Dan Conradt: First Beatles record was way beyond compare
I’d never heard anything like it.
There was that time when something happened with the clothes dryer — Dad said a belt came loose — and it made a high pitched squealing sound. The sound coming from the dining room was kind of like that, only better.
A lot better.
I threw the covers back, slipped out of bed and went to the top of the stairs. It was music, right?
Mom would sometimes listen to music on the radio, but it wasn’t anything like this. Usually the music on the radio sounded like the songs they sang on the Lawrence Welk show when we went to visit Grandma. That guy who played the accordion seemed kind of cool, but otherwise I didn’t much like the Lawrence Welk show. But Grandma did; she said she enjoyed the singing and dancing and thought the costumes were pretty. And she said any music made after the Lawrence Welk show was “nothing but noise, believe you me.”
Grandma wouldn’t have liked the sound coming from the dining room.
I stood on the landing at the top of the stairs and strained to hear the music. I couldn’t make it out very clearly. It sounded like the guy kept singing “I want to hold your hand.” I was pretty sure the Lawrence Welk accordion guy never sang something like that. The song ended and I expected to hear a commercial for Campbell Soup or Pepsi Cola. Instead, the song started playing again.
Yeah, the guy definitely wants to hold someone’s hand.
I tip-toed down the stairs, and the music got louder with each step. Mom had gotten the little record player down from the top shelf of the hall closet and set it up on the dining room table. She’d bring the record player out once or twice a year and play a couple of records by a guy named Perry Como. I only remembered that because he was named after a zoo we went to one time. There was also a song called “Some Enchanted Evening” by Frank somebody — he was OK — and a song called “White Christmas” by Bing something, who was pretty good.
But they were nothing like this.
“And please say to me You’ll let me hold your hand”
When you’re 6 years old you don’t really go for mushy stuff like that, like when Roy Rogers wastes time kissing a girl when he could be chasing bank robbers. But I think I could get to like music like this.
The label on the record was yellow and orange, and I was getting dizzy, trying to read it while the guy kept singing “I can’t hide, I can’t hide, I can’t hide.”
Mom was singing along, her hands in a sink filled with sudsy water and breakfast dishes.
A small Woolworth’s bag was on the table next to the record player, along with a paper sleeve with a black-and-white photo of four young guys who — except for the long hair — looked a lot like the big kids at school.
And that music!
“Do you like it?” Mom asked, standing behind me and drying her hands on a dish towel.
“What is it?”
“The Beatles,” she said.
“Yeah, it’s good.”
“They’re very popular right now,” mom explained. “When they sing, girls scream and pass out.”
That IS good!
Mom sang a couple more “I want to hold your hand’s” until the song ended, then she raised the tone arm, lifted the record off the spindle and turned it over.
“This is a good song, too,” she said. She set the tone arm down on the edge of the record, and after a few seconds of static — it was crackly, the way the radio in the kitchen sounded whenever there was a storm in the area — the guy started singing again:
“Well she was just seventeen / You know what I mean”
The accordion guy DEFINITELY never sang this song!
We stood in the dining room and listened to the song on mom’s little record player.
“Do you know what they call music like this?” she asked.
“’Rock and roll’,” she said.
Rock and roll? How cool is that!
The song crackled to an end.
“Can we listen to it again?” I asked.
Mom smiled. “As many times as you want.”
“That’s enough for now,” she said after the ninth spin.
Sorry, accordion guy. But on a Saturday morning in the spring of 1964 my world changed.
Like the long haired guy sang ...
“Now I’ll never dance with another”