incredible power then. It was our link to the outside world. TV wasn’t where we got our information about stuff, it was radio. I remember exactly what my first transistor radio looked like—it was beige plastic and it cost thirteen dollars, which was a huge amount of money then. You’d listen under the covers at night. At least in the Midwest, hip radio stations printed out these narrow slips of colored paper that listed the top twenty each week. There’d be a pile of them on the counter of the record store and you’d use them to choose what you were going to buy that weekend. These stores had listening booths, too. You’d go into the booth and listen before deciding what to buy. Record players, too—everyone had one in their room and they must not have cost anything. It was such a totally different time. The performance venues then were tiny and if a rock ’n’ roll band or someone came into town, they were always on the local radio station, you could call in and talk to them. It was very personal and accessible. When the Beatles and the Stones came to Kansas City they played the ballpark, which now would be considered a really small venue. I think the Beatles were the first to play there. Other groups, like the Doors, played in this place in Kansas City, Kansas, that had only about three hundred seats. And all the jazz and blues musicians played in very small clubs. The first time the Beatles came to Kansas City, I was probably thirteen. Our seats at the ballpark were in the first balcony and we had a great view. They played all the songs we all knew and we all sang along and screamed. I don’t think anybody was listening. If we wanted to hear them, why were we screaming all the time? But we were, screaming and leaping up and down. The day after the concert was just de facto that you couldn’t speak because you’d been screaming so much. It was a badge of honor because it meant that you’d been there. You defined yourself by which Beatle you liked. And you sort of knew about people depending on the Beatle they liked. My sister liked Ringo, which was really strange, and I liked Paul and we shared a room so her side of the room was Ringo and mine was Paul. We weren’t allowed to put anything on the walls so we took pictures out of the fan magazines and taped them together in long strips that we hung on the molding. My sister was actually more advanced—she liked the Stones and I thought they were creepy and that Paul was cute. I was sent to a boarding school that was run by nuns when I was only seven. It was in Kansas City—I’d return home for weekends—and all the classes were in French, including science and math. The school was all girls and there was probably much more focus on the Beatles than there would have been at a coed school. I don’t think boys liked the Beatles as much. They all started growing their hair, but they weren’t out there screaming, that’s for sure. There was a huge radio tower in Kansas City that I always thought, since I was just a kid, looked like the Eiffel Tower. I’d sneak down sometimes into one of the classrooms and there it would be through the window, this big beautiful, lighted tower. I was so unhappy at the school that it seemed like a beacon of another world. I don’t know if I made the connection then but, like the radio—and the music it played, especially the Beatles—it was offering me a vision of something beyond the Midwest.
Billy Joel, musician THE SINGLE BIGGEST moment that I can remember of being galvanized into wanting to be a musician for life was seeing the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. Now, I didn’t have a television when I was growing up, which is funny because my father actually worked for a television company: DuMont. I don’t know if anybody ever heard of DuMont? We had a little Levitt house and the DuMont was on the rack and you pulled it out of the wall. It broke when I was about five and my mother and my father split up and nobody