BOB'S BLOG: The Beatles Invade Port Dover
My first recollection of the Beatles involves listening to my transistor radio and realizing that this group had seven songs in the top 10 on the Chum Top 40. That was around Grade 9 for me, in 1963.
I wasn’t what you’d call a big Beatles fan though. John B. Lee, the Poet Laureate of both Brantford and Norfolk County, was and is.
He became a fan on Feb. 9, 1964.
But then there was that night
in the moth-gray landscape
of late South-western Ontario winter.
That night, of course, was the occasion of the Fab Four’s first appearance on CBS’s Ed Sullivan Show.
Apparently, the 12-year-old farm boy had been unaware of the phenomenon called the Beatles until that night.
“Half bored and just a little conscious
Before they took the stage.
That ended for me
the politics of childhood *
Last week Lee organized a terrific evening of Beatle memories at the Port Dover Library. I was there.
Called Window Fishing: The Night We Caught Beatlemania, the event consisted of eight poets reading from their works and, of course the group’s music. Most, but not all, of the poems read were included in the second edition of Lee’s book. * Singer Michael Schatte performed four short sets of Beatles songs beginning with You Can’t Do That and Things We Said Today and closing appropriately with Get Back, a controversial song released after the group’s acrimonious break up. London-based Schatte excelled in soloing on these great and unforgettable hits and providing context to the songs as well.
John B. Lee is the author of over 70 published books. Hearing the four Liverpudlian lads that night on Ed Sullivan made him want to be a writer.
All who read that Thursday night were top rate. Like John B. Lee they had all been influenced as writers by the music, lives and deaths of John (and much) later George.
Amber Homeniuk kicked the reading off taking us back to the sixties while leading us in a “Wolf(man)” call.
…everything gonna be all right , baby
Wolfman Jack gonna rock the night
The Wolfman, he understand
Ms. Homeniuk is from Waterford in the northeast portion of Norfolk County, close to Brantford. She wrote Peachy from the perspective of her mother. She had been refused parental permission to see those “ginks” when they appeared in Toronto. When the Beatles’ music arrived in North America she knew that:
The world was a whole new revolving thing
while here it all stayed put
roots in drab reality, same flat fields outside
and fresh-ironed shirts hung ‘round the kitchen
I particularly liked Roger Bell, now of Port McNicholl. His view from the sixties was one to which I could relate as a male and as once (maybe still) an adolescent. In the prose poem Cool Bell recalls a walk past Henry’s Men’s Clothing in his hometown of Port Elgin.
“In the window he has fitted on a mannequin flared green herringbone pants and a paisley patterned shirt to match. My heart flips.”
Having made the purchase Bell is acknowledged by peers to be “Very Cool.” These peers play music together and “are almost a band, and that is the epitome of cool,” Bell writes.
Later Bell heads back downtown where he does:
… a peacock walkabout, strut my stuff, singing a personalized version of the Manfred Mann song ”here I come just a walkin’ down the street, singin’ doo wah diddy diddy dum diddy doo.
The work of 55 writers is included in the book. Most are Canadian. Cuban Manuel de Jesus Velazquez Leon (The Beatles in Us) didn’t understand all the words the Beatles sang. But
“The music we heard then became a magic path to hope, a constellation that illuminated invisible horizons of our nights.”
I mentioned that this all took place at the Library. Heather King is the new CEO of the Norfolk Library. She believes that libraries are important places that should be welcoming to all in the community. When the music and poems wrapped up, “sixties food” (Jell-O, marshmallows, TV dinners and French onion dip with ripple chips) was served amongst the books. Definitely not my mother’s library.
I skipped the food and headed out into the cool summer evening. Revolution played in my head all the way home.
We all want to change the world.
The Beatles did.
Bob Wood is a housing and poverty advocate and former two-term Burlington City Councillor who has built a bed-and-breakfast with his wife on Lake Erie. He is on Twitter at @timberwood24.