By Gillian G. Gaar
It’s been 50 years since The Beatles arrived in the U.S. and ushered in the phenomenon known as Beatlemania that, for many fans, anyway, will never subside. Here’s a peek at the band’s past and present impact on popular culture.
The Beatles: Past
At the start of April 1964, The Beatles were in the midst of shooting the band’s feature film debut. The movie had no title when shooting began the previous month, but a title was finally announced on April 17: “A Hard Day’s Night.” Now the Lennon-McCartney songwriting team had to produce a song written to order — the first time the duo had ever done so. Lennon took credit for writing the song, which the band recorded in just three hours on April 16, completing the track in nine takes.
The Beatles also set a new record on April 4, 1964, when the band occupied the first five positions in the “Billboard” singles chart: “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Please Please Me.” It was a remarkable feat and a clear sign that America couldn’t get enough of the Fab Four in ’64.
The Beatles: Present
There have been some excellent books released in honor of this 50th-anniversary year, with two of the “must-haves” being Mark Lewisohn’s “Tune In: The Beatles, All These: Years Vol. 1” and Kevin Howlett’s “The Beatles: The BBC Archives.” Those interested in The Beatles’ U.S. tours will also want to pick up Chuck Gunderson’s “Some Fun Tonight! The Backstage Story of How The Beatles Rocked America: The Historic Tours of 1964-1966.”
The two-volume set, packaged in a slipcase, runs more than 600 pages. There’s a wealth of information about each show, and Gunderson’s also done a remarkable job ferreting out rare photos, as well as reproducing contracts, promotional materials and tickets, which makes these books lovely to look at and informative to read.
Such detailed work doesn’t come together overnight. Gunderson spent eight years working on “Some Fun Tonight!”
“One of the challenges was creating a ‘back story,’” he explains. “One must realize that every city The Beatles played in was almost a carbon copy — the girls screamed, the flashbulbs popped, the group came and left. I wanted to tell the story of The Beatles’ arrival in a particular city from start to finish; the negotiations it took to get them there and accounts from the fans, deejays, promoters and tour personnel. There are lots of rare documents featured that tell the story, as well. Everything also needed to be corroborated and cross-checked for accuracy.”
Another challenge was assembling the many photos.
“I licensed every image in the book — over 450 of them — and I wanted to present as many as I could,” says Gunderson. “When I went to the first layout meeting with the design team, they showed me a couple of chapters, and I asked, ‘Where is that picture I submitted for this chapter?’ When they told me they couldn’t fit all the images into one book, I decided it needed to be two volumes.
“Many images in the books have never been seen. I dug deep into every archive I could and even hired researchers to do some of the work. My proudest moment was saving 54 negatives from the last show at Candlestick Park. They had been stolen years ago from a newspaper and were recently put up for sale. Luckily, the dealer believed my story about them being stolen and pulled them from the sale. Today, they are safe in a public archive for others to enjoy and study.”
And though Gunderson’s been a longtime Beatles fan, he still learned some surprising things while researching the book, such as including the fact that Beatles manager Brian Epstein was offered a date at Shea Stadium on Sept. 13, 1964, a full year from the band’s record-breaking performance on Aug. 15, 1965.
“It’s a book by a fan for the fans,” he says. “It’s the book I always wanted to buy. It was a labor of love, and I’m not sure if the North American tours will ever have to be covered again. That was my goal, and I hope I archived that.”
“Some Fun Tonight!” costs $160, plus $15 shipping in North America; go to www.somefuntonight.com for more information. GM