Paul Mccartney one on one

It was 50 years ago, when Sgt. Pepper taught his band to play. (It’s the album’s 50th anniversary!)

It was 51 years ago, when the Beatles came to Japan to play.

It was 53 years ago, in the year of the Tokyo Olympics, when the Beatles had the top five on the Billboard Hot 100, the only act ever to hold the top five spots:

  • No. 1, “Can’t Buy Me Love”
  • No. 2, “Twist and Shout”
  • No. 3, “She Loves You”
  • No. 4, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”
  • No. 5, “Please Please Me”

I have written about The Beatles impact on the time surrounding the 1964 Olympics, not only on Japan but on people around the world. In 1964, Olympians coming to Tokyo, particularly from Europe and the United States, knew of Beatlemania, sang their songs, and saw on TV the screaming hordes of girls chasing the four lads from Liverpool wherever they went. There was even a group called The Tokyo Beatles!

On April 27, I got a tiny taste .

In 1966, the Beatles played the more intimate Budokan, built to showcase judo in the Tokyo Olympiad. However, I saw Paul McCartney perform in the Tokyo Dome, a baseball stadium not built for concert acoustics. But that was OK! We were in the presence of the Walrus!

The concert began with the most iconic of pop music sounds – the jarring clanging opening chord of “A Hard Day’s Night.”

And then Sir Paul played for over two hours, ending in the communal “lah lah lah, lah lah lah lah” of Hey Jude.

When he left the stage, we knew he’d be back for an encore. When McCartney re-emerged, he played the most covered single of all time, his very own “Yesterday.” He could have easily walked off the stage and ended the night on a high. But he then barked out the reprise to “Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”. He could have ended the night with the lyrics, “We hope you have enjoyed the show….we’re sorry but it’s time to go,” but he didn’t.

Next up was a song from his Wings days, “Hi Hi Hi”. You knew he couldn’t end on a Wings song, but he took an interesting turn by celebrating the birthday of a band member with, of course, the Beatles upbeat song, “Birthday”.

I’ve never been to a Beatles concert, but there must be an appropriate way to end one, and that would be with the “Medley” from side 2 of my favorite Beatles’ album – Abbey Road. I was ecstatic! The perfect finish! After the pulsating drum solo, McCartney brought it all to an end with these lyrics:

And in the end

The love you take

Is equal to the love you make

McCartney is 74. And yet, he played for a solid 2 hours and 40 minutes. There were times when his voice cracked, and some of the faster songs felt slower than normal….which is OK because this is Japan where people stay seated….after all, the average age in the Dome must have been about 64.

As my wife screamed “Paul!”, and McCartney soaked in the applause, he told the crowd he loved us all – “Minna-san daisuki!” And maybe he says that to all the crowds. But his encore went on and on, lingering as if he had little desire to depart. Even after his final song, he stayed on stage to say good bye before walking off, stage left.

I experienced only a tingling of Beatlemania that the Olympians of 1964 did, but maybe, I’m amazed…at the way you pulled me out of time.

 

Paul McCartney One on One Tour T-Shirt
My T-shirt!
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When I was younger so much younger than today

I never needed anybody’s help in any way

But now these days are gone, I’m not so self assured

Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors.

Help! By John Lennon and Paul McCartney

In 1964, Japan was younger, so much younger than today. They were bursting with energy, building a new, modern country, one the world would soon see during the Olympics to be friendly, proud, caring, technologically advanced and joyful.

In 1964, the Beatles invaded America, their dream destination, their exuberance boundless – needing absolutely nobody’s help in any way. From their press conferences, to their hotel escapades, to their appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, to their trips to Washington DC and Florida, the four lads from Liverpool were the four mates Americans wanted to hang out with. And as Ron Howard’s film – The Beatles Eight Days a Week – shows, John, George, Paul and Ringo sincerely enjoyed hanging out with each other.

the-beatles-landing-at-haneda
The Beatles Landing at Haneda Airport

I watched this film last week. I can’t say if it was a great film or not. But Howard rightfully kept all the attention on the Beatles and their music. As a lifelong fan, I could not help but smile incessantly throughout. The film, particularly the first half that focused on 1964, was a portrait of The Beatles as the personification of joyfulness.

The Beatles did not relegate their time to the US only. As it turned out, the record deals they agreed to actually paid them little, so they needed to tour to earn themselves the riches they deserved. In 1964, they premiered in the US in February, and then in the middle of the year, went on a 27-day tour of Denmark, Holland, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand, where they performed in a total of 37 shows. Then in August, they returned to the US and powered through a 30-concert tour in 23 cities. Everywhere they went, they were mobbed.

the-beatles-ascending-the-stage-at-the-budokanAs brilliant author, Malcolm Gladwell, explained in Ron Howard’s film, The Beatles were a phenomenon that rode the wave of a new global teen culture, driven by the popularity of the Fab Four. When Olympians the world over gathered in Tokyo in October, 1964, the majority of the Olympians, many teenagers or only years removed from that age group knew The Beatles, and sang their songs.

Diana Yorgova, a Bulgarian long jumper who participated in the 1964 Tokyo Games, wrote to me that she would take a break from the intensity of her training by going to the music hall, a place inside the women’s dormitory. She would listen to the music she liked, and one of her favorite albums was “With the Beatles“, which had come out in November, 1963. While watching ikebana lessons nearby, and taking in the sweet fragrances of the flowers, she would listen to her favorite songs: All My Loving, Please Mister Postman, Hold Me Tight, I Wanna Be Your Man.

Ada Kok, a Dutch swimmer who won two silver medals at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics in the 100m butterfly and 4x100m medley, was also a Beatles’ fan. In the confines of the women’s dormitory, she told me that the Dutch and the Australians had a particularly raucous party after the swimmers celebrated their medal hauls. Kok said they celebrated by singing Beatles songs the entire time.

But alas, all good things….

The 1964 Tokyo Olympics is considered the last pure Games, the last innocent Olympics. Security was not an issue, doping was not so prevalent, the under-the-table sponsorship payments were not so obvious – a good time was had by all.

But the roiling geo-political and social undercurrents were just getting noticed. And as we saw at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968, with the massacre of hundreds just prior to the opening ceremonies, and the murders of 11 Israelis by Palestinian terrorists inside the Olympic Village at the Munich Olympics in 1972, the world had made its transition from joyfulness and purity to cynicism and insecurity.

But now those days are gone, and I’m not so self assured.

In 1966, The Beatles came to Tokyo, playing four shows on June 30 and July 1. After the amazing reception that foreigners got during the Olympics in October 1964, one would think the most popular people in the world would get the very best of welcomes from the Japanese. But as the Howard’s film showed, The Beatles walked into an ambush.

Scheduled to play the Budokan, opened in time for the Olympics, the Beatles would be the first musicians to perform there. The increasingly vocal right wingers in Japan did not take kindly to a group of foreigners coming to Japan to perform music that would, perhaps, despoil The Budokan, a venue they believed should be reserved for only Japanese martial arts. The shows went on, mixed in with the normal Beatlemania response, but tainted by a high level of security and caution for the Beatles in Japan.

security-at-the-budokan-for-the-beatles
Security at the Budokan

The second half of the 1960s was challenging for The Olympics, for the Beatles, for everybody. An Age of Innocence had ended.

Help me if you can, I’m feeling down

And I do appreciate you being round

Help me, get my feet back on the ground

Won’t you please, please help me, help me, help me, ooh