It was around 40 years ago that a 22-year-old broadcast journalist from Florida was invited by manager Brian Epstein to travel with the Beatles to every stop on their first North American tours. The only American reporter in the official press party, Larry Kane obtained exclusive, revealing interviews with John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Fortunately, Kane saved his original notes and tapes, and shares them here for the first time. Here's an excerpt of “Ticket to Ride”:
A TICKET TO RIDE
LARRY KANE:Is there any particular memory you would like to cherish from this trip?
JOHN LENNON: Well, just the whole thing. It’s been fantastic. We will probably never do another tour like it. It could never be the same as this one and it’s probably something we will remember the rest of our days. It’s just been marvelous.
John Lennon was right: The Beatles never did another tour like the one in 1964. But then again, neither did anyone else. We all know now that the first Beatles tour of America stands as the greatest tour in rock-and-roll history, and that it was an event of great musical and social magnitude. But few know that the tour may never have happened if an earlier visit to America hadn’t gone the way it did….
It really all started on February 7, 1964, when the Beatles landed in New York City and were greeted by an unprecedented crowd of more than 3,000 hysterical fans. After making an historic appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show two days later, and giving their first live stateside performance in Washington, D.C. two days after that, the Beatles headed south for the sunny shores of Miami. That’s where I would meet up the band for the first time.
The records show that February 13 was a sunny day in Miami, with outside temperatures in the low eighties. But inside Concourse 3, the National Airlines hub at Miami International Airport, where an estimated 5,000 youngsters had gathered to greet the Beatles, spectators said the temperature was unbearable.
I stood on the asphalt below the concourse, waiting for the Beatles’ arrival. Although the crowd was in an eager and anticipatory mood, I was anything but. As news director of WFUN Radio in Miami, my beat was covering the news of the streets, the courthouse, politics, and in 1964, the mass exodus of Cuban refugees to South Florida. The Beatles were not exactly in the front of my mind. In contemporary radio, there were record spinners, or “jocks” as we called them, and there were newsmen. The two groups rarely met, except in the hallway or at the water cooler. Assigning me to cover the Beatles in Miami was the idea of the deejays and the program department. To be honest, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the assignment.
In February 1964, jaded and skeptical, I and many others viewed the Beatles as just another quickie phenomenon, a distraction. But that was before I came to fully appreciate the band’s music and social impact. It would be convenient and sly to tell you that I knew the Beatles were going to be megastars the minute I heard them, or that from early on I had realized they would be the most significant entertainment force in the twentieth century. But the truth is, I didn’t have a clue.
Hollywood reporter Ivor Davis, a traveling companion on the 1964 tour, says now, “I was too young to appreciate it. Who knew the Beatles and their tour of 1964 would be the benchmark for all time? After all, this was just a rock-and-roll group. You could feel the insanity, but you didn’t feel the history then. After that experience, almost every other was downhill for me.”
Davis, who has interviewed hundreds of stars and is a scion of the Hollywood entertainment beat, was as skeptical as I was in February 1964. After all, it was only rock-and-roll, right? But soon enough we would learn that it was much more. And so on that hot February afternoon, I reluctantly reported on the Beatles’ landing at Miami, the final stop of their first visit to America.
National’s Flight 11 landed like any other scheduled flight. But the welcome given to its passengers was unlike any other in the history of the Miami airport. For one thing, the crowd in the concourse was so big and restless that their force and fervor caused plate-glass windows to start falling out onto the field where the plane was landing. Dade County sheriff’s deputies were hardly prepared, and as the Beatles stepped off the plane, the surging crowd erupted in screams and pressed even harder against the windows. From my position on the asphalt, I looked up and saw arms reaching out of the openings, hands flailing in the air, young women climbing over each other to get one desperate look, and several ambulances positioning themselves on the other side of the tarmac.
I spoke into the tape recorder: “Larry Kane here at Miami International, where the Beatles have invaded South Florida. Thousands of fans have packed the airport.” As I spoke, my words were drowned out by the high-pitched roar of the crowd. Then my taping was interrupted by the Beatles’ walk down the steps. I ran toward them but was stiff-armed by a private detective who gave me a good jolt. The Beatles hurried into a limo and drove off to Miami Beach.
I ran up the steps and into the concourse. Several girls were hyperventilating on the floor. Others were bloodied from jostling in the close crowd. Some of the girls were crying, but I couldn’t tell whether they were tears of happiness or terror. To say that the authorities were not prepared is only half the story; no one was prepared for such madness. In my life and career before and since, I never saw anything quite like that airport welcome.
One of the girls in the concourse, 15-year-old Kristina Monaco, had joined four of her friends and hired a taxi to take them from Palmetto High School in Southwest Miami to the airport. Almost forty years later, I found Kristina still living in the Miami area. Kristina says she has never forgotten the scene in that concourse: “We were all squashed together. You couldn’t move your body until the entire group moved. There was no room to breathe. It was like living a fantasy, all of us there, watching them come off that plane. I only caught a glimpse but it was worth it, believe me.”
I asked her what had drawn her to the Beatles. “Well, it was right after the assassination of the president. When I heard ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand,’ it was something special, foreign. I connected to it right away. And I was drawn to Paul. I guess it was a hormonal reaction, but it was really strong. We all started wearing British-style pants and things. And they [the Beatles] were special. Eventually I outgrew the hero worship, but then another obsession took over-I was wild about their music.” And she says she still is.
To millions of fans across the globe today, the music of Lennon and McCartney, along with the legend of the Beatles, is still vibrant. Despite death and change, time stands still for the Beatles. But in February of ’64, I was convinced they were a passing fad and a footnote to history, even as I witnessed the surreal and powerful scene at Miami International.
Two hours after their arrival, I met the Beatles for the first time in a sparsely attended news conference at the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach, their home for a week. When I walked into the room, the four were smoking, drinking Coke and chatting. I asked them about the airport reception. Paul McCartney answered, “We thought no one would be there to greet us. Wasn’t it great?” That’s the only answer I remember, but I do recall how surprised I was by their physical appearance and demeanor.
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr looked like boys. In fact, they were close to boyhood. George was twenty, Ringo twenty-two, John twenty-three, and Paul twenty-one. My age. And their hair startled me. Tame by today’s standards, the length of it seemed odd, almost manufactured for effect. But it was real hair all right, as real and genuine as the people I was meeting for the first time. That’s what surprised me the most-the difference between my expectation of meeting star entertainers and the actual experience of finding in these young men a naturalness rarely seen in the world of famous people.
When I returned to my radio station in Miami, the jocks were eagerly waiting for the tape of my initial interviews with the Beatles. They played segments of it every hour on the hour for days. We had suddenly become “Your Beatles station in Miami.”
The Beatles were on a hastily scheduled first trip to America. Their canny, brilliant manager, Brian Epstein, told me a year later that this inaugural journey had been a “test run,” a step designed to chart the waters in America. Epstein said, “We really didn’t know what to expect. Would Americans take to the boys? Certainly, I didn’t want a failure. So everything had to be right, planned. We had to look good.” He wasn’t disappointed with the outcome.
Excerpted from “Ticket to Ride”by Larry Kane. Copyright © by Larry Kane. Published by Running Press Book Publishers, Philadelphia and London. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.