They arrived in Amesbury, a village on the Salisbury Plain, at 11:20 on Sunday night, May 2, 1965. The weather was dodgy for spring – the English rain, you know – and so their transportation was a well-heated Austin Princess limousine, a long cry from the drafty van they’d traveled in all over Great Britain just a few years before.
The next morning, Monday, May 3, the four young gentlemen rode in the limo to Stonehenge, a monument I could see from my back porch. (Okay, maybe that’s too Palin-nesque, but in my memory I see me looking out my bedroom window and actually seeing what was going on at Stonehenge that spring morning. Subsequent research, however, has proven that I couldn’t have since the distance from my house to the rocks was 1.8 miles.) What I remember more accurately was that my brother and I walked towards them getting more and more excited with every step.
The English army had awoken early that day – think dozens of little Tommies all agog – to meet the boys with welcome arms, tanks, and guns. This, I guess, is what happens when you’re Members of the British Empire (MBE) and the most popular pop group in the history of world. Besides the soldiers, there were others standing around that morning; a film crew, folks moving props back and forth; there were even some sitting on the storied Stonehenge rocks waiting for something to happen. (Yes, you could still touch them back then.)
One of the first things to catch my eye was his drums. Ludwig. Pearl, that looked grey to me. What my brother remembers is a little white trailer sitting off to the side. To this day I can’t tell you whether I was courageous or stupid, but I walked up to it and stood there. From inside I heard what sounded like giggling and coughing. I must have waited two or three minutes. Then, just after looking around to make sure nobody was paying attention, I knocked on one of the trailer’s windows.
It was as if time stopped. The giggling stopped, so did the coughing. And, then, someone pushed back the curtains and put his nose on the glass. I was less than a foot away. I stared at him. He stared at me. Then, he got a funny grin on his face and turned away.
It was John Lennon. Just like that.
Moments later, as I was being shooed away, the door opened and all four of them climbed out. They were giggling again – no, I didn’t know why – but I do remember smoke escaping through the door, bringing with it a fragrance I’d never encountered before.
It was May 3, 1965, on the set of “Help!”
I remember thinking that there will never be a day like this again.