Thursday, July 23, 2009

I'll tell you something I think you'll understand

Time passes, and if there's anyone who knows this, it's Paul McCartney.

Paul McCartney had never been to the United States before 1964 (for the record, George Harrison had). When he initially arrived in this country, one of his first tasks was to perform with his bandmates on a television show called the Ed Sullivan Show, which was broadcast from New York City. A little over a year later, he and his bandmates were again in New York, but this time they played in a slightly larger venue - a baseball stadium.

It's been over forty years since the Beatles played Shea, and a lot has happened since then, to Paul McCartney and to many of us. McCartney broke up with his then-girlfriend and married...a New Yorker. Paul was the fourth of the four Beatles to quit the band (although Starr's and Harrison's departures were temporary). He formed another band, took a trip to Japan, and went solo. His New York wife died, and he married and divorced an Englishwoman.

Then, four decades after his last date, Paul McCartney returned to the theater from which his Ed Sullivan appearance was broadcast. Ed Sullivan had long since died, and he was instead welcomed by a gray-haired man named David Letterman. Oddly enough, his setlist did not include any of the songs that he had played back in 1964.

[T]he ex-Beatle performed "Get Back" and (the Fireman's) "Sing The Changes" for broadcast, and "Coming Up," "Band On The Run," "Let Me Roll It"/"Purple Haze," "Helter Skelter," and "Back In The USSR" for the gathering crowd.

Not sure how Ed Sullivan would have reacted to some of those songs, but presumably Letterman liked them.

But then it really began to get strange. Because then Paul relived another professional triumph - sort of.

Nowadays it's not unusual for bands to play outdoor stadiums - in fact, several musical artists (including McCartney himself) have played football stadiums. But it's still something for a 64-plus year old musician to play a large sports stadium when the NFL is not involved.

But even Paul McCartney can't play Shea Stadium any more, so he did the next best thing. No, he didn't play Yankee Stadium. He played Citi Field.

As a 23-year-old Beatle, Mr. McCartney introduced rock to a stadium audience on Aug. 15, 1965, when the Beatles played a 34-minute set at Shea Stadium, which Citi Field replaced. The Beatles returned to Shea in 1966 on what would be their last tour.

Mr. McCartney was also at the final concert at Shea Stadium, joining the headliner, Billy Joel, on stage last year....

On Friday night, in the first of three shows at the stadium, Mr. McCartney reminisced about 1965, imitating the muffled and distorted sound the Beatles got through the old stadium’s P.A. system, which by all accounts was drowned out by screaming girls. (Nearly 44 years later, somewhat older women seized their cue to scream.)

McCartney then recalled many people who had passed away, including John Lennon, George Harrison, and Linda McCartney.

Sadly, after that show was completed, another former McCartney associate passed away. The Music's Over chronicled the hit years of Gordon Waller:

Since [Peter] Asher’s sister, June Asher dated Paul McCartney at the time, Peter and Gordon were lucky enough secure unrecorded Lennon-McCartney songs for their own use. One of those songs, “A World Without Love” became their biggest hit.

In an odd coincidence, Waller was sixty-four when he died - an age with which McCartney fans are familiar. And the Englishman died not too far away from Citi Field and the Ed Sullivan Theater (and, for that matter, the Dakota) - Waller lived in Ledyard, Connecticut, and died in Norwich.

Now I am not as old as McCartney, and there has only been one time (last summer) where I have had the opportunity to visit a place that I was familiar with over forty years ago. For McCartney the issue is especially odd, because while very few people care about what I was doing in the 1960s, there are some people who don't care what Paul McCartney did AFTER the 1960s.
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