A Hard Night's Day

Forty years ago the Beatles came to Philadelphia. And nothing would ever be the same.

By Jonathan Valania
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 1 | Posted Apr. 28, 2004

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At 5 p.m. a press conference commences in the bowels of Convention Hall. Among the media pack busily sharpening its knives is a reporter from Time, a network TV news crew and reporters from the DN, the Inquirer and the Bulletin. Also on hand: 25 lucky WIBBAGE listeners, Rizzo's boys in blue and a contingent of, um, South Philadelphia cement-mixing industry executives. The Fab Four sit at a table, smoking and sipping sodas, gamely answering the press' predictably belittling questions.

"Will you ever get your hair cut?"

"Oh, I don't know," says Starr. "We might get bald."

"What do you think of serious music?"

"It's rock 'n' roll," says Lennon. "All music is serious. It depends on who's listening to it."

"Do you think your popularity will last?"

All four reply in unison: "No."

"What have you heard about Philadelphia?"

"Riots," Lennon says.

By the end of the press conference, the crowd in front of Convention Hall has swelled to 7,500. They've come from all over: the Northeast, South Philly, Center City, Upper Darby, Gladwyne, Cherry Hill, Roxborough, Olney, Logan, Bala Cynwyd. They arrived by Daddy's car and by bus and by the trainload on the Frankford El, singing Beatles songs to the clickety-clack beat of the train tracks.

In the simmering heat, they're lined up for blocks on the sidewalks leading up to Convention Hall. Every time a shadow passes by one of the windows on the upper floor of Convention Hall somebody gasps, "I saw George!" or "I saw Paul!" and the shriek dominoes through the line for blocks.

At 6:20 p.m. the doors finally open and the teen mob starts filing in. Performers Jackie DeShannon and Clarence "Frogman" Henry warm up the crowd, but few seem to notice.

Backstage, Hyski is pretty much at the end of his rope, baby. Everyone wants something. The Beatles want Coke for their scotch, Rizzo wants to knock heads if anyone steps out of line, and every parent in the tristate area wants their snot-nosed kid to meet the Beatles. And they all want Hyski to make it happen.

The final straw comes when one of the Beatles' handlers takes Hyski aside and points out girls in the audience that the boys would like to meet privately. Well, that was the final nail in what was fast becoming a very uncool coffin, baby. Beatles or no Beatles, Hyski don't play that game. He throws his arms in the air and storms off.

At 9:30 on the nose, the Beatles take the stage. The crowd goes ballistic, launching a loving hailstorm of jellybeans, jewelry, lipsticks, sneakers and marshmallows, some of the items inscribed with marriage proposals. The Fab Four kicks into "Twist & Shout." Their lips are moving and they're strumming their guitars, but the only thing anyone can hear is: AAAAAAAIIIII IIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE EEEEEEEE!

This is followed by "She Loves You," "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "Hard Day's Night," among others. Each song is gamely executed through the hollow sound system, and each one rendered completely mute by the mega-scream of 13,000 teenage girls. (The next day the Daily News will sum it all up succinctly with one of its patented four-alarm headlines: "DAZZLED DAMSELS DECIMATE DECIBELS IN DELIGHTFUL DELIRIUM.")

As has been the case at every show, the crowd surges toward the stage. One of the cops in charge tells Hyski to stop the show to tell everyone to go back to their seats.

Hyski is incredulous. "You want a riot? Stop the show and you'll have a riot. I'll hold you responsible!"

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1. Anonymous said... on Jan 25, 2013 at 10:11AM

“I am looking to purchase a picture that was in this article. The one with the I Love Paul on top of the picture. Can you help? Thanks”


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