I was all of twelve when I discovered the Beatles, almost by accident. I knew the name, but hadn’t heard any of the music, and had been put off by my 7th grade teacher’s insistence that the music was silly and pointless. But the cover of Meet the Beatles grabbed hold of my imagination and wouldn’t let go, so I listened, and I fell. I think a lot of us who grew up in that era have similar stories about discovering the band, and stories similar to Gallo’s about what the discovery meant to us, how it changed our lives.
Her diary entries took me back in time, reminding me of the events that surrounded my Beatlemania, the sounds, the sights, and mostly of how silly a teenage girl can be over stuff like this. I did a lot of eye-rolling as I read, but it wasn’t a judgement. Rather it was me being amused and embarrassed by having done the exact same things. The obsession, the building of the shrines papered with photos of “the lads,” buying the albums and listening non-stop, picking up Brit slang, dressing like the girls they hung out with (Mod girls with long, straight hair.) the Beatles dreams, writing “Mrs George Harrison” in my notebook at school and mourning because I would never, ever be like Patti Boyd, and so could never win George’s heart.
But Gallo’s Beatlemania went above and beyond, and she parlayed it into a writing gig, churning out a column for a local newspaper entitled “Teen to Teen,” in which she gave a rundown of what was Happening. Yeah, it was mainly Beatles, but she covered other British invasion groups, as well as home-grown ones. She also managed to befriend Victor Spinetti, who appeared in both A Hard Day’s Night, and Help, and whose ego must’ve been really healthy to withstand constantly being approached to talk about the group instead of his own career. He comes across really well, a kind and thoughtful gentleman, who got a kick out of the kids who approached him.
Gallo interviewed Spinetti several times, once much later in life, as she did a local (Philadelphia) DJ known as Hyski who was instrumental to bringing the Beatles to Philly. It’s in these interviews as well as in her epilogue that the book really comes together as she reflects on that era and what it was about for her and her friends. I think I might have enjoyed the book as a whole more than I did if she’d broken up the diary entries with more of the analysis and introspection she shows at the end.
Peppered with newspaper clippings, and photos (though not as many of the latter as I would have expected) it’s a light-hearted account of a young girl’s coming of age in the early 60s, with a soundtrack unlike anything any of us had heard before. It’s a fast read, but nothing particularly heavy, and probably fun more because I remember doing the things she did, thinking and obsessing about the same things she did. You’re not going to get any deep insights or musical theory here, just a woman’s memoir of an important time in her life, one which will resonate for some more than others.