Midnight 1963 Leicester city centre. I was thirteen years old. Mum thought I was staying at my friend’s house. Her mum thought she was staying at mine. We were queuing for tickets to see the Beatles. I had their faces plastered all over my bedroom walls. I knew every word of every song they had ever recorded. I knew their favourite food, hobbies, star signs… but to actually see them! Groovy!
2 am and the pavement was packed. We were all singing, working our way through all the tracks of all their albums. We were amongst other expert Beatles lovers here. We couldn’t risk a single wrong word.
4 am and strangers had become friends, exchanging cubes of chocolate for sips of tepid thermos flask tea. For a while spontaneous chanting turned us into four distinct camps.
“Paul! Paul! Paul!” I yelled.
“George! George! George!” yelled my friend.
It was Ringo who won… easily… ear-splittingly.
Now it was dawn. 5 am and the crowd was getting restless. Police were struggling to keep us from sprawling across the road. My friend and I stood close to the wall, holding tightly to each other, determined to keep our hard-earned places. Not far in front of us, a large shop front window was bending like cellophane with each wave of pushing, but still we didn’t budge.
6 am and more police arrived, some on horses. The cellophane window collapsed with a thunderous roar. There was a stunned silence followed by cheers but now the pushing subsided. We became compliant. The road had been closed and we were moved off the pavement by the police, away from the shattered window, channelled into three queues, each queue separated from the next by two sets of crash barriers.
At exactly 8 am the booking office doors opened. The closer my feet shuffled to the door, the more my stomach churned with excitement. It was only after I emerged from the booking office, a ticket safely in my bag, that I realised how cold and tired I was, but it had been worth it. Front row of the balcony. Unbelievable!
As for the performance… I didn’t hear a single note sung or word spoken but I saw them. I saw the Beatles in real life. Paul looked at me. I know he did. He swished his mop of long Beatle hair as he mouthed, ‘She loves you, yeah yeah yeah’. He was singing it to me. I was in love.
I lost my voice that night, something to do with the screaming I suspect. I couldn’t talk for days but I wouldn’t have missed it, not for all the ‘yeah yeahs’ in the world.