Eight Days A Week – Ron Howard’s new documentary about the Beatles’ touring days in the 1960s – has contributions from familiar faces such as Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Less expected is Larry Kane, who as a young journalist accompanied the band on every date of their first two US tours.
In 1964 Larry Kane was a 21-year-old journalist starting his career at the Top 40 music station WFUN Miami.
Kane considered himself a serious journalist. He’d contacted the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein in advance of the band’s arrival in Florida to ask for an interview at the Gator Bowl stadium in Jacksonville.
“We planned to fly young fans to Jacksonville to meet the guys,” he says. “But instead Brian Epstein and their publicist Derek Taylor suggested I cover the whole 1964 US tour. I’ve never quite worked out why the offer was made – except possibly that Brian, being new to America, assumed I was far more important than I was.”
Kane tried to persuade his bosses to send instead one of the DJs already into the band. “There were all the Cuban refugees in Miami. There was war in Vietnam escalating and racial revolution in America – why would we bother about an English band who would doubtless disappear in a few months?”
But in December 1964 Kane found himself at the first venue on the tour – the Cow Palace in Daly City, California.
“The reason WFUN sent me was because they wanted a real story every day – not just frivolous happy talk. Ultimately I was filing five or six stories each day because interest was huge. But first I had to establish some sort of rapport with the four Beatles.
“When I got to the hotel I received a call from Derek Taylor to go to their suite. I remember George Harrison was in the outer room reading a Green Hornet comic book and smoking incessantly – as we all did back then. George was pleasant and I did a short interview with him.
“Then I interviewed Paul McCartney who was very charming, as he always has been – always wanting to be loved and a major public relations magnet. Paul and I mainly chatted about the war in Vietnam and race relations in the United States – not the usual Beatles stuff. Ringo too was much more intellectually curious than I expected.
“The trouble began when I met John. He looked at my suit and shoes and my hair and he said: ‘Who are you? You look like some kind of nerd from the 1950s’. So I said I look a lot better than you with your unkempt hair. I asked some questions about the immigration controversies that were just igniting in England and then I walked out of the room, thinking it had been a pretty bad start.
“I was half-way down the corridor when I felt two arms on my shoulders and John was giving me a bear-hug and he apologised and asked me to come back. So I knew that this most acidic and controversial member of the band was actually a nice guy. John cared a lot about society. It took me a week or two to figure that out and everything I saw of him in the next 16 years confirmed that.”
As Beatlemania grew Kane was charged with supplying material to some 50 radio stations across America. “Of course even in 1964 they were big, otherwise I would never have been sent – a project incidentally for which I was given $3000 (2265) to cover 35 days of travel. But over the next year and a half the Beatles went well beyond what any act had achieved.
“What changed was that people older than 15 or 16 started to take a big interest. Pop culture was no longer just for teenagers and after that there were no limits.
“I was reporting using technology that now seems so old-fashioned. I had a 40-pound Ampex tape-recorder and would have to unscrew the handset of a telephone and make an audio connection using alligator clips. So when you hear my reports in the new film they sound a little hollow technically. But I am proud of how they caught the moment.”
Kane was delighted to be approached to talk in the new film but says he’d have been thrilled even if he hadn’t been in it. “I’ve often said only people who were at those concerts could appreciate the power and the intensity. By the end I’d been to 46 Beatles concerts and there wasn’t a bad one among them.
“What they’ve done in the documentary – finding bits of film unseen for decades and working on the sound – means you get a sense of what it was like. I got chills down my spine reliving some of those moments.”
Kane thinks the film’s also a reminder of how good the Beatles were as musicians.
“They never did sound checks – usually there wasn’t time. And modern musicians will look at the puny sound equipment they had and will be amazed. Some concerts had the music going out on the stadium public address system.”
Kane went on to become a respected TV anchorman, based mainly in Philadelphia. He’s now 73.
“I witnessed something of historic importance with the Beatles. I remember an interview at the Beverly Hills Hotel when Brian Epstein said ‘Larry, people will still be listening to their music in the year 2000 – mark that down’.
“Well he was right. And then some.”
Eight Days A Week: The Touring Years is now on UK release.
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