When four guys named John, Paul, George, and Ringo blew onto the world’s stage from Liverpool, England, no one could have predicted just how far-reaching their music and influence would be.
Here we are 52 years after they first landed in the United States and their impact is still all around us: most of our favorite musicians, artists and writers of today cite The Beatles as major influences on their work. But what about the personal impact? How have The Beatles changed individual lives and journeys and relationships over the past five decades? To find out, we put a call out across social media asking people to “tell us your Beatles story.” The request reached millions of people, and it was in the ether mere minutes before stories started flowing into our mailbox about that one time The Beatles changed my life. Many made us laugh, a few made us cry, and some were flat-out unbelievable, but what’s totally undeniable is that The Beatles have stood the test of time, and continue to change the world.
My friend Emma is one of the most radiant, optimistic women in the world and when we set off for San Diego to see Paul McCartney live in concert, it was to be my first time seeing him but not hers. Over our more than ten years of friendship, I had always been aware of her deep love for Paul and his music, and her dedication to seeing his shows anytime he came close. It was bound to be a special night, but it fell inside a rough month - the month that marked five years of Emma trying to have a baby. I knew of Emma’s love for Paul McCartney just like I’d always known of her desire to be a mother.
We followed the masses into the stadium and ran up the stairs to the top where our seats were. We were out of breath when a girl we didn’t know walked up to us and asked if we were big Paul McCartney fans. We simultaneously said, “Yes!” and she pulled out an envelope explaining that she wanted to upgrade our tickets but we had to give her ours first. It felt like a gamble, but we exchanged tickets and she told us the show was about to start, so we’d have to hurry. We made our way back down, and down, and down, getting confused looks from each usher along the way, until we were on the floor asking the linebacker of a security guard at the very front block of seats if he could tell us where we were meant to be. He looked down at the tickets, then up at us, then at the tickets, then back at us and explained we had the best seats in the house: front and center.
He lead us through the crowd and we took our seats just minutes before Paul McCartney walked out straight towards us and began to sing into his microphone all those songs that we all know by heart. When he stamped his foot we could feel the vibration, when sweat dripped down his face we could see it, when he spoke to his band away from the microphone we could hear what he said. We sang and danced all night, laughing at how unreal it all felt.
On the way home, we found the only In-N-Out that was still open and ate our Double-Doubles outside at a picnic table as the last employee closed down for the night. The freeway we sat next to got quieter and quieter, the sky grew darker and the stars looked brighter and we were smiling, perfectly silent.
About one year later, I am rushing into St. John’s hospital in Santa Monica. Nervously signing in at the front desk, the clerk gives me directions to the maternity ward. I go up the elevator, wind through the quiet hallways and, rubbing hand sanitizer into my palms, walk up to the room I’m looking for. I see Emma sitting on the bed. She smiles and hands me her tiny hours-old little darling and tells me her name: McCartney.
And everything is perfect.
The first time I heard The Beatles would have been late 1962. I was 11 years old. I was at the swimming baths at school and we’d just finished our rather chaotic swimming class. We were in the dressing room getting changed, flicking towels at each other’s genitals – which is what boys do after swimming lessons – and on the radio this sound came through. It was a two and a four on the bass, a sad harmonica, a fantastic two-part harmony and this beautiful chorus - this two and a half minute jewel. And I realized that everything after that would be completely different. I didn’t know why. I couldn’t articulate it at the time. But I thought it was incredibly important and it changed my life.
I then found out it was The Beatles who were from Liverpool, and that they wrote their own songs. In the year that followed they conquered the world with their own songs. Liverpool is not that far removed from where I come from, Newcastle, it’s a poor town in the north of England. So if they could do it, then so could we. A lot of people of my generation were given permission to at least try to do what The Beatles did.
Sgt. Pepper’s Girl Forever
I was in a chat room online under the name “Sgt.PeppersGirl-F23.” Some guy chimed in, "You're really dating yourself with your online name! Nobody who's 23 loves the Beatles." I was SHOCKED! Not only had I just been verbally assaulted by a JERK, but also a real IDIOT! Another guy quickly jumped to my defense: "What are you on, man?! EVERYBODY loves the Beatles!!!" My Beatles-lover and I have been best friends and partners in crime for over 13 years now, along with our five children Prudence, Lucy, Jude, Michelle and Julia.
The Spitting Image of Paul McCartney
It all started when I went swimming with some friends and I came out of the water with my hair swept over my forehead. Someone pointed out that I looked just like one of The Beatles and sure enough, I saw it too. As time went on I heard the comparison to Paul McCartney more and more and then, on September 12th, 1964, I decided to have some fun with it.
I was 17 and we drove towards the Boston Garden where The Beatles would be playing. We got out of the car near the Garden to take in the scene – it was very crowded, bumper to bumper cars and I stepped out of the car in a sweatshirt, off-white jeans, and hair longer than anyone else around me. All the sudden a couple girls started screaming “Oh my god it’s you! Oh my god it’s you!” and then it went crazy and girls started swarming around me screaming. Before I knew it there were girls hanging from my hair, pulling me down to the ground. They tore the shirt off my back, the pockets off my jeans, and I just curled up on the ground in the fetal position. They were grabbing my watch and ring off, but my friend managed to get them before the girls could. They were trying to get flesh! It was a goof when I got out of the car, but now it was frightening. It was like stepping into a piranha bath. A police officer finally broke it up and on my hands and knees I crawled through the crowd and got up and ran off. I shot down a side street rolled under a car and waited there until all the girls had run past – feet were running left, and right, stopping and looking.
They finally left and I got out from under the car. I saw a guy in the store over there and he said, “Hey you! Come here!” I walked over, topless in the middle of Boston, and he said, “That was very good,” and he gave me a tee shirt and told me to go do it again!
I met back up with my friend in a coffee shop and I rearranged my hair, pulled it back off my forehead, and I still had girls coming up to me asking if I was Paul McCartney! I told them I wasn’t him – listen to how I’m talking! But they said I could be faking the American accent. They were so sure I was him that they started collecting my cigarette butts off the ground.
The Girl in the Green Jacket
The year was 1968 — I went to England just to meet the Beatles. It turned out that I got to meet all four, and because I was hanging out at EMI Studios, I was able to get into the Hey Jude filming at Twickenham Studios. In the video, I am the girl in the green jacket behind George. I am in the video and included in the White album pictures, so my incredible experience has been chronicled for me never to be lost. I recently attended Paul's concert in New York along with a friend who was with me at the Shea Stadium concert in 1965. Of course Hey Jude is still my song, after all these years.
Dear Prudence, It’s Okay to be Yourself
The Beatles have had brief, yet monumental impacts on me as a musician and on my life in general. My earliest memory of the Beatles came from a childhood summer camp; everyone sang Let it Be clustered in a circle. As a vocalist this was pivotal, as it was the first time I discovered that it felt good to sing. My attachment to Dear Prudence stems from the scene in Across the Universe when her friends accept her queer nature and encourage her to be herself. I recently came out publicly as queer, and the response from my friends and from my community has been so warm, I feel very loved. So when I hear and play this song, it immediately brings me back to that place of comfort and unconditional acceptance.
The Time Will Come When You See We're All One
I discovered the Beatles in 1974, when I was a 12-year-old growing up in Cincinnati. I listened to my older sisters' Beatles LPs on our family turntable in the living room, and eventually purchased all of the missing albums to build a complete collection. As a devoted fan, I listened to their LP's over and over again, though I would occasionally pick up the needle to skip over some tracks which didn't really appeal to me.
Flash forward 35 years. I am living in California and working as a parent volunteer at my daughter’s elementary school, teaching enrichment classes on Friday afternoons. I had just finished teaching a 4-week, rather sanitized "History of Rock and Roll" class to the children. Then the teacher called me up and asked if I could add a 5th class at the last minute. I decided to teach a full-length class on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
I bring in my old LP to share with the kids, along with several magazine covers I'd collected which parodied the famous album cover. I play them the music, tell them little stories about the songs, and try to explain the album's significance. The kids seem only moderately interested in the songs. Then, Within You, Without You comes on which is one of the songs I would skip over when I was their age. They all start wiggling in their seats, and some get up and start to dance. "This is so cool!" one of them exclaims. The album comes alive! I smiled to myself.
People have always said that The Beatles were "ahead of their time." But here was proof positive. The music that seemed too weird for a 12-year-old suburban girl from Cincinnati in the 70's became the music that lifted a class of 12-year-old suburban kids from North Orange County to their feet. What can I say? Well, I guess I'll just quote George: “And the time will come when you see we're all one, And life flows on within you and without you.”
When The Beatles Came for Dinner
I have an amazing true story of how the Beatles saved my family during their first trip to America in 1964 when I was six years old. I believe that the best description of my story came from Dezo Hoffmann (the Beatles official photographer) when he wrote the following in his book, The Beatles Conquer America:
"So great was the responsibility of protecting the Beatles that the Miami Beach Police Department specially assigned Sergeant Buddy Dresner to take care of their security. He was allocated over 20 policeman to help him. The protection of the Beatles was literally a 24 hour a day job, and Dresner was forced to temporarily abandon his family and stay with them at the Deauville. He devised secret lapel badges, set up booby traps for invading fans, and arranged ingenious means of escape from the hotel. His job was difficult, not only because of the fans, but because the Beatles themselves often felt like going out and looking for fun during their week in Miami. Even the simplest excursion required planning for security.
One day the Beatles visited the home of Sergeant Dresner and had dinner with his family. It was a simple down-to-earth occasion, perhaps the only one during the whole of their American trip. The boys found it very relaxing to be amongst ordinary people again. For them, it was like being with their own families. The day was not only relaxing, but somewhat educational because this was a real American family with all the little differences. It gave them their first insight into the way of life of ordinary Americans."
Hooking Up With The Beatles
In my early 20’s I loved to collect records, have a wee pint of beer, and spend time with the ladies. The perfect combination of all three presented itself when I finally left home for a new job in Melbourne, Australia. By chance, I rented a house down the street from The Royal Pub, and just a bit further from a secondhand record shop. It was my own Penny Lane of nostalgic awesomeness, and I made the most of it.
Whenever I went to buy some vinyl, I always had to make it past the pub first. When I did build up enough momentum to break free of the pub’s gravitational “beer pull,” the decision to continue to the record store always proved fruitful. I found so many great records from artists like The Clash, David Bowie, Elvis Presley, Cat Stevens, Chuck Berry, New Order and, of course, The Beatles. One evening as I was walking into The Royal, I heard a girl comment "Hey, nice Astro Boy,” referring to the pin I had clipped onto my shorts. This immediately grabbed my attention. I never made it into the pub. After a few hours of playful banter, we went back to my house to continue the merriment. Upon entering my place, Amanda immediately noticed my new Beatles “1967-1970” album, and asked if I could play it for her.
The reason for Amanda coming back to my house was obvious, but as soon as “Strawberry Fields Forever” started, we both instinctively sat on the side of the bed and sang along. We just sang, laughed, and blissfully shared our love of The Beatles together for hours. Eventually, after listening to the majority of the album, we fell asleep on top of the covers with the record still spinning away.
The Beatles Save the World
My best friend and I bonded over our love of The Beatles when we both started working at the same comic book store. I was playing Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in the store, which sparked a never ending conversation about how they changed music forever with their ever-evolving sound, and even shed new light on post-World War II youth with their movie A Hard Day’s Night.
After he started introducing me to alternative versions of their songs through collected bootlegs (no internet back then, it was the 90's), we decided to do an eight-page comic book about a couple of fans who receive the first recordings of Sgt. Pepper from a time traveler who sells bootleg albums. The only problem: they were the originals, and if they didn't get returned to the 1960's, history would take a turn for the worse and the world would end.
We tied it in with A Hard Day’s Night and came up with a cute ending for what we felt made an awesome fan story. Twenty three years later, we're still best friends, we still make comics together, and we still listen to The Beatles.