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.