I was 5 years old. Fifty years ago, my family watched Beatlemania unfold on our black & white television, further reinforcing my dad's belief that the Cold War was still raging, and this music phenomenon was a subversive Kremlin tactic.
I was curious why my dad's knickers were in such a twist. I really didn't know what a Beatle was, let alone a Communist. However, in February 1964 I already was familiar with their hit single "I Want to Hold Your Hand," which played non-stop on WABC-AM on my transistor radio.
For me, the Fab Four's arrival awakened an Anglophilia that remains to this day, as does my gravitation towards almost anything non-conformist.
As America celebrates the half-century anniversary of The Beatles' first televised appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, watched by 73 US million viewers, or about 34% of the nation, this monumental event provided a needed distraction for a country still grieving about the JFK assassination 3 months earlier.
The Beatles' ascendancy changed global popular culture forever. Whereas Elvis Presley was American-spawn and paved the way on Sullivan's show to influence the younger generation, The Beatles became Britain's first post-WWII export at a time that its former empire rapidly evaporated.
By 1968, even my father grew his sideburns to Tom Jones' length, although he still voted for Nixon (that's another story).
Through my childhood, I admired much of the Beatles music, but it wasn't until I hit puberty - by that time they had just broke up - when I had allowance money to buy records that I understood their importance not only for their musical talent but also as marketing geniuses.
I've met Paul and Ringo, my two least favourite Beatles (John was #1 in my book), and I saw George perform twice. I'm glad Paul and Ringo are participating in the current Beatlemania hoopla, performing in a TV special on 9 February that was pre-taped during Grammy week last month.
In 1994 I ran into Macca backstage at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and rudely broke up his conversation with Yoko. It might have very well been the day that Yoko gave Paul a cassette tape of John's "Free As a Bird," which he, Ringo and George embellished for an Anthology release.
I told Paul that I had read on the then-nascent Internet that he and Linda were EastEnders fans, and handed him a copy of my Walford Gazette, which he gladly accepted.
A few years later, my then 2-year-old daughter Annie waited with me on a midtown Manhattan sidewalk for nearly 3 hours on the hottest day in July for a Ringo record store signing. Annie was on the verge of meltdown when we made it up to the store's entrance. A store rep comes out and announces, "The line ends right here" - in front of me. Before I could even react, everybody behind me yelled, "You can't do that to the little girl!" He wisely said to us, "OK get in here!"
About 5 minutes later it's our turn. Ringo looks tired and pissed that he agreed to make to sign autographs.
Annie, already a veteran of an All-Star Band gig and "BeatleFest," planned on singing "Yellow Submarine" for Ringo, but got cold feet. I said, "Ringo, here's your littlest fan on the queue today." He looks down at her, and quips, "No we've had littler," as only he could.
Annie, now almost 16, texted me the other day: "Dad, You're going to be really proud of me. I managed to put to sleep the 5-year-old boy I'm babysitting by singing 'Yellow Submarine.'"
I used to do that with her, and my 84-year-old dad told me he now realises that "Lennon was good guy."