One day after the Labor Day holiday, and already we're back in "what the world needs now" mode. ISIS, Putin, Ferguson...ebola, for crying out loud! 2014 has been overloaded with bad news -- and the year's just barely two-thirds of the way through. Who doesn't need a happy diversion? Also, who doesn't think on a day like this... has it ever been so bad?
Take off the rose-colored glasses. Name a year and I'll tell you what was terrible. Take 1964...please. At this moment 50 years ago, America was still reeling from the assassination of its young president just nine months earlier. In the Deep South, civil rights was still very much up in the air, as the bodies of three murdered activists were pulled from an earthen dam in Mississippi. Here, as mentioned last week, the end of summer 1964 resulted in a violent outburst on the streets of North Philadelphia.
Need to get away?
May I present: The Beatles!
Exactly 50 years ago as I write this, the four moptopped Liverpudlians were taking the stage at the long-since-demolished Philadelphia Convention Center, one of only two shows that the Fab Four ever performed here. (The other was an outdoor gig in the summer of 1966 at cavernous JFK Stadium that was only one-third full...hard to believe, Harry.) My colleague Chuck Darrow did an outstanding job re-telling the tale:
According to [TV's Larry] Kane, the local date was a major stress-fest. The Beatles hit town just days after the Columbia Avenue riots, so no one knew if civic peace would be maintained during their stay. Compounding the problem was a nationally disseminated prediction by psychic Jeanne Dixon that the band's chartered plane would crash en route from Philadelphia to Indianapolis. (Kane recalled that George Harrison actually had a member of the entourage get Dixon on the phone, and that she didn't calm Harrison's fears).
"Of all the 67 Beatles concerts I saw, this was definitely the most chaotic," said Kane, whose first of three Beatles-related tomes, "Ticket to Ride" (about that 1964 tour), is being re-released this month by Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group. "The reason it was the most chaotic was because the fans were the most chaotic.
"They had folding chairs on the floor of [Convention Hall] and what you saw was the chairs being folded, and as they were folded, the kids were moving closer and closer to the stage."
He added that police officers stationed on the floor had to use restraint, so instead of swinging their billy clubs, "they tried to stop them with body blocks. It was quite a scene because the girls won. I found out that night that Philadelphia girls were different than any other girls in the country. They were unstoppable."
See, happy news from 50 years ago. Almost makes you forget that the Phillies were about to blow a six-and-a-half game lead in the pennant race -- another 1964 disaster. As Kane correctly notes, the Beatles -- John Lennon, anyway -- were well aware of Philadelphia's unrest on Columbia Avenue (now Cecil B. Moore Avenue) and were quite perturbed to see that the crowd at the Convention Center was all-, or almost all-, white. Some days, even rock 'n' roll music isn't a total escape.
But here is your moment of zen: a 12-minute, pretty high quality video clip of that iconic Philadelphia show...September 2, 1964. You're welcome.