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Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Time Event
6:49a
Memories ...
Sometimes you can tell why a book ended up at the dollar store, and sometimes it's totally inexplicable. Larry Kane's Ticket To Ride: Inside the Beatles' 1964 Tour that Changed the World is one of the latter. A fascinating window into Beatlemania, it even is "multi-media", coming with a CD of interviews done with the band when the author was part of the traveling press pool on the '64 and '65 American tours.

The only thing I can identify that might have moved this into those channels is that it was, perhaps, written too late. Forty years is a LONG time to "sit on a story", memories dim, contexts shift, and time grinds on, leaving fewer and fewer people that really care about a subject available to buy the book. Had Kane written this in '67 or '68 it would have been huge, and given him a life-long income of doing convention and personal appearances, so waiting till 2003 to tell this story just seems odd, like there was some hard-bargained "embargo" in place on him opening up about his experiences with the band.

Folks under 40 probably don't really understand what a major cultural force The Beatles were. Frankly, it almost sounds silly saying that today, but it's true. Especially for "popular music", nobody had ever toured like that, and in several instances (most notably the famed Shea Stadium show) no musical event had ever drawn such crowds (and that at 55,000 attendees, compared to the six-figure gates that will regularly be scheduled on major tours today). Four guys in their early 20's had the entire world's attention, and it was at a sociological point where "something different" was being ushered in.

The back story here is somewhat amusing. Larry Kane was a "serious news guy", and a news director at a Miami radio station at age 21, who by way of a few near-accidental connections was invited to come along on the '64 tour. He wasn't a Beatles fan, he wasn't "in the music business" (although his employers in radio were), and he was able to pull together an ad-hoc "network" of a few dozen stations for whom he was providing daily reports (thereby being able to finance the trip). Kane went on to have a long and reasonably distinguished news career, and maybe, for the most of that, he didn't want to be "The Beatles' reporter guy" and ducked the connection as much as possible.

Anyway, Kane apparently did keep his notes (and some of his reels) and it's a nice thing for a geezer like myself to be able to take a peek into that world. I was a little kid when the events in this book were unfolding, but because of my age (I'd have been like 6-8 over most of the time), The Beatles were a major "environmental" factor (especially as we were living in NYC at the time) for me growing up.

The book has no particular axes to grind, nor any specific theme. It follows the tours, city to city, show to show, and presents the events from a newsman's angle ... what happened, who was involved, etc., without any "fan" spin. This could be a bit dry for some, but it is, as noted, like getting a chance to be "a fly on the wall" for those tours. Things were so different 45 years ago, and this offers reminders, page after page, of how things used to be.

The music is almost a side issue here, only one or two glimpses are provided of new (later hit) songs being worked on (in the back of the plane), and the set list (for a remarkably short half-hour show) didn't seem to change much. Most of the venues that they were booked into at the time had less-than-adequate sound systems (and this is in a pre-stereo era!), and there is some discussion of how little the concerts were actually heard between the weak PA and the screaming fans.

One thing that makes "old Beatles fans" a bit wistful here is the stories of how their management made a point to keep them from being recorded. As a result, there is so very little video/film of The Beatles (except, of course, the actual movies that they made) performing. There's official video from Shea Stadium, and a live concert recording from the Hollywood Bowl, but not much else, meaning that as the years roll on, more and more of the awesomeness of The Beatles will fade down the "memory hole", without those culturally-preserving ephemeral traces to hold their rightful place.

Ticket To Ride is a treat for any Beatles fan, and should also not be missed by "modern culture" readers either. As noted, I got this at the dollar store, so it's currently kicking around in those channels, and the Amazon new/used vendors had "like new" copies for as little as 1¢ (plus the $3.99 shipping). But, hey, what would you pay for a CD full of Beatles interviews by itself? It appears to still be in print (both Amazon and B&N have it listed), which adds to the head-scratching as to why it was at the dollar store ... so if you're interested, you should be able to find a copy.


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