By Lynn Paris
On February 9, 1964, I rushed home to watch the Beatles, that audacious rock and roll band from Great Britain, make their heralded appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. I, like just about every other teenage girl in the country, swooned with delight at the grainy image on our black and white TV, as this wild, long-haired (it was really so short)”foreigners” won our hearts by wanting to hold our hands. Something galvanized us that night, awakened us from the lethargy we’d experienced since the assassination of John F. Kennedy the year before. Suddenly, we had new music . . . and new heroes. What none of us probably realized at the time was that nothing would ever really be the same . . . not in music, not in pop culture, not in America.
Fast forward 49 years, and I’m sitting in the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas, cheering and clapping for Sir Paul McCartney as he begins his almost three-hour set with “Eight Days A Week.” Next to me, my husband is smiling, later telling me that this song expressed how much he loved me. Behind us, a teenage girl is crying uncontrollably, reminding me of all the hysterically sobbing young girls attending those early Beatles’ concerts. Next to us, our 40-year old friends, with their dad, in his sixties, two generations, enjoying every moment. How could this be? How could this 70-year old man still capture the hearts of this sold-out audience made up of teenagers, octogenarians and every age in between? Boomers to Gen-Xers and Ys to millenials; everyone knew the lyrics to all his songs and everyone rose as one to demand two incredible encores.
It was, frankly, one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. It might have been because Sir Paul’s music was part of the soundtrack of my life, something I’d never thought about but that’s always been there. Maybe it was being able to sing along with almost every song, in addition to the fantastic band, sound system, pulsating multimedia slides (from historic to psychedelic to contemporary) and dazzling light show; there were even rock-the-house fireworks. Maybe it was the sound of a man who still loves to perform, who so enjoys what he’s doing that his excitement was contagious.
Mostly, though, it was just an astounding display of music that transcended time . . . a decades-long playbook of music that really never stopped, despite the very brief time that the Beatles actually wrote and performed together. Interestingly, my husband told me that when he was stationed in Germany in 1962, he went with some of his Army buddies to see a new young band. It was the Beatles, playing live at the Star Club in Hamburg. At the time, Jim thought they were a German band, because they sang “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” in German ("Komm, gib mir deine Hand").
The other night in Austin, the songs were in English, and they ran the gamut from the fresh, raw, invigorating early Beatles songs like “I Saw Her Standing There” to the ingeniously harmonic melodies and thought-provoking lyrics of “Yesterday,” “Hey Jude,” “Lady Madonna” and “Blackbird.” There were Wings songs, too, including “Band on the Run” and “Live and Let Die.” Every time you thought the last song couldn’t be topped, Sir Paul pulled out another one that you loved even more; I guess that’s what happens when you have countless classics from which to choose. The songs were timeless, and yet each had the power to put you in a particular time and place, or to share some memories with others who’d been listening to the same soundtrack for so many years.
So this is to Sir Paul, with love. I didn’t really expect to enjoy his concert this much. I knew I wanted to go because he’s a living legend, and because it would undoubtedly be the last (and first) time I’d ever see a Beatle perform live. But I didn’t really understand the impact his music would have on me, or that seeing this man, still loving life and sharing his gift with others, would so inspire me. After all that’s happened over 50 years: the tragedy and pain, the joy and love, and now, in the middle of today’s tumultuous, often bitter and divisive times, there was still Paul McCartney, singing and playing his heart out. There was still Sir Paul, with his final song in his second encore, reminding us all that “In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
Lynn Paris' Archives