Be True to Your School: A Diary of 1964

Be True to Your School: A Diary of 1964



The Pequod Review:

Bob Greene's Be True to Your School is the diary of a single year (1964) in the life of a Columbus (Ohio) high school student, as the Beatles took over America and the Sixties counterculture was just beginning to emerge. Greene's accounts of his friendships, romances and academics are mostly unremarkable (although in their ordinariness they illustrate the similarities of adolescent concerns across generations). Instead, it's his real-time reactions to the new rock band from Liverpool that are most thrilling:

January 10, 1964: When my clock radio woke me up this morning, WCOL was playing a new song called "I Saw Her Standing There." It was by the Beatles, that group from England that got written up in Time magazine last year. This was the first I’d ever heard them sing. The song sounds like it’s going to be a hit...

January 11, 1964: It turns out that "I Saw Her Standing There" isn’t even the good side of the Beatles record. The good side is called "I Want to Hold Your Hand," and WCOL has started to play it about once every hour. "I Saw Her Standing There" is the other side; when I heard it yesterday morning I assumed that it was supposed to be the big hit. This is really unusual — WCOL playing both sides of the same record.


February 9, 1964: The Beatles were on "Ed Sullivan." They are simply the greatest thing ever to hit America. I thought I was impressed with them because of their records on the radio and their pictures in the paper, but that was nothing compared to seeing them on TV.

Before they came on the girls were going nuts. Then Ed Sullivan said, "And now...the Beatles!" They were standing there like they were nervous, and then Paul McCartney leaned into his microphone and started "All My Loving": "Close your eyes and I'll kiss you..."

It was like there was a riot in the studio. In addition to "All My Loving," they sang four other songs: "Till There Was You," "She Loves You," "I Saw Her Standing There," and "I Want to Hold Your Hand." They seemed to lose their nervousness after the first song, and on the rest of the songs they really seemed to be enjoying themselves. Sometimes you could hardly hear them because of the screaming — especially when two of them would lean into one microphone together and harmonize...

Even Dad seemed to think they were all right. I remember when Elvis Presley was first on "Ed Sullivan"; I was only nine at the time, but I still remember how angry it made him. He just hated the very sight of Elvis. Tonight with the Beatles he didn't go so far as to say that he liked them — but he didn't say he hated them, either. He made some comments about their hair, of course, but I expected that. I turned around during one of their songs, and he was actually looking at the screen and smiling. 

February 10, 1964: This morning right before the bell to start homeroom I went into the boys' locker room. About twelve guys were standing in front of the big mirror, trying to comb the front of their hair down on their foreheads. 

The only thing people are talking about is the Beatles. All during the last month there have been some of us who have liked their music. Now virtually everyone in the school is Beatles-crazy. It was funny to see guys with crew cuts and flattops standing in front of that mirror, trying to make their hair look like Paul McCartney's.

The book is worth reading for these passages alone.