TICKET TO RIDE by LARRY KANE: Along for the ride

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TICKET TO RIDE by LARRY KANE: Along for the ride

In 1980 presidential candidate Jimmy Carter leaned over to journalist Larry Kane and said, "So I heard you toured with the Beatles. What were they like?"

Even the 39th President of the United States wanted to know about those young men who changed the social and musical landscape of the 20th century. And Kane should know - he was the only American reporter in the official press party on their '64 and '65 American tours.

As a 21-year-old news director at Miami's WFUN radio he wrote to Beatles manager Brian Epstein in mid '64 after the band broke television audience records when they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in February. Epstein invited him to join them on the 25-city tour which started in San Francisco in August and ended a month later in New York.

Kane certainly had access and saw the Beatles' womanising (Jayne Mansfield was married-man John Lennon's best conquest), but by being "embedded" didn't report on such matters. To be less than discreet would mean further access denied.

The fact he tells the story now is fine - the statute of limitations is well and truly up although he remains largely circumspect - but that he does so in such leaden prose is disappointing. The Beatles come off as familiar cliches: Lennon the smart cynical one; McCartney eager to please ...

To characterise Epstein as astute runs against the tidal wave of opinion: the first tour was a nightmare of geographical logistics slewing from one coast to the other, and signing away millions in lousy licensing deals.

But Kane conveys the unprecedented scenes of Beatlemania - basically middle-class kids rioting - as he is bowled over by teenagers, and propositioned by mothers to get their daughters access to the Beatles' hotel suites. The real show wasn't on stage but in the audience, and amid the craziness there was also the downright weird, like McCartney dodging a piece of flying beef at the Chicago date.

The second tour - better organised but the Beatles isolated and jaded - gets a cursory telling, Kane joins them in the Bahamas during the filming of Help!, and picks up some more soundbites in the late 60s. They are heard on the accompanying 60-minute doco-CD which opens with a weary Lennon at the end of the '64 tour: "We'll probably never do another tour like it, we'll remember it for the rest of our days."

Between the murder of John F. Kennedy and the killings of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy in '68, Beatles tours were moments of innocent release. Kane was at the riot-scarred Democratic Convention in '68, the same amphitheatre where four years before young men sang of wanting to hold hands.

As Kane notes: The Beatles were the happiest thing in an increasingly unhappy decade.

It's a shame he couldn't convey that with more flair.

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