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Column: ‘Hard Day’s Night’ birthday inspires nostalgic memories

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I knew my Retro Brother Dan had read the same news item I had seen that morning when I received the text message: “‘A Hard Day’s Night’ was 50 years ago? I guess we ARE old.”

I suppose he is right. It is awfully hard to put a youthful spin on anything 50 years old.

Since the beginning of our friendship, both Dan and I have discussed the impact The Beatles have had on our lives. We are aware many of the life choices we made over the last 50 years from learning to play guitar, forming a group and going on the road were due to the influence of the Fab Four. The Retro Brothers, our current musical project, includes several Beatles tunes in our repertoire, so I guess The Beatles continue to exert their sway.

One critic described The Beatles’ first movie as a “...blend of indelibly engaging Beatles music, wacky shenanigans and anarchic humor [making it] thoroughly infectious.” I agree.

For me it was one of the seminal cinematic events of my life. Dan says the movie had the same effect on him although I am pretty sure neither of us would have called it a “seminal cinematic event” way back in 1964. I likely would have said something along the lines of: “Man, that movie is so cool! The Beatles are so funny and so cool! I love their music! I want to watch it again!” ( I talked with lots of exclamation points as a teenager where The Beatles were concerned.)

The old Polk Building in Greenwood at one time or another has been home to the Greenwood Public Library, a kindergarten class, the Boys Club, a gymnasium and, in 1964, a movie theater. That’s where I first saw “A Hard Day’s Night.” The theater was showing it for the entire weekend with three shows on Sunday.

After I saw it on Saturday, I came back on Sunday and sat through all three screenings. I already knew all the songs and was starting to memorize dialogue. I have seen it many times since.

Dan, who grew up in Indianapolis, told me he saw it at the Circle Theater. It had the same exclamation point effect on him. Although we didn’t know each other until we were in our early 20s, after seeing the movie we both made the same early teenage decision: Get a guitar, learns some songs and, if we couldn’t actually become one of The Beatles, start a group that would have as much fun and generate as much excitement and adulation from as many screaming girls as those four guys up on the screen.

It was hard to decide which scene was my favorite. The funny and slightly cheeky responses they gave to the press during the interview sequence fit in perfectly with my developing junior high attitude. Maybe my favorite part was when they were in the open field after sneaking out of the television studio. They were looking for a brief respite from the clutches of the people who seemed to be controlling their lives as well as a momentary escape from obligation and responsibility. It is a wonderful scene that conveys a joyful freedom.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of “A Hard Day’s Night,” the movie has been re-released in a special director-approved edition. I ordered it, and — what luck! — our mail carrier delivered it today just as I am writing this. Very soon I will make some popcorn and invite Retro Dan and his wife over to watch it with us. No doubt our wives have memories of their own associated with the film.

My only fear is I might annoy the other three by talking along with the actors. After all, I pretty much have the dialogue memorized.

Norman Knight, a retired Clark-Pleasant Middle School teacher, writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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