Autograph Hound's Blah Blah Blog

Monday, October 12, 2020

Beatle Bits – London walking tour

The Wife’s job sent her London for a little more than a week. She worked hard but the team was good and she enjoyed her time there. Before she left, I flew out to join her for a long weekend. It would the only time she got to do any touristy stuff while she on the trip.

I worked all day Thursday and flew out that night. I arrived in Gatwick and took an hour train ride to London. I got into one of the famous black cabs and gawked at the sites as he delivered me to the Mayfair Hotel. Very swanky. I talked to the front desk, got a key to The Wife’s room, dropped off my bags, took a quick shower, and rushed back to the lobby.

I was cutting it close. I had scheduled a Beatles Walking tour that morning. The concierge assured me it was only a 5-minute walk and gave me some simple directions. I pulled out my mp3 player and selected a Beatles song as I walked through the pedestrian filled sidewalks looking for meter maids. I just breathed the air and enjoyed the ambiance as I passed Londoners. 5 minutes later, I was actually where I needed to be.  

I met the guide and paid my fee. Just a few minutes later we were passing through streets that John, Paul, George, and Ringo walked on. Most of the tour was seeing trivial places most Beatles fan would find boring. I had been up for more than 24 hours. (I didn’t sleep on the plane). Seeing the art gallery where John met Yoko, the studio that did some of the animation for Yellow Submarine, or a building where Paul once rented some office space, didn’t raise the needle.

Then we wandered down a street that looked familiar, my adrenaline started to flow and I was very awake. At the end of the street we stopped and the guide asked us to look up. THAT was where the roof top concert was performed. We were in front of the Apple Corp offices (no, not the iPhone company, but the REAL Apple Corp: 3 Savile Row).

Very cool! I now felt the cost was worth it.

But wait, there’s more!  Not only did I get to ‘Mind the Gap’ and ride the ’Underground’, the guide took us to Abby Road Studios, where all of the magic happened. There, I had the pleasure of watching people try to recreate the Abby Road cover photo without getting run over by the motorists. There were a few close calls. The motorists aren’t patient and too many Americans look the wrong way for traffic.

That cross walk ended our tour and I got back on the Tube. I made my way back to the hotel without getting lost. With the excitement still in my veins, I asked the concierge for some help. I wanted to find where The Wife was working while in London. It was early enough that she would still be there.

Again, it was a 5 minute walk. As I got close, I was surprised the street looked familiar. It was the same street I walked on earlier to see the Apple Studios building. My Wife  was just 3 buildings down from where The Beatles were!

When I entered the office, I was guided to The Wife. She was sitting next to an open window updating a document. The London office workers just adored her and gave me a big welcome. We all chatted for a bit. Since the window was open, I asked if they heard a group of people in the streets about 30 minutes ago. Yes, they did but none of them minded. It happens all of the time.

I told them I was with those people. I was on a tour and saw THE ROOFTOP. After seeing the question marks over their heads, I gave them more details. They weren’t nearly as impressed as I was.  Since they were young, I’ll forgive the disinterested comment that trialed off: Oh yeah, I heard it was somewhere near here…

And in the end, a splendid time was had by all. I got to see Abbey Road and Apple Corp. I got to see The Wife. A great way to start a long weekend.


Monday, October 5, 2020

Beatle Bits Lennon’s murder

 I learned about John Lennon’s the next morning, Dec 9th. The alarm went off and I turned the radio on to WMMR. I heard ‘Give Peace a Chance’. I noted that was odd and snoozed for 10 minutes. When the alarm went off again, Give Peace Chance was still playing. I knew something was wrong with the world.

I turned on the small Black and White TV in my bedroom and wondered if the Cold War got Hot. I soon learned John Lennon was murdered in NYC. Did I grieve for him or Yoko? No. My sorrow and the pain that The Beatles were no more and all hopes of a reunion concert or recording another album were done. I was a typical self-centered 17 year old.

I sat with my head in hand and turned my face to the TV. Stunned, I watched the news and listened to the radio at the same time. Piecing together the story; I was dull and far away.

I heard my dad leave for work, my sister getting ready for school as I sat in self-pity. I would never see The Beatles in concert.  I briefly thought about skipping classes. I thought about driving to NYC. I thought a lot of things and just gave up to momentum and habits. I showered, breakfasted, and went to school. Very ‘chop wood carry water’ of me.

That morning I did was flip my belt over. My Beatles belt buckle was now upside down. A small symbolic gesture of my sadness. A subtle nod to the event.  I knew the Petty, Genesis, and Skynyrd fans in school would be oblivious to anything outside of their bubbles.

In my English class, the cute blonde not so quietly told me my belt was on upside down.  I paused. Debated saying anything and just nodded in acknowledge like the good nerd I was.  I sat in my own thoughts as the teacher mentioned Lennon’s death from the night before. People nodded and mumbled about hearing that.  Then he explained the belt was my way of showing respect.  I got a few sideways glances and knew I dropped even lower on the nerd scale. At least the teacher got the intent.


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Beatle Bits and the belt buckle

If you knew me in high school and college, besides my beautiful brown eyes, winning smile, hair down to my shoulders (not knees) you would remember one thing about me: my Beatles belt buckle.

As the family realized I was the throes of Beatlemania albeit a decade late, they learned to accept it. One sign of acceptance was a small present my Dad gave me. It was out of the blue and not related to my birthday or Christmas.

At one of the many car shows Dad attended (much like me and ComicCons), he saw a brass belt buckle that caught his eye. He bought and gave it to me. I wore it every day until The Wife convinced me it was not ‘professional’ and if I wanted a ‘grown up’ job, I should only wear it away from work.

It was brass. Not too large but not timid. I would polish it and it caught the light. This quiet shy nerdy kid would walk into a room and be noticed. I know it was unique because every time I went to a record shop to add another Beatles album to my collection, someone would offer to buy it from me or offer to trade the buckle for the album in my hand.  I always refused. This was a gift from my DAD. He saw this belt buckle and instead of continuing on his way, he stopped and bought it.

After 3 or 4 offers, I mentioned it to Dad. I was trying to convey how proud I was to have that belt buckle and how coveted it was. He had a different view. He told me to take the money. He could get another. I was shocked. This was a cherished procession. 45 years later, I still have that belt buckle.


Monday, September 7, 2020

Beatle Bits Red, Blue, and Darts

Being a neophyte, I quickly obtained the Red and Blue complication albums. Naively I thought this was ALL of the Beatles songs.  I’m so glad that wasn’t true.

As I hid in my small bedroom and started listening and relistening,  I was amazed by how many songs I vaguely knew or remembered from years ago.  I was excited those faded memories could be refreshed and categorized into the world I was creating called The Beatles.

I had a little cassette recorder and copied the Red and Blue albums onto tapes.  I then took the tapes and recorder to the basement where I had a dart board. I could listen to the tapes ad nauseum and sing along without bothering the rest of the family.

My best friend joined me and we memorized the lyrics and practiced our dart skills. We must have done that day after day for a couple of years. To this day, I can identify a Beatles tone from a short snippet and a lot of background noise. As you can imagine, the sound quality of that little recorder wasn't very good.



Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Beatle Bits - Rock ‘N’ Roll Music

I had buddies in college that were big Stones and Who fans. They would give me grief that The Beatles weren’t a rock band. I never understood that. Music evolves and what was ‘rock’ in ‘63 wasn’t rock in ’70 but The Beatles always rocked out.

My gateway to The Beatles was the commercial for the compilation album Rock ’n’ Roll Music in 1976.  Just from the snippets in the commercial, I was getting wonderful ear worms and I needed to hear more. After begging, my parents made it a birthday gift.

As I played the album, I realized I never really listened to music. What music did filter down to me wasn’t nearly as exciting or dynamic as what was on this album.  The horns on Got to Get You Into My Life are epic. The covers of Twist and Shout, Rock and Roll Music, and Roll Over Beethoven are electric.

This album officially converted me to a Beatles Fan. My earworms were held at bay as I feasted on this awesome music…until I learned they had even more music out there.

To my college buddies, listen to this album and tell me again, The Beatles aren’t a Rock group.


Monday, August 31, 2020

Beatle Bits – Grandmom and cartoons

I don’t recall watching the cartooned version of the Fab 4 when it was on ABC. I do remember seeing it when I visited Grandmom in the early 70’s. She lived near Trenton, NJ out in the country.

I always enjoyed the visits and stays there. It was an incredibly small house but as I kid, I never noticed. She had 7 acres and I would guess a good 5th of it was gardens.  She had flower and vegetable gardens, lots of fruit trees, open fields, and a creek. She was surrounded by other farmers. What more could you want?

One of the interesting treats when visiting her was TV. Where she lived, she could receive BOTH the Philly stations AND the NYC channels. While I never saw the Twilight Zone series at home, it was on late night in NYC. And another of these scheduling differences was The Beatles cartoon. Some NYC station showed them in re-runs. I recall her turning it on and defiantly declaring she liked The Beatles. Then she, my sister, and I would settle and watch.

These cartoons added a few more songs to my musical Déjà Vu list.


PS When I was teenager and becoming well versed in The Beatles catalog, I would cut her grass on a riding more. Cutting grass was an endless chore. Even with the riding mower, it was hours and hours of effort. To bide the time, I sang songs I more or less knew the lyrics, which of course was The Beatles. I came into the house one afternoon, drenched in sweat and taking a break to get some water. Grandmom and my sister were laughing. They heard me signing over the roar of the mower. I had not realized I could be heard over the motor and from a distance. A least it was music she liked.


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Beatle Bits – Gene London


Gene London is a Philly cultural reference. He had a children’s show for years on CBS Channel 10. He was the clerk at a general store and worked for a tightwad. And of course, he fell in love with the tightwad’s daughter. While he waited for customers, he told stories. As he recited his tales, usually from Greek Mythology, he also drew illustrations. Later, he didn’t just tell tales but had adventures in the haunted mansion down the road.

'Hello Goodbye' was played in bits and pieces on his show. And so was 'Baby, you’re a rich man'. Another song I really like and another Déjà Vu moment when I rediscovered it. Mostly likely I was 7 or 8 and The Beatles were officially broken up but they were still part of my personal mystery soundtrack.


Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Beatle Bits AM Clock Radio


November 1967 my parents’ AM clock radio was set to WFIL 560 in Philly. Like any clock radio, it went off too early in the morning in our small house. It was set loud enough to wake a slumbering parent. It was also loud enough to wake this 4 year old. I know for a long long time, I would hear the song 'Hello Goodbye' at some point during those dark winter mornings.

I didn’t know who the Beatles were. I didn’t know the song 'Hello Goodbye'. It was just a melody that played at some point before the sun rose and mom and dad readied themselves for the day. While I was supposed to be sleeping, that old clock radio provided an important part of my life's soundtrack.

As I was a young teenager and discovering (really rediscovering) The Beatles, I had such a strong Déjà vu flash when I heard Hello Goodbye and learned it was the same song I heard as a little one.


Monday, August 24, 2020

Beatle Bits – XM radio


I currently have a free 3 month subscription to Sirius XM radio. Besides listening to Phillies’ baseball, I’m spending most of my time on The Beatles Channel.  I have always been a Beatles fan and this channel really strikes a chord. Pun intended.

I think they do a great job of playing songs from the original catalog but they also play the members’ solo work. With a light hand, they pepper in cover songs from other bands.  Lastly, they add in some songs and artists that inspired The Beatles from the 50’s. It has a way of clearing the musical palette without losing sight of the purpose of the channel.

I’m not the most knowledgeable or die-hard fan but The Beatles have always echoed through my life. I know a lot. I have forgotten a lot. This channel is exposing me to more. My opinion of John Lennon continues to vacillates. My respect for Ringo grows as I hear more of his songs and his work with his All-Star Band. George is my dark horse favorite. And Paul is well…Paul (and very clean).

Originally, I was going to write one post with a few anecdotes. The Wife suggested I break it up into a few posts…so picture yourself on a boat on a river and turn off you mind, relax, and float down my stream of conscience wool gatherings…


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Alex Rodriguez 2003 Texas Ranger Winter Carnival Arlington

More Mr. Peabody and the WABAC trips…

I think this is the last baseball oriented post for a while.

I have meant to write this post for years.  This autograph is tied to a ’I remember where I was when…’ moment. I have a few of those: Prince Diana’s death, 9-11 and the Twin Towers, Challenger, the Iraq War, etc.

I was standing in the cold shadow of the Ball Park in Arlington. I was in line waiting for the Texas Rangers signing event to start. I only had one goal: Alex Rodriguez’s autograph.

I brought a ball, pop tarts, a Pepsi, and a book. This was 2003. I had a cell phone but it was always kept in the car for emergencies. It was rare that a mobile phone was carried at all times. The internet wasn’t as fast or friendly either.

I was ready for the marathon wait. When I joined the line at 4:30 AM, there was already 100 people in line. I was slightly nervous about my chances of getting a signature. I knew how the front of the line swells with last minute additions.

You may not know this abut me but I have a superpower.  I attract people that don’t have social skills. Invariably, when I’m in line, the people next to me will want to chat. They do not realize their opinions are offensive. They do not understand that their ‘facts’ are extremely wrong. They do not realize I am not deaf and they their side of the discussion is heard through the whole line. Yes, if you ‘always’ meet the nicest people in line and make friends with them, you can thank me. The ones that never bother you are next to me and chipping away at my soul.

Reading my book did not deter his gentleman from talking to me. After a few hours of being actively ignored, he bothered others. I did not take pleasure in their discomfort.

The queue started on the west side of the stadium. At some point we were moved to the north side. It was exciting to just be moving. It was out of the cold wind. I’m not sure if that was done intentionally or not but it was nice. However, this gave the obnoxious guy next to me got his second wind.

Spending so many hours next to the stadium you hear lots of odd noises.  You hear a lot of booms as the forklifts move and drop pallets. You hear ventilators start and stop. You hear workers shouting to each other.

Around 8AM CST, I remember hearing a thunder clap. I wasn’t the normal boom from the stadium. I looked up and didn’t see any storm clouds.  A few minutes later Mr Obnoxious got a call. Yes, he was one of the few that carried his cell with him.

I overhear part of the conversion. He hung up and announced to the crowd that the Shuttle Columbia blew up over Texas. I was alarmed he would be so crass to say something stupid like that. After 3 hours of his crap, I was actually going to tell him to shut up as that was very sick and unfunny joke. Then ominously, a few cell phones rang and people confirmed the event.

I was kicked in the gut by this news. I quickly wondered if terrorist shot down the shuttle. This wasn’t long after 9-11. I assumed the odd thunder I heard was the explosion. I was in line with no access to info other than what I overheard as people talked. The rumors were flying fast and furious.  The biggest one was that debris landed just blocks away from where we were.

I really didn’t know if I should leave and go home or stay.  Would it be petty of me to get my autograph? What was a signed ball compared to the lives lost and the National disaster?  I stayed. Judge me as you wish.

A few hours later I got my ball signed.

I went to my car and called The Wife. She was safe. She hadn’t turned on the TV yet. She was doing some crafts while I was out of the house. She turned on the news and confirmed some of what people were saying we chatted as I drove home.

That was where I was on Feb 1, 2003.