selling 55,600 seats through word of mouth. Once again…

SOLD OUT!

Nothing on this scale for a pop concert had ever been attempted before. Elvis had performed a handful of stadium shows leading up to his army induction, but the largest had been in front of 26,000 fans at The Cotton Bowl. The Beatles had to more than double that number to fill Shea Stadium.

Dressing Room

Away from the crowd

On August 15, 1965 The Beatles landed on top of a building at the neighboring New York World’s Fair and were delivered into Shea Stadium via a Wells Fargo armored truck. The dressing room was crowed with visitors including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and future kingpin business manager for Apple Corp and three of the four Beatles, Allen Klein.

If only Brian Epstein had known…

Their entire visit to New York, beginning Friday, August 13th through Tuesday, August 16th, was filmed for a Beatles In New York (not the title, but the idea) television special. Only backstage and concert footage was used for the final version.

Introduced by Ed Sullivan, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr ran to a small stage set up over second base on the baseball playing field and performed ten songs in about thirty-seven minutes. Whether anyone heard them depended on where they were seated, if they were screaming – or if they were next to someone screaming. Many of the male fans thought they sounded great. Many of the female fans don’t remember.

Shea on stage

Never before in the history of popular music…

Filmed in 35mm, the quality of the concert footage is similar to blockbuster Hollywood movies of the era. For comparison, The Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock movies were filmed in 16mm.

The resulting television special, The Beatles At Shea Stadium, was planned for holiday (Christmas) airing in December 1965. One member of the Beatles inner circle approved the version submitted by Ed Sullivan Productions, while five others didn’t. A secret recording session took place in January 1966 to correct the sound and the special wasn’t broadcast in the U.S. until a year later. By that time fans were only weeks away from the release of Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever by a mustached, psychedelic-clothes-wearing, pre-Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The film has been restored, color-corrected with both the overdubbed and original audio remastered for mono and stereo. It has yet to be released.

But on television that January evening in 1967 they were still the mop-topped Fab Four riding high on the release of their summer 1965 film, Help! And they played, sang, laughed and sweated during a hot New York August night in front of a SOLD OUT audience of 55,600 fans.

It was 50 years ago on August 15, 1965.

It was the birth of stadium rock.

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2015 – North Shore Publishing

 

February 9, 1964

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I was taken by complete surprise. Well, almost.

Jack Parr

Jack Parr

I had heard of The Beatles before February 9th only because my mom let me stay up late the night Jack Parr aired a brief clip during The Tonight Show on January 3, 1964. It had to be a Friday night and not a school night, but I’m not sure. And it wasn’t because we knew The Beatles were going to be on. Again, I had never even heard of them. We just enjoyed watching Jack Parr. For me it was his sense of smug humor (for lack of a better term). I always thought it was a bit risqué to watch his show because I was still a preteen and he was for adults. It reinforces my opinion that my mom was a little more with it than other parents who wouldn’t let their children stay up late to watch when Parr was host of The Tonight Show.

I also thank her and my dad for taking me to a Beatles concert. Again, I’ve heard too many stories from other young fans “under parental control” who were not allowed.

Other than Parr’s brief clip I have no memory of hearing anything else about The Beatles until February 9th. There was too much other “stuff” going on. I’ve been very clear about my recollections of this time in past Classic Rocker columns and my books The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. We were still dealing with a very bleak time in our country’s history following JFK’s assassination in Dallas on November 22nd. We watched the funeral and news updates on television and heard discussions at home and in school about The Cold War and The A-Bomb. Even my neighbor had a bomb shelter and as a preteen baby boomer it was obvious things had changed very quickly.

I often describe my memories during these days as being in black and white. That probably comes from remembering and still seeing reruns of newsreels and television shows from that era being broadcast in black and white. The Beverly Hillbillies, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Patty Duke Show. You know the ones I’m talking about, so no need to mention them all. All the shows were in black and white which undoubtedly affects my memories.

I didn’t even know anyone who owned a color television in February 1964 – not even my neighbor with the bomb shelter. But having a color television wouldn’t have made a difference. The Ed Sullivan Show was broadcast in black and white.

Ed Beatles 2

Rehearsal pre-fab

My dad, mom, little sister and I had been on a four day family vacation that started on Wednesday, February 5th. It was a driving trip to Washington, DC and we arrived home in the early evening of Sunday February 9th.  I had no plans to do anything except eat dinner and avoid doing any homework until the last minute. As we did just about every Sunday at 8 pm we all sat down in front of our only television (“The black and white one,” as John Lennon described A Hard Day’s Night at their legendary Shea Stadium concert about a year and a half later) to watch The Ed Sullivan Show.

Dad, mom and sis were on the couch. I sat on the floor with my back against the couch. I remember it as vividly as where I was when my fifth grade teacher announced to the class President Kennedy had been shot. There are a few dates you’ll always remember if you were alive at that time. These are two of the earliest for me.

It would be cool to say we watched because of The Beatles, but don’t remember it that way. We always watched Ed Sullivan. Like for many of us in the U.S. he was part of our television family on Sunday nights.

As the first performers, he announced The Beatles.

Beatles Ed Sullivan

A moment in time

For myself at that moment and for millions of others watching, our world immediately went from black and white to color. It was that dramatic. To use a comparison from my book The Beatles In Cleveland it was like the film The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy was swept away from a black and white Kansas and unexpectedly dropped in colorful Oz.

And The Ed Sullivan Show was broadcast in black and white!!

Beatles music has been listened to, analyzed, discussed, broken down, recreated, and even taught and studied in universities since. There’s no need for me to do that now. The influence is still felt over half a century later.

But it wasn’t just the music. They had an image unlike anyone else before them. You can talk about how shocking Madonna, Michael Jackson and Prince appeared twenty years later, or even more recently with Lady Gaga, Lil’ Wayne and Miley Cyrus. In February 1964 the Beatles’ “look” was shocking compared to what was considered “normal” at the time.

To put it into a baby boomer context based on our television viewing habits. No man in 1964 had hair like that except for Moe from The Three Stooges.

John Lennon MarriedInstead of letter sweaters and slacks, the Beatles wore business suits with tight pants, skinny ties and boots with pointy toes and high heels (Cuban heeled Beatle Boots). It was shocking! And I only learned their first names because they were flashed under their individual shots on the television screen. The music was lively and happy, the Beatles bounced in time and the girls screamed. Then it was over.

Well, not quite for me. Where we lived in northern Ohio, the dividing line between Eastern Standard Time and Central Standard Time in 1964 was drawn between Cleveland and Toledo. That meant we had two separate television markets airing shows an hour apart. At 8 pm EST I watched the Beatles live on The Ed Sullivan Show. An hour later at 8 pm CST I tuned into the Toledo CBS affiliate and watched it again. I did that for each of their three appearances that month.

Beatles Ed 2

Long haired rock’n roll

I was able to watch their U.S. debut on The Ed Sullivan Show twice that same night. It was also rerun later that year, but then I never saw it again until buying a bootleg videotape on 8th Street in Manhattan more than twenty years later. Now like many other fans, I own a legit DVD copy of The Ed Sullivan Show appearances and pretty much have every moment memorized.

The very next day it was also obvious things had changed.

On the Wednesday before, I had left school early for our drive to Washington, DC. There had been no mention of The Beatles in my classroom or anywhere that I can recall.

On Monday morning following The Ed Sullivan Show most of the girls in my fifth grade class had Beatles fan magazines hidden in their desks and their television debut was the main topic of conversation. The guys tried to act cool about it – or at least that’s my perception because we weren’t supposed to be attracted to them like the girls were. They were in love and lust. But I remember listening to their conversations and know some of the guys, me included, wanted to be like The Beatles. It seemed a lot more fun than kicking a ball around the playground.

I’m sure it was also within that first week one of the guys in my class came to school with a Beatles wig. I bought one myself and still have it. There were also a lot of Beatles trading cards, photos, magazines and other merchandize brought to school that would be considered valued collectors items today.

Beatles Bowing

From black & white to color

Of course, there was the music. By the Saturday following their debut on The Ed Sullivan Show I owned the LP Introducing The Beatles as a gift from my parents after listening to me beg for a week. The next Saturday (after more pleading) I had a copy of Meet The Beatles. Somewhere within that time frame I came up with the sixty cents (somewhere in that $$ neighborhood at that time) for the 45 rpm record I Want To Hold Your Hand b/w I Saw Her Standing There.

The floodgates were open and haven’t been closed since. It was February 9, 1964. It all changed that evening and nothing was ever the same again. Thank you to John, Paul, George and Ringo. It’s been a memorable journey to say the least.

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and the author of The Beatles In Cleveland and The Beatles At Shea Stadium

Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com at THIS LINK.