Sixty-four years ago today, on my 17th birthday, my new college buddies took me out for my first pitcher of beer. In those days, kids didn't live at home until they were 40. At 18, you were considered an adult.|
My adulthood lasted until midway through my second beer. At that point I became The Life of the Party. My pals hauled me back to the freshman dormitory and The Life of the Party was in bed by 7:00 p.m.
Across the Atlantic Ocean on that same Dec. 6 of 1966, the Beatles were in the studio, recording "When I'm Sixty-Four." (I, of course was not aware of this, as the song was not released until the following year, and also because by the time the Beatles finished the recording session, The Life of the Party was unconscious.)
So today is my Beatle Birthday. "When I'm Sixty-Four" is 46 and I am 64. Our ages are bookends, or mirror images, or mathematical antonyms. Or something.
Whatever it is, I'm sure it's more than just coincidence. For I was not just a typical American Beatles fan. I knew all their songs word for word, note for note. Everybody said I looked like George Harrison. I could play his guitar solo from "Ticket to Ride" so convincingly on my Sears Silvertone electric guitar that you'd expect John, Paul and Ringo to come running in the door saying, "Sorry we're late."
I was the Fifth Beatle. Unfortunately, many record promoters, most disk jockeys and everyone who had ever passed Ringo on the street also claimed the title. You could have filled Busch Stadium with Fifth Beatles, maybe with room in the bullpen for some of the Third Everly Brothers. (The Beatles actually did fill Busch Stadium with fans in August of 1966. I wasn't there. I was in New York, packing my suitcase with the loafers and chinos I'd need for college, an institution at which I would soon be officially declared "Not Very Special.")
Which shows you how little those ignorant professors knew. Through my early adulthood, I was The Life of the Party. The Fifth Beatle was well into his 30s before he finally realized that the broken record playing over and over in the background wasn't John Lennon singing "I Feel Fine"--it was Nat King Cole singing "The Party's Over."
So here I am, a lot older and a little wiser. I'm 64 years old and have outlived half the Beatles. In fact, I've lived longer than three quarters of the Mamas & the Papas and a good number of Rolling Stones.
The world moves faster now. When I was young, it spun in circles at 33 1/3 rpm. Now it streams at 3,000 kilobytes per second.
But some things are the same. Kids still think they're special and they know everything. They graduate from high school and find out they're not and they don't. You can't blame them; every generation starts afresh. I was in the children's section of the Davenport Public Library and saw a book called "Who Were the Beatles?" It was on the history shelf next to "Lincoln's Last Days" and "Heroes of the American Revolution."
A few weeks ago I ran into a feisty old woman I hadn't seen in a while. I asked her how things were going.
"I can still sit up and feed myself unattended," she said, "so I guess I'm doing fine."
The Fifth Beatle is thinking of setting it to music. "When I'm 85" is a sure hit.
Frank Mullen III of Aledo is a former Navy band leader.
Sherrard, IL Details
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