A Memoir by Linda Biscardi Fuller

Strolling down the sidewalk of Newtown Lane in East Hampton, I appear a well-adjusted citizen of the world. I pass the school buildings where I taught for 35 years, entrusted with the minds of thousands of students who entered my English classes in grades seven through 12. For all intents and purposes, I am a productive member of my community. A professional educator, community volunteer, lifelong resident. But, what if my neighbors had seen me 50 years ago this week — the night I lost my mind?

A half-century ago, I took part in what could only be called a great experiment. Would deafening decibels of 55,000 screaming teenagers result in loss of hearing? Would Brownie camera flashbulbs simultaneously popping off cause little black dots to impair my vision by being forever affixed before my eyes? Would the synapses of my brain be altered as my prefrontal cortex was assailed with adrenaline? How much emotional impact could this teenage girl endure before her life was irrevocably changed? And why wasn’t it seeming to affect the few misplaced adults bemusedly staring into space? Some of whom who actually had their fingers in their ears!

In August 1965, I attended the first stadium rock and roll concert of the Beatles. Those who were there that night know of what I speak. The rest of you will just have to trust my memory. I was sitting (well, not really sitting) behind home plate at Shea Stadium as Ed Sullivan introduced the Beatles to the stage. Stage? More like an East Hampton High School auditorium riser set up with amplifiers that might serve a garage band.

Warning: Don’t underestimate the power of this moment, this music. Revolution was in the air. It was like being present at a seismic shift, and all 55,000 present recognized it at the same exact juncture. Something was happening, beyond a mass gathering of teenagers assembled where New York Mets baseball fans normally cheered.

We were the nascent tribe members assembled to roar that the times were a-changing, beginning — NOW. “We were just 17, if you know what I mean.”

August 1965. Pre-cultural revolution. Pre-hippies, pre-Woodstock, pre-MTV. Hell, no one had even been pictured yet on the cover of a Rolling Stone magazine. Yet, it was as if we kids knew something was brewing and, life, in post-WWII America, was about to metamorphose. Not croon its way into a bobby-soxer’s dream or swivel its hips into a jailhouse rock, but blow the roof off of every status-quo institution you could name.

It seems like yesterday, it seems like forever, it was 50 years ago. The Beatles were in front of me, singing, playing, moving. Moving every molecule of every moment into the future. A future that would insist that young people be heard and not just seen.

And heard we were. We drowned out a jet’s roar taking off from nearby J.F.K. From his standpoint, Sir Paul McCartney described the sound as “a million seagulls screeching.” We were yelling for more than four lads, although we did not know that at the time. I believe we were yelling for the beginning of a new era. We, in the audience, could not have predicted what was to follow, nor were we the catalyst for the shouting that this country would soon hear. We were merely the sirens on the rocks calling attention to the rumblings the Beatles stirred within us. Sociological, sexual, psychological, clarion calls of an upset in the status quo.

And throwing caution to the wind, I laced my fingers into the backstop netting and tried to claw my way over the barricade that kept me from John, Paul, George, and Ringo, my tears and shrieks in unison with all the others crying out for more than just 30 minutes of song.

This event marked a cultural change. It does not rank among the pivotal moments of sacrifice and scholars that other moments in our history earned. But it is worth noting that, once upon a time, music and the young men who made it caused many of us to be so affected as to question why to nearly every answer that began with, “Because we said so.”

Were the harmonies and notes carrying a secret message? Was the length of their hair or the cut of their suit collars stirring a primal urge? Had mass hysteria overtaken our hormonal balance and turned us into banshees, wailing for the death of the old? Were they the screams of labor for the birth of a new order, where young women would be asserting their rights kicking and screaming into a feminist movement that could not be ignored? Or was it merely a night, 50 years ago, when teenage girls fell forever in love with the sounds of their youth? Only those present know the answers, only the participants of the night realize the impact that it had.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, other generations may mumble, what’s so great about the Beatles and the baby boomers? That’s so — yesterday. But, you see, dear reader, peace and love never go out of style; and, like 50 years ago, it’s all you need, all we needed then, and, certainly, all we need right now.

Linda Biscardi Fuller is an educator, community volunterer, and advocate for the arts in children’s lives. She serves on the Hamptons International Film Festival board of directors. This piece marks the Aug. 15 anniversary of the Beatles’ appearance at Shea Stadium 50 years ago.