Stars Fell on Stockton - 1963
November 22nd, Dallas, and the man in the motorcade they call The President
is in his last minute. Five thousand miles away on the stage of the Stockton
Globe, Jimmy Tarbuck, popular compere, prowls in the spotlight.
“Four young lads from Liverpool, where else?” he crows, only
for his words to drown in a sea of screams as one of the four sticks his
Chelsea boot through the crack in the curtain. Fidgeting on the lip of
my tip up seat, ten years old and flanked by my sisters, I feel I’m
about to explode.
“John!”...Tarby kicks into countdown.
Back in Dallas the hired assassin introduces warm cheek to cool metal
stock and settles to deadly stillness, a Praying Mantis over a gun. Only
the barrel moves. Kennedy’s munificent waving hand blurs across
the north east quadrant of the sights.
His magnificent brain rides the epicentre, primed to implode.
The killer’s forefinger tightens upon the trigger.
The trigger starts to move. Fate’s swollen waters sway in awesome
The world holds its breath.
I feel like I’m gonna die.
With the crack of a marksman’s shot, and the opening
chugga-chugga of Twist and Shout, time releases its breath and the scream
seems to last forever. This is history in full flood, a moment in carnage.
In a slomo blur of black & white, the President’s head flips
back onto the open top, riding in the wrong direction on a CIA bullet.
Blasted back into my bucket seat, riddled with rock and roll, my life
has just begun. I’m rafting the white water of adrenaline.
John’s right in front of me, wrenching out words
like tortured metal and pulling stupid faces. Paul’s on the left,
his violin bass pointing up at his eyebrow, which he arches in mock innocence,
maliciously stirring the soup of screams. George commutes between the
two, his shiny Gretch black as a Cadillac. A big guitar. A big, slow grin.
Big hair. Ringo’s on the drum riser behind his grey Ludwig kit,
Beatles logo on his bass drum, fringe flopping down every time he hits
Matching hair, matching suits, matching amps – though Paul’s
was bigger – Wizard of Oz lighting, electric guitars and the world
at their feet.
Biting on my fist I check the sisters. Ros is sobbing, Corky wailing ‘George!’
hand outstretched in supplication.
The Beatles do the ‘ooo’ thing they nicked from Little Richard,
sending a tidal wave through the soup and another batch of fainted girls
into the arms of the St John’s Ambulance Brigade in the aisles.
“Shurrup!” yells John, the hard knock.
“Could you just perhaps, you know,” asks Paul, reasonably,
“just scream a little quieter, so we can hear what we’re doing?”
The eyebrow arches fatally.
“We’ve written another….SHURRUP!…we’ve written
another song. For Ringo! But he hasn’t learnt it yet, ‘ave
“Can I just say,” says Paul, “would you mind not throwing
any more jellybabies?” “We’ve had lots and lots and
lots of jellybabies and we don’t like them anymore.”
“This is the last one!”
“Cos we can’t hear ourselves!”
“It’s our new single.”
“We ‘ope you like it as much as the larst one.” John
the sarcastic, John the hardcase, John the clown.
“It’s called I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”
Starry eyed I crawled from the wreckage, an avalanche of screams ringing
in my ears. From Dallas emanated a cavalcade of sirens to freeze time
itself to the spot.
Dad picked us up, grave-faced with the news, but who cared? His Old World
was as dead as a Kennedy.
My baby heart was beating in four/four and the future had a soundtrack.