Mania can be defined as an excessive enthusiasm or desire; an obsession. The one that stands out in my memory was elicited by four young men from the British seaport of Liverpool. If you don’t remember the Beatles, the word mania may seem like a stretch. If you do, you know exactly what I mean.
Although it’s a sweet and amusing memory now, it was serious business then. My friends and I spent many hours hunched over our transistor radios, just about bumping heads. (Those radios were not very big.) Beatles music was a source of unending happiness, each new song or album convincing us we knew them better than we did before.
As if the music, the fan clubs and the Beatles cards, (which came with bubble gum) didn’t get us worked up enough, in August, 1964 the roof just about caved in. A Hard Day’s Night was released. It was a madcap romp through a few days of their lives, punctuated by song. As soon as we heard it was playing in our local movie theatre, we knew we just had to see it or we would die.
Do you remember local movie theatres? At the Rivoli Theatre on Campbell Avenue in West Haven, Connecticut the tickets were 35 cents if you were under 12 and went up to 50 cents if you were 12 or over. The best part was we could walk. It was a five or six block walk to the theatre so we didn’t need a ride for the 2:00 showing. We were thinking we were about as cool as we could be.
The front of the theatre was a mob scene. People were pushing and yelling, trying to get in the door to get the best seats. My friends and I clasped hands and pushed toward the ticket booth with all our might. We made it and ran inside to get as close as we could. The place was filled to the rafters with very excited children, and the atmosphere was almost as out-of-control as the sidewalk out front. And then the movie started.If you’ve ever seen the shots of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, you’ll know what I’m describing. It was a little hard to actually hear them sing over all the screaming and claims of love everlasting. There was nothing else to do but to join in. We yelled and jumped and sang along like people in the midst of a true mania. By the time it was over, our throats were raw but our hearts were full. We couldn’t have imagined it, but they were cuter in a movie than on TV or in photos.
When the movie ended we sat for a few minutes while some kids filed out. The manager of the Rivoli, an elderly fellow who, I’m sure had never seen anything like this crowd, came out to see how things were going.
“We loved it!”
“’But we love the Beatles!”“O.K. I’ll tell you what. If you promise not to scream and go crazy, I’ll play the film again. How’s that?”
We all started to scream and go crazy. And he really did play it again. That Saturday afternoon in 1964 was Beatle mania times two.