"Oh yeah, I'll tell you something…I think you'll understand…When I say that something…I want to hold your hand…"
Those are probably the very first words from a Beatles song that I ever remembered on my own and sang out loud. I was six years old, in the first grade at Bethel Springs Elementary School. Anita Bowman and I were on the seesaw, singing our hearts out…and that's how the music of The Beatles became the soundtrack of my life.
It was almost imperceptible: In mid-1960s America, the music of The Beatles was all-pervasive. It was everywhere! And so there it remains, providing the scoring for all our lives-whether you're a baby boomer or not.
My other memory of The Beatles' seemingly immediate impact on pop culture (keep in mind, I was a first grader, albeit a precociously aware first grader, but still…) concerns my older sister Bobbye, who was in eighth grade at the time, constantly trying to figure out how to ditch her baby brother during a shopping trip in downtown Selmer, Tennessee. We were standing in front of the Ben Franklin Store (a five-and-dime, if you have any clue what that is) and one of her classmates approached, gleefully brandishing a Beatles-inspired guitar pin that she had just bought.
When I reminded Bobbye of that, she couldn't remember that rather inconsequential moment in her life (it's really amazing the flotsam and jetsam of life that percolates in my memory), but she said, "I loved them then, still love them today."
"I will say that my favorite was always George Harrison," she says, wistfully. "Everyone else loved Paul or John, but I liked the quiet, shy George. I also remember, vividly, sitting on the floor in front of the TV to watch them on The Ed Sullivan Show. I remember Daddy saying, 'with that long hair they look like bugs!' You know, their hair was not even long then, instead they were sort of bowl cuts."
What prompted this conversation with my sister about The Beatles was a Facebook post she'd made, asking her friends to essentially "name that tune," supplying the following lyrics as a clue: "You say you will love me…If I have to go…You'll be thinking of me…Somehow I will know…Someday when I'm lonely…Wishing you weren't so far away"
The name of the song, of course, is "Things We Said Today," something you know if you had a popular sister who loved popular music (my favorite claim to her fame is that she was a finalist on the Top Ten Dance Party on WDXI television in Jackson, Tennessee, in 1966-presaging the arrival of Tracey Turnblad's stardom via film and musical theatre some 30 to 40 years later). And I must add that I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my sister Charlotte who introduced me to all sorts of other music (my encyclopedic knowledge of pop music, the quintessential American Songbook, is due my two sisters, one 17 years older than me, the other seven years older).
But Bobbye's Facebook post was particularly timely because I had just finished up a telephone interview with Joey Curatolo when I read it on my computer screen. Curatolo, who I daresay knows more about the music of The Beatles than both my sisters and I put together, will be in Nashville this week as the national touring company of Rain-A Tribute To The Beatles takes up residence at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center for an eight performance run May 1-6.
And with memories every bit as vivid as my sister's or my own, Joey Curatolo remembers The Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show: "Everyone was playing the tennis racquet or baseball bat on that Monday after Ed Sullivan."
Now known as the ersatz Paul McCartney in Rain, Curatolo grew up in a Brooklyn household where classical music and opera were more the norm. But a natural musician-at ten, young Joey taught himself how to play the guitar, playing the piano by ear at 16-Curatolo became infatuated with The Beatles, ultimately winning several Paul McCartney sound-alike contests, even touring with Beatlemania.