The Ringo Summer

 

1980 Golden Gate and Scott In the summer of 1964 I was leading a double life in a cavernous Victorian flat at the corner of Golden Gate and Octavia in the antediluvian City by the San Francisco Bay. 

By day I appeared to be an earnest, bespectacled college student with longish hair and a beard, trying to catch up at San Francisco State’s summer session.  By night I was a screaming Beatlemaniac, free dancing to “Can’t Buy Me Love” with the unbuyable Linda Lovely, learning Beatles harmony parts for pothead jollity, rolling more joints and swallowing more grim Red Mountain burgundy as the moon peered down at her dancing and sleeping children of the Fillmore District.

The mutation happened quickly.  When Linda and I moved into that flat in late spring, we ascended the long stairs for the first time to the sound of Janos Starker’s take on Bach’s Suites for Unaccompanied Cello.  The mood was serenely floating icebergs in the northern sea.  marienbad Cool was all.  At parties, guys danced little hip barely perceivable movements with slight toebend and careful handtouch and cool smiling into some beauty’s eyes with smooth seduction. 

Don Brasher (or was it Brazier?) sat in his room reading Rainer Maria Rilke by candlelight, a glass of Spanish sherry by his side, his pipe of bohemian sunload ready to carry him to deeper intunement with the German meister, while his other German meister, Johan Sebastian,  was ascending to old heights of calm untouched forever chills.

Down on the corner under the streetlight young spade guys were singing The Temps in four part harmony and drinking from a paper bag and laughing at something we didn’t know.

Rock and roll, rhythm and blues, oh yeah, that was long ago and far away in another world.  I listened to it in the car because I’d listened to it the car since I was fourteen and there was nothing else on except Sunday mornings when the black Oakland churches gave out Hammond organ zeal.  Or the Spanish language station where I tried to understand what the mariachi guys were singing. So I knew about Love Me Do and I Want To Hold Your Hand but so what?

I saw The Beatles on the 6:00 news one night at my parents’ house in San Mateo and thought they looked pretty cool with their long hair and wise mouths, but so what?

We found out What in late August.  My photographer friend Bill Laird, an ultimate Bohemian with sad transparent Scottish face, green corduroy sports coat frayed at pocket and long straggly Chinese black beard told me he and his old lady had seen A Hard Day’s Night and they had stayed to see it again and I had to see it too.

The Beatles were not what I thought they were.

So, incredulous but not wanting to miss anything, Linda and I got stoned and braved the SRO crowds of teenagers at a Saturday matinee at the Metro Theater on Union Street.  It was true about the non-stop screaming that made it impossible to hear the songs, but…but…I had to agree…these guys were so cool!

a-hard-days-night By the moment, early on, when they make their first escape on the train, hide out in a mail car, and John whips out his harmonica and cuts into Love Me Do and Ringo is playing on a little trap set that somehow materialized among the mail bags and London birds wearing John Lennon caps are popping into gleeful existence laughing and joyful, my heart and mind were ready to be won over.  Their pothead humor was unmistakable.  We knew they HAD to be heads like us.  We shared their secret from the get go.

And A Hard Day’s Night was in black and white, too.  So cool, like the hippest movies always had been and ever would be.

The next day I went down to Woolworth’s on Market Street, and bought the soundtrack LP.  Hippies were trekking down there from all over the Western Addition and the Mission.  And  that is how the old bohemian world came to its end, in a matter of weeks, in San Francisco, how John Coltrane was moved to the middle of the record stack and The Beatles, then The Rolling Stones, then The Kinks took their place at the lead and a new era began, the era of the dance concerts and the rise of the Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and The Holding Company and The Grateful Dead – the great acid rock San Francisco bands.  Pop culture was interesting for a moment at last.

Here is a clip from the San Francisco Chronicle of that momentous summer so long ago, a record of Ringo’s impromptu visit to the San Francisco Airport on June 13, 1964, when I couldn’t have cared less…

Ringo Stops By—Near Riot
By Larry Fields

1964 06 13 Ringo Exactly two hours after San Francisco was jarred by a mild earthquake yesterday it got an after-shock. A really big one.

Shaggy Ringo Starr, en route to join the other Beatles in Australia, landed at San Francisco international Airport at 7:42 P. M. to change planes.

He was greeted by 800 shrieking, singing, swooning, crying teenage fans. One 16-year-old girl was so thrilled at the sight of her idol that she fainted.

Ringo’s Pan American World Airways flight was three hours late. But the delay only heightened the enthusiasm of his adoring admirers.

They spent the time listening to radio reports of his expected arrival time, comparing notes on how much they loved him, and singing:

"We love you, Ringo, yes we do.

"We love you, Ringo, we’ll be true."

1964 06 13 Ringo Page 2 Forty San Mateo County deputy sheriffs and airport security officers were on hand to try to control the yelling teenagers, but they weren’t certain they could handle the hazardous assignment.

Plans were made to sneak the drummer — who was traveling under the name R.. Starkey–into a private room and keep him away from his fans.

The teenagers, who threatened a reporter who said he wasn’t convinced that Ringo was something of a deity, said they would quote tear up unquote the airport if couldn’t see their darling.

And when their darling’s plane finally landed, a tremendous shout went up and police lines strained to keep the hysterical fans from pouring onto the runway.

WARY

Ringo’s blue eyes squinted apprehensively as he was rushed into a private conference room to meet the press.

"I loved them," he said of the screaming fans, "as long as the police don’t let them catch me."

Ringo, very short and thin, speaks much as he sings. And newsmen had difficulty understanding him.

He wore a tight black suit, a striped lavender shirt, shiny black boots, four gold rings, a gold bracelet, a gold watch and gold-and-ebony cufflinks.

TONSILLITIS

He said he thought he had recovered from the recent attack of tonsillitis which prevented him from starting the Australian tour with the rest of the group.

Only once did he lose his composure. A reporter asked him a question and called him "John."

"Who is this guy?" Ringo asked, quote doesn’t he know my name isn’t John?"

Ringo said he was looking forward to playing the Cow Palace in August and said: "I hope they won’t get let any cows in."

GIFTS

He was introduced to the presidents of two of his local fan clubs, who presented him gifts. Then he was lugged into the crowded lobby where he waved at his fans.

They waved back. They screamed. They cried.

One girl touched him as he passed, then wept as she stared at her palm and said: "My hand is numb. I can’t feel my hand."

Other girls surrounded her and kissed the hand that touched the Ringo.

Then he was whisked to his plane but the girls continued crying and shouting.

"I’m crying because he’s a darling." Sniffed Jeanette Ford, 14, of San Mateo. "He is more than I expected. I didn’t used to like him. But he’s my favorite now."

Beatup Victorian Fillmore District flat copyright 1980 Dizzy Atmosphere. Existential alienation from 1961 film Last Year At Marianbad

 

 

 

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Sixties Survivors #7: Twiggy

I’ll bet you never expected to see Vogue Magazine featured on The Pondering Pig, let alone a Vogue Magazine with Twiggy on its cover in her thermal underwear.

The year is 1966, and it’s cold out there on the magazine stands of Paris and Montreal. She needs her thermals!

Lesley Hornby, AKA Twiggy, is turning 59 on September 19, and it’s as good a time as any to welcome her to the Pondering Pig Sixties Survivors Club.  She’ll be only 59, but she got an early start.  She was probably 16 when this cover shot was taken.

I think her birthday is a moment to ponder the predominance of all things British in the sixties. The Beatles, the Stones, and their British Invasion ilk dominated the charts for years.  British artist David Hockney was, after Warhol, the most successful fine artist of the era.  Sean Connory, as James Bond, ruled the box office world wide.  British actors in general ruled the Academy Awards.  Here are two mid-sixties years as an example, winners in upper case:

British 1964 Academy Award Acting Winners and Nominees:  REX HARRISON in “My Fair Lady”, Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole in “Becket”, Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove, JULIE ANDREWS in “Mary Poppins”, PETER USTINOV in “Topkapi”, John Gielgud in “Becket”, Stanley Holloway and Gladys Cooper in “My Fair Lady”, Edith Evans in “The Chalk Garden”

British 1965 Winners and Nominees: Richard Burton in “The Spy Who Came In From the Cold”, Laurence Olivier in “Othello”, JULIE CHRISTIE in “Darling”, Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music”, Tom Courtenay in “Doctor Zhivago”, Frank Finlay, Joyce Redman and Maggie Smith in “Othello.”

Let’s see, what else?  Well, both Pop Art and Op Art invented were invented in England.  Here is the the first Pop Art collage, created by Britisher Richard Hamilton in 1956:

I already mentioned fashion.  I remember how even San Francisco hippies of the era sought out stores that featured mod styles.  For example,  a men’s clothing store on Polk Street called The Town Squire sold leather jock straps and other odd fashion items to San Francisco’s closeted gay population – now, suddenly hippies overran the place.  We all wanted to look like Mick Jagger or Brian Jones and that was the only place in town where you could find the clothes that fit the look.  There was a cheap shoe store on Market Street called Flagg Brothers.  It sold a line of Chelsea boots, known in the States as Beatle boots, for $12 to $15.  Maybe they didn’t last so long, but they looked Carnaby Street, and they sold out regularly – all walking to the Haight-Ashbury district.

Twiggy, The ‘Face of 1966’, was at sixteen the world’s most famous supermodel, and she was wearing chic clothes by Mary Quant.  We were wearing chic boots by Flagg Brothers.  I didn’t know any guys who sported a Beatles cap but our local dolly birds looked mighty cute in them.  And then, with the arrival of The Who, even the Union Jack became a fashion item.

I don’t have time tonight to think about what it all means.  I have to pack for a trip to Southern California.  I’ll be gone all weekend and back in the Pigsty Monday.  But I’m sure there is much to learn.  I, for one, never quite got over my love affair with the country that produced the Beatles, Twiggy, and other lesser beings – such as Charles Dickens and Shakespeare.  I remain an Anglophile at heart.   Could someone please think long and deeply and report in?

Meanwhile, a nice polite wink and nod to Leslie Hornby on her 59th.

Paul: “John Lennon NOT Gay!”

We interrupt this blog for important news.  Turns out John Lennon wasn’t gay after all.

I’m sure you’ve all been waiting to lap up Phillip Norman’s new book, John Lennon: A Life when it becomes available in the States.   It’s the one that claims John had a gay crush on his pal Paul.  Well, that got Paul hot under the collar, I can tell you!   Here’s his official statement:

“I slept with him a million times (on tour) I’ve seen him on tour roaring drunk, out of his mind in the early days before he sobered up and went to rehab. Roaring drunk and it was always with a female, never once [with a man]. If you’ve got a little gay tendency and you’re roaring drunk, I’d have caught him once.”

So ease your fears, or hopes as the case may be.  And thanks to the folks at Powerline for this incredibly important factoid.

Now, back to our scheduled programming…

How The Beatles Saved The Great Wolf of Pudley

You know how legendary stories tend to gather around the names of famous real people? Here’s an interesting one I came across the other day...

How The Beatles Saved The Great Wolf of Pudley

One winter’s twilight John, Paul, George and Ringo were walking back from the village of Pudley to Liverpool when a large but scrawny wolf leaped out of the bushes beside the towpath.

“Eh ooup lads”, quoth the wolf, “would thee have so much as a bit ‘o black pud about thy persons?”

Ah, black pudding, jewel of the North. A luscious blend of rare spices, fat and pig’s blood all wrapped in a delicate intestine lining and fried to perfection!

“Sorry, mate,” says John, “We’re skint. Not a chip butty left in me overcoat pocket.”

Ah, chip butties, also jewels of the North. Great long rectangles of potato deep fried in the finest fat, then layered between thick slices of white bread and downed with large mugs of milky Yorkshire Blend Tea.

But they didn’t have any.

“What a shame,” sayest the wolf, “Then I’m afeared I must eat YOU!!!” And with a terrible leap the wolf launched himself toward the hapless moptops. He was about to land when suddenly John held up his hand and boldly sang in the words of their friends The Supremes:

“Stop! In the name of love!
Before you eat us up
Think it oh-woe-ver!”

And Paul and George added in querulous voice, “wooh-hoo”.

The wolf froze in mid-air, never an easy feat even for the healthiest of wolves, and with a puzzled grimace responded,”What’s to think about, Johnny me boy? I haven’t had a bite in days and my insides are caving in. Look at me! Naught but a shadow of my ferocious self.” Then he too burst into song to the tune of The Beatles’ favorite cover song, Please, Mr. Postman

“Please little Moptops, look and see
Is there a sandwich in your pocket for me?
I’ve been starving for such a long time
My stomach’s hurting and it’s really a crime!”

Ringo got out his drum kit and set up on the towpath while John answered the wolf in song and Paul plugged in his Hofner bass.”

“Hey, Wolfie, there’s a much better way
For a wolf to make his living today.
Come back to Pudley and we’ll have a nice cup
Rosie at the teashop will soon fix us up.”

They carried Wolfie back to Pudley
Introduced him around.
At first the people hid because the wolf was in town
But when they saw his aged snout without any teeth
They said, “You shouldn’t have to live way out on the heath!

“Mr. Wolfie, you can come live with us!
We will promise not to kick up a fuss,
You needn’t worry that you’ve not any wealth
We’ve got a dentist and a chemist on the National Health!

“If you’ll cool it, Mr. Wolfie, not eat any more kids,
We’ll buy you lots of hair gel, help you screw off the lids.
You’ll look like Johnny Rocker when you fall by our pub.
We’ll stand you to a pint but keep your mitts off my pug!

“We’ll get you on the short list for a nice council flat
Where you can watch the telly then lay down for your nap.
There’ll be sausage rolls at midnight,
There’ll be pork pies for tea
And every holiday we’ll send you down to the sea!”

Mr Wolfie!”

Their little song ended. The Great Wolf looked at the crowd with tears in his old rheumy eyes and sang back to the townspeople to the tune of the Beatles’ It’s The Word Love

“In the beginning, I misunderstood
But now I’ve got it, the word is good!

Because you blokes have set me free
I’ll guard your town
Industriously.
No evil men shall cross your gate
Your gift of love destroyed my hate.
It’s so fine
It’s sunshine.
It’s the word….love.”

Exit the townspeople dancing with Wolfie as the Beatles pack up the gear and start walking home to Liverpool once more. Who will they meet this time?

With apologies to Ugolino Brunforte.

Handy Dandy Guide To Sgt. Pepper

I’m probably the only pig on the planet who hasn’t noticed it was forty years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught us how to play. Since we’ve been on the subject (in a general sort of way), I present you with this link explaining the album’s deepest mysteries. What will the four lads from Liverpool think of next?

Sgt. Pepper at 40, from A to Z

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