Fifty Years Ago, The Beatles Made Musical History And Came Into My City

And there they were.

The Fab Four.

The Mop Tops. The rock band there ever was.

And they were in the playground behind my school.

It was February of 1967, and rumors were swirling around our school a town about 25 miles southeast of London. Many boys had seen some black Mini Coopers with darkened windows going into Knole Park, the site of Britain’s most magnificent stately homes. And those Minis were said to include the Beatles.

It was lunchtime, so we walked into the park entrance, which ran throughout the school grounds down to the playground. And came upon the outside film set where the group was creating a promo film for their happy-go-lucky published Penny Lane /  Strawberry Fields Forever single and upcoming Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, which was released in the United States 50 years ago Friday.

You might have seen the footage. There’s a part where the quartet ride horses white and one brown, via a stone archway. There is a part where they surround an older piano and put paint it over. And there is a scene in which George Harrison, Paul McCartney, John Lennon and Ringo Starr are currently sitting at an elaborately set table being served guitars and other things by footmen. The four get up from the table and Paul and John overturn it.


On the table was a vacant Champagne bottle that among my schoolmates caught as a souvenir. He got George John and Paul to sign the tag. Somehow Ringo didn’t make the cut.

After a time, our lunch break was finished. “Hadn’t we better go?” Boys began asking one another. It was that — and miss the experience of our lives that are young — or stay, and risk the anger.

I chose to stay. In front of us was The Greatest Band There Was. In the height of their fame. And there was no safety. So when they were filming, supporters herded us out of the way, but during breaks we could proceed here and there, hanging out with the bemused group members.

During the periods, they mostly went back to unwind close to their automobiles. While Paul needed one of the fancy cars of their afternoon, a Humber Super Snipe, John, George and Ringo had the Minis. John kept to himself, so I moved over to where George and Ringo were hanging out. “Can I look in the vehicle?” I asked. “Sure,” one of them stated. So another couple of boys and I peeked inside. “You can get in if you prefer,” explained George or Ringo. We did.

And then George decided he would take us to get a spin on one of the forces in the park. It was a circle that is small, but there it was — we’d ridden in a Beatles automobile.

I asked George for his signature, which he composed in my school notebook. For some reason, like my schoolmate, I didn’t get Ringo’s.

It turned out the Beatles had been at the park a few days before, remaining pimply students. They had taken in a few of the attractions in the town, such as a trip to an antique store and afternoon tea at one of its restaurants, where John bought a circus poster. And it was that lots of this song’s words Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! , a song on Sgt. Pepper, were shot.

The filming reasoned and the group got into their cars. As Paul was driven away, I rushed upward and an autograph was signed by him . Like all of the band, he was smiling and friendly.

And so we trudged back to school. The following morning the boys who had skipped courses were advised to report for his or her teachers. Our punishment? Six “solaces” of 250 words each, where we needed to copy prose or poetry.

And rather than laboriously replicate, I wrote down lyrics to songs I’d memorized.

They had been Bob Dylan tunes. I wasn’t much of a Beatles fan.

And those autographs? A few decades later, my young sister had a notebook. And one was found by her, with just a few words. I had set it rather than have the ribbons sit amidst my schoolwork.

Wanting to begin with clean pages, they were erased by her.