Tag Archives: Beatles

Ringo’s Hair

For the sold-out crowd in the Town Hall auditorium last weekend, Fred Cantor’s documentary “The High School That Rocked!” combined Woodstock and class reunions with a trip down memory lane.

Men with far less — but grayer — hair than in the mid-’60s, and women wearing not granny but actual glasses smiled, laughed and clapped as the true story of how the Doors, Sly & the Family Stone, Rascals, Cream and Yardbirds played at Staples High School was told by folks who Really Were There.

There were plenty of anecdotes. Two Westport girls baked a cake for the Rascals; another touched Jim Morrison’s face.

Ed Baer

And then there was the tale told by Ed Baer. A former WMCA radio “Good Guy” and longtime Westporter, he spoke on camera about the astonishing effect the Beatles had on everyone at the time. The example he used was a contest his station sponsored. The grand prize: a locket of Ringo Starr’s hair.

The audience smiled knowingly.

But one woman could not believe her ears.

Leslie Schine graduated from Staples in 1971 — Cantor’s year. But in 1964 she was 11 years old.

And she won the same contest Ed Baer described in the film.

A Bridgeport Post news story shows 11-year-old Leslie Schine clutching her Beatles album.

At a reception after the showing, she mentioned the astonishing coincidence. And, she said, she had not even entered the contest. She did not know who sent in her name.

A 1964 story in the Bridgeport Post suggested it was a colleague of her father’s. Leonard Schine was a noted local attorney, and a former Westport Town Court judge.

The lock of hair — clipped from Ringo’s head on the Beatles’ 1st US tour — arrived at Leslie’s Bayberry Lane home, along with a photo of the Beatles cutting his hair; an affidavit signed by Ringo; a letter from WMCA, and a fan club postcard signed by all the Beatles (except John).

More than 50 years later, Leslie Schine mimics her previous pose. Here, she holds a photo she was sent by WMCA, showing “the Good Guys” cutting Ringo’s hair. (Photo/Carlotta Grenier Schaller)   

When Leslie told this story last weekend, she thought she still had it “somewhere.”

Sure enough, the next day — in just 15 minutes — she found it in her attic.

Along with the documentation.

“I seem to remember bringing it to Coleytown Elementary, and handing out single strands to friends,” Leslie says.

It’s amazing. Of all the anecdotes Ed Baer could have told, that’s the one he chose.

And of all 300 people in the auditorium last weekend, one of them was Leslie Schine.

Ed Baer was there too. Unfortunately, neither he nor Leslie knew of the coincidence, so they did not meet.

Still, it’s an astonishing story.

Yeah, yeah, yeah!

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

As the world — or at least my corner of it — celebrates today’s 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival in America, the best music is everywhere.

That’s ’60s rock. Hands down.

I heard “She Loves You” the other day. It was only the squintillionth time I’ve heard that defining tune, which long ago receded into whatever part of my brain is reserved for songs I will still sing along to at 96, during my final days in a nursing home.

She Loves YouBut this time was different. Instead of bobbing almost unheard in the background, as familiar songs often do, this time I heard it with almost cosmic clarity. The joyful guitar licks, Ringo’s thumping drumming, the giddily optimistic lyrics — all rushed back, as if listening to it for the first time ever.

In fact, I first heard “She Loves You” in the winter of 1964. I was not yet a teenager, but back in those pre-helicopter-parent days I enjoyed freedom today’s kids only dream about. I rode my bike wherever I wanted; my bazillion High Point Road friends and I played outside all afternoon with no adults in sight, and when we were hungry we wandered into someone’s house and found food.

Everywhere I went, I carried my transistor radio. It was laughably large compared to today’s teeny iPods, but as 5th graders who had just discovered rock ‘n’ roll, our lives demanded a soundtrack. The Beatles — and Stones, Searchers, Freddie & the Dreamers, you name it — provided one.

I thought of all that when I heard “She Loves You.” In the winter of 6th grade, my friends and I were kings of Burr Farms Elementary School. With 11-year-old swaggers, we strode the halls certain we had all the answers to life.

In fact, we didn’t yet know who we were — or even that we should be trying to figure it out. We were blissfully clueless that — like pre-adolescents everywhere — we were ready to take off on an astonishing journey of self-discovery. Because it was the ’60s, ours was especially wild.

Fifty years ago -- on February 9, 1964 -- the Beatles first appeared on Ed Sullivan.

Fifty years ago — on February 9, 1964 — the Beatles first appeared on Ed Sullivan.

A couple of months earlier, President Kennedy had been killed. For a while, the nation mourned. Now we were ready to look ahead. In the chill of winter, we needed something new and bright and bold.

In 1964, the Beatles provided that breath of fresh air.  Fifty years later, half the band is dead. We’re all a bit jaded; half a century has taken its toll. But for 2 minutes the other day, the joyful energy of “She Loves You” took me back to a moment when anything — all things — seemed possible.

And you know that can’t be bad.

(The Beatles’ “She Loves You,” from their 1st Ed Sullivan Show appearance on February 9, 1964. The YouTube clip shows the English version of dates. If your browser does not take you directly to YouTube, click here.)

Play A Song For Me

I promised myself I would not write about my Staples reunion this weekend.  But:  I can’t help myself.

Sugar pie, honey bunch…

Of course.  Anyone of a certain age (mine) knows without thinking that those are the only words that follow “I can’t help myself.”

Just as everyone at our reunion — or any other one, anywhere, from that era — understands instinctively that the only thing boot heels do is “wander.”  And — as Doctor Doctor Mister M.D. says — all you really need is good lovin’.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Brian Keane and Charlie Karp rock on. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

One of the many highlights at Saturday’s reunion was the band.  All were members of our Staples Class of 1971.  Billy Sims, Rob McClenathan, Bubba Barton — each with non-music jobs now — joined Mike Mugrage, Brian Keane, Jeff Dowd, Billy Seidman and Charlie Karp to play some of what Cat Mother and the All Night Newboys know is “that good old rock ‘n’ roll.”

Mike toured and performed with James Brown, Ronnie Spector and Orleans. Brian is a multiple Grammy and Emmy Award-winning composer.  Jeff is an opera singer based in Germany.   Billy teaches music at NYU.

Charlie never graduated from Staples.  He dropped out a few weeks into 10th grade, forsaking algebra and gym for touring and recording with guys like Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Miles.  He’s now back in this area, playing with great bands like Slo Leak.

These guys sometimes played together at Staples.  They were in different groups too.

Linda Satin, Carissa Simon, Margaret Hart and Bonnie Housner channel the Supremes. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

On Saturday night — with the addition of former Orphenians Bonnie Housner, Margaret Hart, Julie Aldworth McClenathan, Kim Plaut, Linda Satin and Carissa Simon as singers, all of whom had the “Stop!  In the Name of Love” hand motions down pat — they brought us back to a time when music was not only real and good, but a shared experience.

Everyone who went to school in the 1960s and 70s listened to the same songs at the same time.  We heard them on transistor radios, car radios, turntables at parties.

Just a snippet of the most obscure tunes — “I’m Your Puppet,” “Hitchin’ a Ride,” “Indiana Wants Me” — brings back powerful memories of precise places, people and the funny/outrageous/bizarre/typical/illegal things we were doing at those moments.

So as I listened and danced Saturday night — Mustang Sally, you been runnin’ all over town — I said to myself:  “Man, you are one lucky guy to have grown up when you did.”

Jimi Hendrix, back when music was music.

And then I thought about music today.  When the Class of 2011 has its reunion, they will not have actual music to listen to.

Nor will they have classmate bands from high school to play it.

Nor experience the joy of growing up sharing the same music, at the same time and place, during a transformative time in their young lives.

I threw this sad fact out at a friend from Burr Farms, Long Lots and Staples — a guy I haven’t seen in decades, but who because of our time together long ago, I’d reconnected with instantly.

He didn’t buy it.

His kids — in their late teens and early 20s — love the Beatles, Doors and other groups we also loved, he said, back in the day.

Suddenly, I felt fine.

In 2051, I realized, alums attending their own 40th reunions will listen to the same music we did.

Eighty years before.

The Beatles Play The Levitt!

Last year, the Levitt Pavilion drew a great crowd for an Abba tribute band performance.

The Fab Four come to Westport on Sunday. Sort of.

It was so successful, the Levitt kicks off its 38th season this Sunday (June 26, 7 p.m.) with a Beatles tribute.  “The Cast of Beatlemania” is — according to a press release — “the first, original and only complete representation of the musical force called the Beatles. ”

The show features members who starred in the Broadway production.  They’ve performed in all 50 states and over 20 countries.

In years past the Levitt has presented Willie Nelson, Tom Jones, the Beach Boys, America and Buckwheat Zydeco.

The Beatles were a bit out of the Levitt’s price range.  Besides, they broke up shortly before the outdoor pavilion was built.  Plus, 2  are now dead.  Still, a tribute show isn’t too shabby.

Especially when admission is free.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

I heard “She Loves You” yesterday.  It was only the squintillionth time I’ve heard the Beatlemania-defining tune, which long ago receded into whatever part of my brain is reserved for songs I will still sing along to at 96, during my final days in a nursing home.

But this time was different.  Instead of bobbing almost unheard in the background, as familiar tunes often do, this time I heard it with almost cosmic clarity.  The joyful guitar licks, Ringo’s thumping drumming, the giddily optimistic lyrics — all came rushing back, as if hearing it for the first time ever.

In fact, I first heard “She Loves You” in the early spring of 1964.  I was not yet a teenager, but back in those pre-helicopter-parent days I enjoyed freedom today’s students only dream about.  I rode my bike wherever I wanted; my bazillion High Point Road friends and I played outside all afternoon, with no adults in sight, and when we were hungry we wandered into someone’s house and found food.

Everywhere I went, I carried my transistor radio.  It was laughably large compared to today’s teeny iPods, but as fifth graders who had just discovered rock ‘n’ roll, our lives demanded a soundtrack.  The Beatles, and so many other wannabe bands, provided it.

I thought of all this yesterday because the weather reminded me so much of the first time I heard “She Loves You.”  Winter was almost gone, but spring had not yet settled in.  Both times the afternoon was chilly, the wind gusting, but the world was also filled with something fresh, something cleansing, something to look forward to.

Back in 1964, the Beatles provided that breath of fresh air.  Now, 45 years later, half the band is dead.  We’re all a bit jaded; some of us are worried, a few even terrified.  But for 2 minutes yesterday, music and weather combined to take me back to a moment when anything — all things — seemed possible.

And you know that can’t be bad.