Some Have Gone, and Some Remain
Sunday, September 15, 1996. One year ago today was the official debut date of this magazine. Oddly enough, this anniversary evening began when I sat down in front of the TV to watch — okay, I’ll admit it — a Barbara Walters interview with Courtney Love. Which was about as pointless as you might expect, and halfway through I found myself turning to the coffee table next to the couch to see what I might peruse for a few moments before getting back to work. On the top of the pile was Ticket To Ride: The Extraordinary Diary of The Beatles’ Last Tour, which had just arrived in the mail a couple days ago.
The book was written by Barry Tashian, frontman for the Remains, who were one of four opening acts on the Beatles’ 14-city tour of the United States in 1966. Tashian later went on to play with Gram Parsons in the late ’60s and early ’70s, and toured with Emmylou Harris for 10 years as a member of her Hot Band.
Paging through Ticket To Ride is a flurry of minor epiphanies, bits and pieces here and there fascinating unto themselves and constantly connecting the dots to bigger pictures and present-day concerns. Each stop along the tour receives a few pages of documentation, featuring entries from the journal Tashian kept at the time, reviews that appeared in the local daily papers, photographs, photocopies of ticket stubs, and other assorted odds and ends.
Naturally, I turned first to the chapter on Seattle, the highlight of which was a review of the show that ran in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, where I’ve worked as a music columnist and copy editor for the past five years. The Seattle concert was held at the Coliseum, which last year was renamed Key Arena, and where I’m headed tomorrow night for another such big-time musical event — the opening of Pearl Jam’s fall tour (perhaps their last, who knows). I wonder if the review of tomorrow night’s show will seem as bizarre to someone who might stumble across it in 2026 as the newspaper’s take on the Beatles does through a 30-year looking glass:
“Amid security arrangements that were practically war-like, The Beatles of Liverpool, Knights of the British Empire, convulsed an afternoon audience of 8.200 and an evening sell-out of 14,382 entranced youngsters Thursday at the Seattle Coliseum. By every conveyance, the teenagers assaulted the Seattle Center: Monorail, car, Seattle Transit and on foot they came, often looking as bedraggled as tattered pioneers who had barely crested the Cascades.”
Browsing through the chapters on the Midwest shows, I was surprised to see the recounted memories of someone who had been at the Cincinnati show — Jim Carroll, who I’d just seen perform in Seattle five days ago. “For a 12-year-old kid who idolized them, and who was inspired to play music himself, it was the experience of a lifetime,” Carroll wrote. Such recollections of people who had been at the shows, gathered together under the subheading “Fans Reflect”, accompany each chapter — and I turned to the section on the St. Louis show on the off-chance that Tashian might have gotten a contribution from Beatle Bob, the subject of our “Screen Door” page in Vol. 1, No. 4 of No Depression. Alas, no mention of Bob Matonis to be found; perhaps that would have been too much to expect.
Still, other odd coincidences popped up elsewhere — most notably, the fact that the drummer for the Remains on the tour was N.D. Smart, who later went on to play with Gram Parsons. Aside from his fitting initials, Smart’s name rang a bell because a few months back, the phone rang here at the magazine’s “office” and on the other end was a guy calling from Dayton, Ohio, saying he had just picked up our latest issue at a local record store and was quite excited to read about all these new bands playing this kind of music he dearly loved. “I just want to know, is this really true?” he asked.
Presently he identified himself as Norman Smart. In retrospect, I feel like a fool for not recognizing his name right off the bat, if only for his association with Parsons. I hadn’t realized until browsing through this book that he’d also been on one of the most significant tours in rock ‘n’ roll history. Near the end of the book, Tashian lets his former Remains mates give some of their thoughts about those heady days, and Smart’s comments prove to be among the book’s most poignant moments — the following passage in particular:
“One of my most vivid recollections of the tour was sitting with John [Lennon] on the plane, sharing a joint, something we would do occasionally. I was 17 years old and this was the most exciting thing that ever happened to me, but it also turned out to be one of the most sobering and depressing as well. Before, I had thought of myself as an individual — an original kind of person. But, the fact was, that I had Beatle shoes on; I had John Lennon glasses on; and I had a John Lennon haircut. When I looked at him, I suddenly realized that I was just a cheap imitation of the real thing — confronting the real McCoy. Instead of enjoying the rest of the tour, I realized that I had to go on a journey to find out who I was.”
Tonight, I sit listening to a warbly old cassette with Rubber Soul on one side and Revolver on the other, probably taped from my older brother’s record collection nearly two decades ago. Tomorrow, I think I’ll go buy both of those albums on CD, while I’m dropping off Vol. 2, No. 1 of No Depression at Cellophane Square Records just down the street. It would seem only fitting to do so, given that Cellophane Square owner Hugh Jones is one of the folks acknowledged for his contribution of Beatles memorabilia to Tashian’s book. Funny how the past always seems to come back around to the present again.
(Dowling Press, Inc., 3200 West End Ave., Suite 500, Nashville, TN 37203; 800-409-7277.)