Sitting in a row in front of me, the pair was whispering. All I could hear was...
"Who," I wondered. It didn't sound like they were talking about other students.
I sat in chemistry class my junior year in high school. We were "Boomers." Our parents, mainly fathers, came back from World War II and started their families in unison. And along came us. We bloated the US with our presence and, in turn, the need for new, big schools that could support our numbers. And I was there in 1963 at North Central High school, in a well-to-do section of Indianapolis in the newest, biggest, and, of course, most expensive public school ever built in that state. The room was designed to squeeze in our massive size class. This was an arena lecture hall with a dozen or so rows of tables stretching wall-to-wall curved so the lecturer was at the focal point of our short attention spans.
The boy and girl to my left in the row in front of me continued their conversation which I strained to hear. It seemed more interesting than the instructor's lecture. They were whispering and all I could make out were a lot of "theys" and "thems." Have you heard them," asked the girl. He had.
I finally turned to a girl next to me and asked what they were talking about. She was trying to pay attention to the instructor but snapped back at me, "The Beatles." I still wasn't sure and, like many people, thought she meant "beetles." It wasn't long, however, before the word about them was all over school and the four Liverpudlians were all over the radio. They were a band with a new kind of sound and style that were tailor made for us Boomers.
Beatlemania was more than a marketing term or something the news made up. For a while it was a way of life. Beatles everything. There was Beatles crap for sale everywhere, but mainly it was the music. Number one hit rolled out on top of number one hit. The phenomenon grew geometrically and spawned what is now called the "British Invasion." Here they came – the copycats. The first one I was aware of was "The Dave Clark Five." Then came others: "Jerry and the Pacemakers," "Herman's Hermits," "The Animals," "The Kinks," and a host of others. I considered them Beatles knock-offs. Even that group called "The Rolling Stones" just wasn't the genuine article. I liked most all of their music but they just weren't The Beatles.
As the time for the concert approached, I watched the news stories of other Beatles performances across the country. They were madhouses. They weren't about music. They were about screaming kids and mobs rushing the stage. There were gargantuan traffic jams, with confusion all around. Things got violent in some of the shows and in none of them could you hear the group singing or playing. I didn't have tickets to a concert. I had bought the right to participate in a riot.
Doubts crept in to my decision to go. I envisioned myself sitting in the worst traffic jam of my life (and I had experienced the pain of trying to get into the Indianapolis 500 on race day) and then heading into the Indianapolis Coliseum to participate in nothing more than mayhem.
I chickened out. I called my girlfriend and promised to take her to something we could enjoy without endangering our lives. For the record, that turned out to be an Andy Williams concert later that year. I told my dad I didn't want to go and he had no trouble selling the tickets and probably making a tidy little profit to boot.
The concert went on without me. I saw films on the news and it was just as I thought it would be. It was anarchy. People were pushing, shoving, leaning over balconies, screaming, some carried out on stretchers. The sound was awful. The Beatles said later, they couldn't hear their own music. They had to individually guess where the others were in each song.
The whole thing was a complete mess. It was chaos and an absolute waste of money for those in attendance. It was reported to have been the worst concert in the history of Indianapolis and, all these years later, God how I regret not being there.