No ‘yeah yeah yeah’ in Cuba

Much has changed since many of us came here in 1964.  Perhaps the biggest change is that we had one TV in the living room back then.  This is probably why the Sullivan show was so popular: because it had something for everybody.  Hard to believe that today when everybody is connected to something on his phone.

Back in February 1964, an estimated 73 million Americans saw the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.  It all started at 8:19 P.M., when Paul sang, “Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you”…the famous first line from “All My Loving.”

Down in Cuba, our family waited for “el telegrama,” or the official notice to leave the country.  Getting out of Cuba was a long ordeal of paperwork and bureaucratic steps intended to harass people, like our family, for disagreeing with the regime.  The alternative was jumping in a raft and crossing the Florida Straits on a wing and a prayer.

We missed the Beatles debut and did not even hear about it until we arrived in the U.S. eight months later.  I remember listening to my first Beatles song in Jamaica, where our family was waiting to get our permission to travel to the U.S. It did nothing for us because we were so focused on getting to the U.S. So the song went in one ear and out the other.  Also, it felt as though Kingston, Jamaica was still into Elvis because I remember walking around and seeing promotional material for Fun in Acapulco.  Truthfully, my parents were very familiar with Elvis because his films and songs were popular in Cuba.

Aside from that, all I remember was something about holding a girl’s hand.  For some reason, a song about holding a girl’s hand was something we had heard in other Spanish ballads before. 

Years later, I read about Fred Kaps.  Who was Fred Kaps?  He was a popular magician and the man who followed the Beatles on their first appearance on U.S. TV.  The poor man had to deal with hundreds of girls in the audience who could not get enough of the Beatles.  As we understand, he did it well and entertained many with his magic act.  Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time!

It was a great week, but we missed it in Cuba.  In other words, we had no idea that a bunch of Cuban girls were screaming at the TV in Miami only 90 miles north of us.  We went to bed and woke up the next morning and heard nothing about it.  I slept through the first chapter of Beatlemania.

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