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When the U.S. Caught Beatlemania, Larry Kane Was There

Ticket to Ride: Inside the Beatles' 1964 Tour That Changed the World By Larry Kane Backbeat Books, 272 pp. (w/CD), $24.99

"What's your problem, man? Why are you dressed like a fag-ass?"

It was an inauspicious and unexpected question/accusation directed at Larry Kane, a fresh-faced 21-year-old radio news reporter from Miami. It was also the shocked journalist's first encounter with John Lennon, a member of the new pop group from England called the Beatles. Kane had been assigned to travel with them, covering the band's first U.S. tour.

The fact that Lennon was just taking the mickey out of the conservatively-dressed Kane at a reception, he got later. And as the only U.S. journalist to tour with the group on both their 1964 and 1965 jaunts, he saw and heard incidents and events that don't appear in any other tome on the Fab Four.

Originally published in 2003, Kane's Ticket to Ride is out in a new edition that includes a CD sampling of some of the author's many hours of interviews with the group in hotels, parties, backstage, press conferences, and on airplanes.

It's also one of the best first-person accounts of the sheer madness, lunacy and occasional run-for-your-life portrait of the early days of Beatlemania. Back then, the media had access to performers that is pretty much unthinkable today, and the artists could routinely be more candid in their talks.

And less guarded in general. Beatles manager Brian Epstein was so desirous of press coverage -- and the rules of modern rock journalism weren't even written yet -- reporters were allowed to see things unimaginable today.

Like when a group of more than 20 prostitutes came to the Beatles' suite in Atlantic City and various pairings demurely occurred. The press in that day would never think to report such incidents (and didn't), but today's press would never be allowed to witness it anyway.

Nor would a reporter like Kane be hit on by band management, in this case the closeted homosexual Epstein. "Watch out, Larry. It's more than your big nose he wants!" Kane reports Lennon chiding him, though, once he was aware of what was going on, Kane quickly left the room and left an embarrassed, drunk Epstein behind.

Still, one of the charms of Kane's narrative is that the Beatles themselves are as just in amazement about their success and the public reaction to them as the traveling press corps.Hotel managers, for example, would not even want them to wave outside windows for fear of inciting the thousands of teens amassed on the streets below.

At a Hollywood party for charity, the Beatles are starstruck at all the actors they've only seen on screen who have come or brought their children to meet them, especially favorite Edward G. Robinson. But it also make them feel like performing monkeys -- though, surprisingly, crusty actor Jack Palance tells Kane that "their music is damn good!"

It wasn't all fun and glitter, though. In one anecdote, Kane is ensconced in a car in the band's entourage, but rightfully concerned that the roof and sides would buckle in from the sheer weight of the band's fans. Who happen to be crawling all over the vehicle in search of John, Paul, George or Ringo.

Story continues on the next page.

Kane could joke later about "Death by Beatles Fan." But for a few moments, it could have been written on his morgue certificate.

The reporter also traveled with the band on their 1965 tour and visited them in Nassau during the filming of Help!, and my how things had changed.

The Beatles had discovered marijuana -- in fact, it was Kane who brought a carrying Bob Dylan and Victor Maymudes up to the group's New York hotel suite where they first got high -- and pills. And the mental armor and cynicism was already building up. While Kane was a favored reporter, the band had clearly gone to another level.

After those two dizzying tours, Kane went on to a long career in non-music reporting and for TV news in Philadelphia. He would occasionally rub elbows with group members in ensuing years, like when Lennon showed up to do the weather during a 1975 telethon.

But for two short bursts that between lasted several months, Larry Kane was an eyewitness to part of musical history at its inception. Ticket to Ride is an invaluable account of that time.

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