The Beatles infested America in 1963 and the following April the Fab Four dominated the US charts with five #1 hits. I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND was followed by one chartbuster after another. Everyone had their favorites. My next-door neighbor, Addy Manzi had seen the group at Carniege Hall in December 2, 1964. Her father had played with big bands in the 40s and his old music contacts had scored the tickets.
”I screamed John’s name a million times. He never looked my way,” the beautiful brunette told her brother and me after she came home from New York. My ex-babysitter remained on Cloud 9 until seeing the Beatles at Boston Garden a week later.
“John played every song for me," she claimed in a swoon.
Every girl in the audience thought the same and millions of teenage girls transformed the English group into gods with the release of A HARD’S DAY NIGHT and RUBBER SOUL, even then one in the rest of the world paid much attention to John Lennon's claim that the Beatles were more popular than Christ in the summer of 1966, however puritanical priests and priggish preachers throughout the South organized bonfires to burn the Moptops LPs. Thousands of bible-thumping do-righters lit vinyl conflagrations, which were shunned by millions of virtuous girls willing to sacrifice their maidenhood to Beatlemania.
This defloration fantasy was shared by the majority of New England girls, who predominantly pined for Paul McCartney. My younger sister wrote a dozen letters to ‘the cute Beatle’ and so did Kyla Rolla. The cutest girl in my 8th Grade class at Our Lady of the Foothills wore her blonde hair long like Paul’s girlfriend, the British actress Jane Asher.
I had known her since we were 8 and Kyla hadn't said three words to me in five years. My favorite band was the outlaw Rolling Stones, but I would gain nothing from telling Kyla that SATISFACTION was the greatest rock song of all time or that I loved the B-side of the 45, UNDER-ASSISTANT WEST COAST PROMO MAN, so in order to gain her heart I committed treason to the greatest rock and roll band in the world and pretended to like the Beatles.
I stopped visiting the barbershop in Mattapan Square and grew my hair over my ears. Desert boots were abandoned in favor of Beatles boots and I wore a Beatles jacket without a collar. 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, breaking my perfect attendance streak, but Kyla noticed my devotion to Beatlemania and the next day after school on the bus ride home she sat next to me.
“Who’s your favorite Beatle?” Her uniform skirt rose four inches over her knees. Any higher and the nuns would have sent her home. Her skin looked soft and I told her my answer, “Paul.”
“Me too.” Kyla moved closer.
She smelled of Ivory soap and her hair bore the faint fragrance of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. Her green eyes were the color of the emeralds stolen by Murph the Surf from the Museum of Natural History in New York and I prayed that she didn’t notice my breathing her scent, as our bus ride 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." It was the truth.
I told Kyla that she looked like Jane Asher.
"The Rolling Stones wrote LADY JANE for her."
"They look dirty."
"I think so too."
She let me hold her hands.
I sang her songs off BEATLES 65.
‘YOU’VE GOT TO HIDE YOUR LOVE AWAY.'
Kyla closed her eyes dreaming that I was her Paul.
“Kiss me, Lady Jane.”
We were sitting in the back of the bus. I saw no one was looking.
Our lips met at the red light before the local church. Paul’s soul invaded my body and my hand touched Kyla’s cashmere sweater. Her ribs felt like thick guitar strings. My fingertips inched higher.
My hand grazed the bottom of her breast and 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 bus aisle to the girls her age.
My older brother had witnessed the entire episode. His eyes warned the other boys to not make fun of me. It didn’t stop their snickers.
The next day day I begged Kyla for forgiveness. She ignored my every entreaty and went steady with Jimmie Lally for the rest of the school year.
His hair color was closer to Paul’s than mine.
Kyla broke up with Jimmy in May.
"You can write me in Florida," she said on the last day of school. Her parents were divorced and her old man was living in Miami.
"But why didn't you talk to me all this time?"
"Because I wanted to teach you a lesson."
"About wanting to hold my hand."
Her kiss lasted a second.
I remembered it through June, July, and August.
I wrote her letters twice a week.
In September we became a thing again, but I could tell that her kisses were for Paul same as her caresses. I gave his poster over her bed the finger whenever she wasn't looking.
My parents bought SGT. PEPPER for my birthday. I listened to it once. Kyla had ruined the Beatles for me and the Rolling Stones regained my favor. I constantly played HIS SATANICAL MAJESTY’S REQUEST, hoping the Devil could transform Kyla’s love for Paul into stone, but the Beatles were more powerful than Satan.
Kyla's mother was dating a man from Chile and they spent weekend nights out in Boston, leaving us the run of the house. My mother was okay with our dating on the weekends as long as I got home before midnight, which made me feel a little like Cinderella.
Kyla and I never went all the way. We came close many times. Very close, but she was saving it for our wedding night and I obeyed her wish.
Alone together we listened to WBCN on her stereo's FM radio. “Mississippi Harold Wilson” was the first DJ to play Cream’s I FEEL FREE. Kyla loved the Velvet Underground, while I was a big fan of the Jefferson Airplane. Kyla and I talked about running away to San Francisco for the Summer of Love. We got as far as Clam Shack on Wollaston Beach.
At summer’s end Kyla and I spent a long night on the couch. Time disappeared from our universe, as WBCN’s DJ played the Modern Lovers’ ROADRUNNER and Quicksilver’s MONA, then 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 and I groaned inwardly, as Paul McCartney, my old rival, opened with vocals and piano. F, C and B-flat. The second verse added a guitar and tambourine.
“I love this.” Kyla pulled me tight and our mouths met like octopi in a garden.
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.
The DJ played HEY JUDE again.
Her love was for Paul.
And I knew how to play that role. "Oh, Lady Jane."
Breathless after an hour of heavy petting I looked at the clock on the wall. It was 1:10. We were both near-naked.
"I've got to go."
I kissed her lips and Kyla waved from the door way. She was wearing a silk robe.
“Yes, my Lady Jane."
But it was already tomorrow and the streets of my hometown were suburb quiet. My home was three miles away. I was on the track team and ran at a fast pace. My feet beat out the chorus to HEY JUDE. I couldn't get it out of my head. I was cursed by Paul, but happy to have my Lady Jane.
I finally reached my house. The split-level was dark, except for lights in the kitchen and my parents' bedroom. My mother was waiting for me. She couldn't sleep until I was in my bed. I opened the front door. My father was sitting in the kitchen. He tapped his watch.
"All you had to do was call. Ten seconds and say you were all right. But you were only thinking about yourself.”
"Yes, sir." Actually I was thinking of Kyla.
"Consider yourself grounded for a month."
I went to my room. My older brother was asleep. I turned on my transistor radio to WBZ. The disc jockey was playing HEY JUDE.
Soon The Beatles' song would be the only song on the radio. My mother and my father knew the words. I couldn’t get them out of my head and I hated Paul McCartney more than ever
At the end of my grounding I went over to Kyla’s house. Her mother was out on a date. Kyla put on SGT. PEPPERS LONELY HEART CLUB BAND. She pulled me close to the stereo, so I heard her favorite Beatle singing to her.
I should have walked out. I wanted her to love me. Not Paul. but leaving Kyla wasn’t in my heart and I sang along with Paul. She smiled and kissed my lips.
I might not have been her Paul, but I was holding her hand and Paul never did that other than in her dreams.