In 1964, Reporter Larry Kane Almost Said No To Touring With The Beatles Larry Kane was 21 years old when he was invited to join the Fab Four on their 1964 U.S. tour. (He eventually agreed.) Kane appears in Eight Days A Week: The Touring Years, a new film about the band.
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The Reporter Who Almost Said No To Touring With The Beatles

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The Reporter Who Almost Said No To Touring With The Beatles

The Reporter Who Almost Said No To Touring With The Beatles

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And now we're going to take you back to a big moment in musical history, Beatlemania. In 1964, The Beatles scored their first No. 1 hit in America. When they appeared live on the "Ed Sullivan Show," an estimated 73 million people - half the population - was tuned in.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ED SULLIVAN: Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Cheering).

THE BEATLES: (Singing) Close yours eyes and I'll kiss you...

MONTAGNE: That moment appears in the new documentary, "Eight Days A Week: The Touring Years," directed by Ron Howard. It focuses on the madness of those tours when the Beatles were still lovable mop tops in matching suits. Here's Paul McCartney.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PAUL MCCARTNEY: I remember so vividly showing up at a show, and you'd be in your ordinary clothes. And then you'd take out of your little suitcase your suit and your shirt and put them on - and then, finally, your Beatle boots. And you'd stand up. And you just looked at each other like, yeah, there we are.

MONTAGNE: The Beatles took America by storm, when America's youth generation were shaking up the culture. Featured in the documentary is a young, straight-arrow radio news guy who lucked into what had to be the greatest assignment in the history of rock - flying from show to show with The Beatles. That's Larry Kane, who joined us to talk about it.

And let's go back to the beginning with you, 21 years old. You're a reporter in Florida. You requested in an interview with The Beatles. And something much bigger happened to you.

LARRY KANE: I got a letter back from Brian Epstein, their manager, inviting me on the entire tour. And I didn't know what to do. So I went to my bosses, and I said, we've got the war in Vietnam escalating. We've got racial tensions exploding across America. Why would I want to travel with a band that will be here in October and gone in December - like the hula hoop and the yo-yo, you know?

MONTAGNE: Well, I think if I remember from the documentary, actually, your mother said you should go; this is a big deal.

KANE: Oh, she said, these guys are going to be big. When I left to go on the trip, my dad said to me, Larry, watch your back. They are a menace to society.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TWIST AND SHOUT")

THE BEATLES: (Singing) Shake it up, baby, now. Shake it up baby. Twist and shout...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KANE: This is Larry Kane on board The Beatle Bird, as I'll call it. I have with me George Harrison. How you doing, George?

GEORGE HARRISON: I'm very well, Larry. And how are you?

KANE: It was amazing. I mean, I had total access. I was on the plane a few rows away from them - on the cars, the limousines. They used us as a decoy four or five times. And I had the horrible experience in Denver of kids climbing on top of the car and the ceiling of the car getting closer and closer to my head. It was just incredible.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KANE: Hi, this is Larry Kane on tour with The Beatles. Let me give you a little description of the dangers of being with The Beatles. When we drove up to the stage door, The Beatles were almost crushed completely by youngsters who all backed themselves against the wall.

The crowds were amazing. The first crowd they had in America - Cow Palace, San Francisco - 19,700 people. Every one of those young ladies thought that one of them was singing to them. This is not an exaggeration...

MONTAGNE: OK, I have to interrupt you. I was at the Cow Palace.

KANE: You were?

MONTAGNE: My dad took me and my two young girl friends. And John did look at us (laughter). We rushed to the front. And at one point, he looked down and said, hello, love.

KANE: Renee, Renee, wait a second. Were you one of those people who trampled me on the way to the stage?

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BEATLES SONG, "TWIST AND SHOUT")

KANE: We couldn't hear the music. There were missiles flying. There were jelly beans because they said The Beatles loved jelly beans. They were flying in the air right at them. The other thing was, there wasn't ever enough security. So it was chaos. Each town got worse and worse and worse.

MONTAGNE: That first tour in 1964 was a turbulent year in the U.S. - the peak of the civil rights movement. Talk to us about the tensions leading up to the Gator Bowl, when The Beatles refused to play because it was going to be segregated.

KANE: My station in Miami had advised me that the promoters at the Gator Bowl, which was a very large stadium that serviced the University of Florida, was going to be segregated, as it usually was. In their room at the hotel, I advised them of this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KANE: What about this comment that I heard about concerning racial integration...

KANE: And Paul McCartney stood up. And I can't say what he said on radio. But he finished by saying it was stupid. They weren't going to do it. John chimed in, and Ringo and George Harrison all got up and said, we're not going.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MCCARTNEY: You can't treat other human beings like animals.

JOHN LENNON: That's the way we all feel.

KANE: So there was a battle going on up until the day before the Gator Bowl. And finally, the promoters of the concert agreed.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "EIGHT DAYS A WEEK - THE TOURING YEARS")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It was my first concert...

KANE: What you saw in the movie, a young black woman, who came to this concert along with many others, described what an impact this moment had on her life.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: And I still can feel that, to this day, that there were all these white people around. But I remember standing up with everybody and then just yelling as loud as I could and singing along.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BEATLES SONG)

MONTAGNE: One thing about this documentary, you see how the press approached The Beatles.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BEATLES SONG)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: What do you plan to do when the bubble bursts?

HARRISON: We're going to have a laugh.

KANE: They approached them with ridicule and abuse. They would ask them questions like, how long is your hair? Is your hair real?

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Hey, I got a question, there, do you hope to get a hair cut at all?

RINGO STARR: Nope.

HARRISON: No thanks.

HARRISON: I had one yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Which one are you?

LENNON: Eric.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Eric? Eric, here is the American public.

LENNON: I'm John.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: You're John?

LENNON: It was only a joke.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Yes, well, John here is the American public, 40 million American viewers.

LENNON: It only looks like one man to me...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Staring you right in the face.

LENNON: Oh, it's the camera man.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: And what is your...

MONTAGNE: And they were pretty witty about it. They handled it quite well.

KANE: At the expense of some very serious questioners who asked some very stupid questions.

MONTAGNE: Did you notice when they started becoming increasingly unhappy?

KANE: I noticed in 1965 they were getting a little petulant. 1965 was the apex of their touring. In 1966, I joined them on three stops. And on the trip from St. Louis to New York, John and I had this big argument. And they started telling me how sick they were of touring. And they began to feel that it was a waste to continue.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LENNON: There was no enjoyment in it, you know. The music wasn't being heard. It wasn't doing anything. It was just a sort freak show. As we were musicians, we felt if we're going to be Beatles, the only reason to be a Beatle is to make music, not be in a circus.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BEATLES SONG "SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND")

MONTAGNE: The Beatles played their last concert on tour in 1966, at San Francisco's Candlestick Park. As for reporter Larry Kane, who almost said no to traveling with The Beatles, it was a dazzling lesson in seizing the moment. The documentary is called "Eight Days A Week: The Touring Years."

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