The Beatles and the British invasion vanquished American music from the Top 40. April 1964 the Fab Four dominated the US charts with 5 #1 hits. I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND was the first. One smash after the other and the Liverpool band had long legs. A HARD’S DAY NIGHT gained a stranglehold on 1965. RUBBER SOUL was released in December 1965. Another year lost for the garage bands of the suburbs. Their potential hits blipped on the radar of pop music. The Rolling Stones confronted the Beatles on equal ground, but the adoration of teenage girls had transformed the English group into gods.
Even the drummer Ringo.
When John Lennon claimed that they were more popular than Christ, priests and preachers sought to burn their LPs in Nazi fashion, however the bonfires of the Bible Belt were shunned by virtuous teenage girls willing to sacrifice their maidenhood to Beatlemania.
This defloration fantasy was shared by the majority of New England girls. My next-door neighbor favored John Lennon. He was the Smart One. Addy Manzi had seen the group at Carneige Hall in December 2, 1964. Her father had played with big bands in the 40s. His old music contacts had scored the tickets. Addy was the envy of every girl in my hometown, yet even her beauty had not been enough to pierce the siege lines at the Plaza Hotel. She had attended the Boston Garden show a week later. Her luck was better for that concert.
“John played every song for me.”
Most girls pined for Paul McCartney. The Cute One. My younger sister wrote him a dozen letters. She was not alone. Kyla Rolla was the cutest girl in my 7th Grade class at Our Lady of the Foothills. I knew her since we were 8. Our first puppy love died with her parents’ divorce.
Kyla wore her blonde hair long like Paul’s girlfriend, the British actress Jane Asher. She had cried for days after seeing the Beatles at Shea Stadium. Her older sisters had driven to the concert. They stood high in the standings of girls in my hometown. It didn’t take much, but going to that show was more than enough.
My band was the Rolling Stones. They were outlaws. I couldn’t tell Kyla that SATISFACTION was the greatest rock song of all time. I love the B-side of the 45. UNDER-ASSISTANT WEST COAST PROMO MAN. In order to gain her heart I had to commit treason to the best rock and roll band in the world.
I stopped visiting the barbershop in Mattapan Square. My hair grew over my ears. Loafers were abandoned in favor of Beatles boots. I wore a Beatles jacket. No collar like Chairman Mao. It cost $15. Matching pants were another $10. I wore the suit to school. The nuns sent me home with a note for my parents. My streak of perfect attendance was shot, but Kyla noticed me for the first time in years.
“Who’s your favorite Beatle?” she asked on the way home from school. I sat in last seat of the yellow bus. Her uniform skirt was four inches over her knees. The nuns sent home any girl with a higher hemline. The seat next to me was empty. There was only one answer.
“Me too.” Kyla sat down close. Her skin smelled of Ivory soap and her hair emanated the scent of Johnson’s baby shampoo. Her green eyes were emeralds stolen by Murph the Surf from the Museum of Natural History in New York. Green as cut grass. I prayed that she didn’t notice my stealing her fragrance with near-silent inhales, as our conservations revolved around Paul McCartney trivia.
Paul was a Gemini like me. He was 22. I was 12. His favorite color was blue. Mine too. I told Kyla that she looked like Jane Asher. She let me hold her hands. I sang her songs off BEATLES 65. ‘YOU’VE GOT TO HIDE YOUR LOVE AWAY. Kyla closed her doe eyes dreaming that I was her Paul.
“Kiss me, Jane.”
Our lips met at the red light before the local church. Paul’s soul invaded my body and my hand touched Kyla’s sweater. It was cashmere. Her ribs felt like thick guitar strings. My fingertips inched higher. They grazed the bottom of her breast.
My hand glided over her nipple. I had practiced the movement on my own thousands of times. I had expected a moan, instead Kyla gasped with outrage. A slap to my cheek devastated my imitation of Paul.
“But I thought that____”
“You thought wrong. You’re no Paul.” Kyla pulled down her shirt and stormed down the aisle to the girls her age. My older brother had seen the entire episode. His eyes warned the other boys to not make fun of me. It didn’t stop their snickers.
Every day I begged Kyla for forgiveness. I had never imagined that her fantasies were rated PG. She ignored my every entreaty. I was no longer her Paul. She went steady with Jimmie Lally. His hair color was closer to Paul’s than mine. I didn’t hate him or her, because they were caricatures of the greater world beyond the confines of Boston’s South Shore. Rock and roll, fame, and fortune.
My parents bought SGT. PEPPER for my birthday. I listened to it once. Kyla had ruined the Beatles for me. The Rolling Stones regained my devotion. I played HIS SATANICAL MAJESTY’S REQUEST twice a day as if the Devil could restore Kyla to me. His power failed day after day. The Beatles seemed more powerful than Satan, then we came back together. I didn’t know why and didn’t ask why either. We were childhood sweethearts touched by the Devil.
Kisses were not kisses.
A caress was soul-deep.
Her family was living on the other side of town. Her older sisters had moved out of the house. Two of them were stewardesses. The other dated a biker from Wollaston Beach. His name was Chico.
Kyla and I were a thing. We were saving it for our wedding night. Herr mother was going a man from Chile. They spent nights out in Boston. We had the run of the house until midnight. I was almost a man.
Kyla introduced me to WBCN on her FM radio. “Mississippi Harold Wilson” was the first DJ to play Cream’s I FEEL FREE. She loved the Velvet Underground. I was a big fan of the Jefferson Airplane. We lay on the couch of her dark living room. Our nights were everything except have sex. My parents understood that we were in love. My mother was okay with our dating as long as I got home before midnight. I felt a little like Cinderella.
My hair got longer. Kyla and I talked about running away to San Francisco that summer. We got as far as Wollaston Beach.
At summer’s end I spent a long night on the couch. Her bra was on the floor. Her panties down at her knees. My Levis were unzippered. Our hands did the rest. Time disappeared from our universe, as WBCN’s night DJ played the Modern Lovers’ ROADRUNNER, the Velvets’ ROCK AND ROLL, and Quicksilver’s MONA. We were naked, when JJ Johnson announced over the air, “I have a special song to play this evening. A masterpiece. HEY JUDE by The Beatles.”
I stopped rubbing against Kyla’s thigh. WBCN never played The Beatles. Paul McCartney, my old rival, opens with vocals and piano. F, C and B-flat. The second verse added a guitar and tambourine. Simple. Pure Beatles.
“I love this.” Kyla pulled me closer and closed her eyes. The four minute coda of ‘Hey Jude’ went on forever. At the song’s end I was still a virgin, but only just. Kyla opened her eyes and sighed, “That was good.”
I read the love in her eyes.
I looked at the clock on the wall. It was 2:10. I kissed her lips and dressed fast, as if my speed could turn back the hands of time. Kyla waved from the door way. She was wearing a silk robe.
“Manana.” I had learned the word from her mother’s boyfriend. He let me drink wine.
The streets of my hometown were suburb quiet. No cars. All the houses dark. My home was three miles away. I began to run. I was on the track team. A car appeared around a curve. A VW. My father’s car. He must have been coming to get me. His mood had to be dark. He liked his sleep. The VW 180ed in the street with a screech. It had a short turning circle. The car braked to a halt and the passenger door shot open.
“Get in.” It was a command. I sat down expecting the worst. My father read the riot act. “All you had to do was call. Ten seconds and say you were all right. But you were only thinking about yourself.”
I never saw the punch coming. The VW never swerved. Blood dripped on my shirt. My father handed me a rag. I could tell that he was sorry for having lost his temper. I had never hit me before.
“You’re grounded for a week.”
“Yes, sir.” A month was punishment. A week was an apology.
He turned on the radio. WBZ. The disc jockey was playing HEY JUDE. Soon The Beatles song would be the only song on the radio. It stayed #1 on the American charts nine weeks. Kyla played the song at home. Her mother did too. My mother also. My father knew the words. I couldn’t get them out of my head.
Even to this day.
Always telling me, “I’m not Paul.”
Then again I never said I was.
And the next night I didn’t have to be anyone to Kyla, but me.
After that there was no manana.
Only on HEY JUDE with its thousand "Na na na na na na na." Can’t someone make him stop?