Behind the scenes with the Beatles
Author turns tour memories into 'Ticket to Ride'
By Todd Leopold
(CNN) -- For Larry Kane, the Beatles movie "A Hard Day's Night" wasn't just a film. It was real life.
The longtime Philadelphia news anchor was a 21-year-old newsman for a Miami Top 40 radio station when he was sent to accompany the Fab Four on the group's 1964 tour.
He saw firsthand the screaming girls, the conniving parents and hangers-on, the Monopoly games and press conferences and practical jokes and never-ending demands of being trapped in Hurricane Beatlemania.
And, above all, he saw four very sharp individuals handle it all with wit, talent and high spirits.
"They had a wonderful sense of themselves, and they were very smart," said Kane in a phone interview from southeastern Pennsylvania, where he was driving to an appointment.
(Kane is obviously a celebrity himself from his years on television; at a plaza on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, one can overhear the toll taker exclaim, "Larry Kane!")
"If there were any ego fits, it was more about the quality of the security or the performance itself. ... I've never met anyone as genuine as they were, except maybe Bruce Springsteen."
Jousting with journalists
Kane tells of his travels with the Beatles in a new book, "Ticket To Ride: Inside the Beatles' 1964 Tour that Changed the World" (Running Press).
The tour took place in August and September, with the Beatles mostly playing arenas such as San Francisco's Cow Palace and Chicago's International Amphitheater. The next year they would graduate to stadiums, including a landmark show at New York's Shea in front of 55,000 fans.
Kane's participation was somewhat of an accident: He'd briefly met the group in February, when they took a side trip to Miami during a string of New York appearances.
A few months later, Kane sent a letter to Beatles manager Brian Epstein requesting an interview when the upcoming tour reached Florida. Instead, Epstein invited him along for the entire sojourn.
The group loved the give-and-take with journalists such as himself, Kane said -- mainly because Beatlemania was so misunderstood by the largely older members of the press corps.
Beatles press conferences were famous for the group's deadpan, cheeky wit. ("How did you find America?" they were asked. "Turn left at Greenland," replied John Lennon.)
|THE BEATLES LIVE|
The Beatles may be pop music icons, but their talent as a great live band is often overlooked.
But Larry Kane heard the Beatles play every night, and he can testify: the band could bring it.
"One of the reasons 'Let It Be ... Naked' is so great is it's like what I heard on stage or on 'Ed Sullivan' -- the four of them without embellishment," he said.
The group could pull off a quiet ballad, and then do a fiery "I'm Down," he said.
The sound quality of arenas in '64 and '65 was mediocre, with the exception of a handful of places such as Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium, which is a shame, Kane said. He loves to listen to "The Beatles at the BBC" to remind himself how tight they could be.
"That album shows how talented a band they were," he said.
"American journalists were the perfect foils. [Many newsmen] were shocked by them," Kane said, adding that his own father called the group "a menace to society."
"And, in all honesty, the Beatles were fascinated by the journalists' immaturity."
After an initial wariness, the group warmed to Kane, who was about their age. John, Paul, George and Ringo offered constant commentary on their situation -- some of it on pointedly topical issues of the day -- and Kane would edit the tapes and put together reports for a syndicate of radio stations.
As a new associate of the band, Kane was constantly surprised by the way the Beatles were treated. He found girls so determined to meet the group they hid in his hotel room on more than one occasion. (He's circumspect about the group's own nocturnal activities.)
He sat in cars whose roofs were crushed by frantic youths. He watched the band deal with incompetent security forces and poor sound systems and always -- always -- paparazzi and screaming fans.
On an evening in late August, he saw a screening of "A Hard Day's Night" with the group. Kane couldn't help but notice the movie's pitch-perfect encapsulation of Beatlemania -- and the Beatles' discomfort at watching themselves on screen.
'When's the bubble going to burst?'
Indeed, Beatlemania wasn't for everybody. The Righteous Brothers, the initial pre-Beatles act, left midway through the tour because "they couldn't stand it," Kane said.
Other acts such as Jackie DeShannon and the Exciters found their performances overwhelmed by screams for the headliners.
"The Beatles were very sensitive about the other groups," Kane said. "In the plane, they'd make a point of talking with them. There was a lot of camaraderie there."
Kane remained friends with the group, joining them for a handful of 1965 dates and other events over the years. (In 1975, John Lennon dropped by Kane's TV station and did the weather report on the 6 o'clock news.)
But, he said, 1964 was special.
The 1964 tour took place in a vastly different time and place from the group's journey just the next year. By 1965, the Beatles were firmly established and using their fame to push their music forward, efforts that would lead to "Rubber Soul," "Revolver" and "Sgt. Pepper."
In 1964, the group was still very much aware of fame's fragility, and enjoying every minute.
"They kept getting asked, 'When's the bubble going to burst?' We'd joke about it in the back of the plane," Kane recalled. "It was on their minds, that they'd fade sometime."
But, he added, not everyone was convinced the Beatles were a flash in the pan.
"There were two people who thought they were the greatest band in the world -- Brian Epstein and John Lennon," Kane said. "Both of them felt that they'd last into the next century."