It is the frigid winter of 1963/64. Extra cold, in fact, in the Toronto suburbs for an eight year old who has a long holiday, all set to spend: “With The Beatles.”
My best pal Paul Davis’ house is conveniently located just one block over. His mother is a piano teacher, and so music – yes, even rock ‘n’ roll music – is allowed, if sometimes in the case of “the louder stuff” only tolerated, on the family hi-fi system. So it was then that, until the following year when I was offered the choice of one 45-RPM record of my very own in lieu of fifty cents’ allowance each week, I had to visit the Davis place in order to fully avail myself of his older sister’s record collection.
And what a collection it was! Remarkably hip in retrospect especially because alongside all the usual ’63-vintage pin-up pop (as in Elvis on down), the elder Davis sister had a slew of beautifully battered seven-inch singles I was allowed to run hog – or should I say “Pig” wild with, whenever over there, ostensibly visiting Paul.
That is how, right after that initial Kennedy assassination, I came across my very first Beatle disc: an authentic orange-and-yellow-swirling Capitol Records of Canada pressing of “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”
So, onto the Davis console stereo it immediately went.
“Hey, you know what? That’s the same band that’s been in the newspaper lately,” Paul’s sister informed me as “I can’t hide, I can’t hide” Mersey-beat ‘round the room. Yes, our hometown Toronto Daily Star had indeed been picking up on some of the latest socio-entertainment headlines and images from England showing four guys with, as far as I could describe at the time, Moe Howard haircuts.
Consequently, I didn’t have to wait like my fellow music buffs watching Ed Sullivan in America to connect THAT SOUND with, yes, those four British Stooges. By Christmas time 1963, you see, I had already been infected in the Davis’ living room with what was later to be identified as a lifelong, terminal strain of Beatlemania.
But truth to tell, it was actually the flipside of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” that really shook me that long-ago winter aft. Maybe it was because its echo-laden production values brought to ear Paul’s sister’s Elvis records, or perhaps it was the comparatively hopped-up tempo that got my tiny Canadian legs bouncing like never before.
No. Because I can still clearly hear what it really was that hooked me on “I Saw Her Standing There,” The Beatles, and yes, r ‘n’ r (reporting) in general: It was George Harrison’s guitar solo.
Sharp, biting, twanging; as economical yet razor-pointedly effective as anything he, or most any six-string shooter this side of Carl Perkins could, or ever would, lay straight down.
Suffice to say then, I simply had no choice but to run right home, commandeer one of my Dad’s old tennis racquets, connect it with some spare kite string to the nearest empty box in the basement, and become my very own Beatle George, “standing there,” strumming my imaginary Gretsch Duo Jet through my cardboard Vox “amp.”
All thanks to that one little seven-inch recording.
And now here I am, nearly a half century later (!), still standing, and strumming, my way through life – although the guitar and amp, I’m quite pleased to report, have upgraded somewhat.
Yet to this very day, whenever I get one-minute-thirty-five into “I Saw Her Standing There,” I’m right back there in Paul Davis’ living room, ears wide open to the amphetamined Star Club bite of George Harrison’s guitar. And all the world is about to start joyfully spinning off its axis at 45 RPM.
Oh, but not to forget that bass beneath George, too: Happy Birthday, Paul.