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Brian Kendall

Brian Kendall - Our Hearts Went Boom (The Beatles Invasion of Canada)

Our Hearts Went Boom (The Beatles Invasion of Canada)
Viking - 1997

Michael Panontin
Unless you were a teenager back in the early sixties, it is impossible to truly fathom the phenomenon of millions of hysterical teenage girls wetting themselves (or worse) at the sight of four flippant mop-tops singing infantile, though admittedly catchy, pop songs. The Beatles' first songs were not nearly as sophisticated as what Motown or girl groups like the Chiffons or the Orlons were putting out at the time. Their interviews were facile. And the concerts were essentially drowned out in all those shrill adolescent screams. Save for the obvious (sexual) fringe benefits, it could hardly have been much fun for the boys themselves, either.

Of course, what separates the Beatles from later teenage crazes like David Cassidy, the Back Street Boys or Justin Bieber is what the lads became. That they were about a year or so away, somewhere around the releases of Rubber Soul and Revolver, from setting themselves firmly in the vanguard of popular music is why we still care so much about Beatlemania.

Brian Kendall's Our Hearts Went Boom chronicles the Fab Four's first visit to Canada in the late summer of 1964, from the band's unexpected refuelling stop in Winnipeg, where a barefoot teen bolted onto the tarmac and up the stairs only to be hauled away by a couple of dutiful RCMP officers, to their three scheduled shows at Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, the latter where death threats prompted a police officer to sit behind a clearly freaked-out Ringo.

Though Canadians may have had a comparative advantage over our friends to the south - unlike in the U.S., all Beatles U.K. singles in 1963 were released in their original form here on Capitol - by the group's appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in January '64, there were still scores of unbelievers. For one, the band's first three singles sold in the low thousands and were deleted shortly after release. Toronto deejay and label exec Duff Roman confessed that they sounded "unhip, a big scam...like white boys doing a bad impression of black music." Ah, the men don't know, but the little girls understand. To a 14-year-old like Trudy Medcalf, president of the Official Beatles Fan Club in Ontario, and recipient of at least a hundred letters daily, "it was as if they were fated to happen".

The dust jacket calls Our Hearts Went Boom lively and anecdotal, but it's really more of a people's history of the invasion, with stories coming from those outside as well as inside the fold. The usual suspects are all here: love-struck lasses fainting at Toronto's King Edward Hotel, the flummoxed police who had to carry the poor things away, a sleepless manager at the Hotel Georgia in Vancouver worrying about the damage from such a mob, and at least one psychologist who intellectualizes the whole thing as a healthy catharsis. The photos and scans of Beatles ephemera are excellent, but as is often the case a Canadian discography is sorely lacking (who do they think buys these books if not record geeks?). And though it is somewhat short at just 196 (mostly half-blank) pages, Our Hearts Went Boom fills a rare niche in the already overcrowded annals of Beatles scholarship.

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