Seeing The Beatles in concert is something most people can only dream about. For Dave Schwensen, well, it was reality. He actually saw The Beatles in person and experienced "Beatlemania." Dave Schwensen has written a book about it titled The Beatles In Cleveland (North Shore Publishing, PO Box 318, Vermillion Ohio, 44089)
Talking to Dave Schwensen about The Beatles was like re-living the mid 60s.
Q - Dave, how is it that you were in attendance for The Beatles' 1966 concert in Cleveland?
A - Well, it always gives away my age when I say this, but I was thirteen years old and I was a big Beatles fan growing up. The end of the Baby Boomers scale I guess. When I heard they were coming into Cleveland in '64, I was too young. My parents wouldn't let me go. But in 1966 I said "Can we go to the show?" And Mom and Dad said "Yeah" and they took me. They bought tickets and took myself and my cousin and best friend, whoa are both still my cousin and best friend. The five of us went to see The Beatles at Cleveland Stadium. It was my first concert I ever went to. It was one of those things, of course I never dreamed it would be a book, that is just burned into your mind. This was so cool. Here were four Beatles onstage who were the idols and it was just a wild, amazing night. There was a big riot that stopped the show. "Beatlemania" full scale. I honestly thought The Beatles shows were all like that. I thought that's the norm, OK? Fans rush out onstage. They rush across the field. They climb up onstage. They tear Paul McCartney's jacket. They jump on the drum platform to grab at Ringo and the police have to push everyone off. The Beatles have to run for their lives. I thought that was normal. Over the years it was just something I talked about. If you know my background, I moved into the comedy industry behind the scenes. I'm not a stand-up comedian. I'm a talent co-ordinator for television and the Improv Comedy Clubs in New York City and then I went out to Los Angeles to work. I can remember hanging around backstage or at the bars with the comedians. I think I had this conversation with Larry David and Ray Romano A lot of those people I worked with. We had nothing to talk about after a while. What were some great concerts? Maybe we'd just seen The Rolling Stones and that was a great show. What were some of the other shows you've seen? Everybody would say I saw this and I saw that, and I'd say I saw The Beatles. And it always topped everybody, right?
Q - Absolutely.
A - The Beatles? Wow! What was that like? And I'd tell 'em the story and by the time I got to the third song with George Harrison singing "If I Needed Someone" and the fans broke down this little snow fence they thought would protect The Beatles...what a joke! And the fans ran across the field. I was always telling this story for years. It wasn't until I started reading some other books on The Beatles that I noticed the Cleveland shows were always mentioned. Even the book by Bob Spitz and some of the stuff by Mark Lewison. They'd always mention Cleveland, a line in there or a paragraph about the fans running onto the stage and stopped the shows. When you look at the video tapes of their most famous shows, Shea Stadium or Candlestick Park, they show one or two fans running across the field, but the police would always tackle 'em. John Lennon would be "Look at that", but in Cleveland they actually stormed the stage. So, I realized it was something different. I'd seen something different here. I write for a few newspapers in Northern Ohio. I review concerts. One night I was just sitting around and I thought I have these great memories of this concert, maybe I should write a one page review so I don't forget about 'em. I found some pictures of the '66 show, black and white. And just over the years I started finding things. So, when I wrote this one page review of the show, I had a few pictures and I posted it on my comedy website. (TheComedyBook.com) I'm pretty sure it was the next day I had an e-mail from someone, "Like wow! You saw The Beatles! Can you tell us more? What was it really like?" Then I started getting e-mails from people who were there..."Hey, this is great! This is what I remember." So, I started a website BeatleInCleveland.com and I invited people to send me their memories, whatever they knew of these shows.
Q - Did you have good seats for that Beatles concert?
A - Yeah. I had great seats. $5.50 a ticket. The lowest price was $3.00.
Q - Could you see anything?
A - Oh, yeah. They were on second base. It was a baseball stadium. Cleveland Stadium. I had the upper deck box seats. I could look right down at them. I remember my first impression of them when they walked out was how pink they looked. I think it was a combination of stage make-up and stage lighting. And I mentioned that in the book. I have pictures. The pictures in the book are in black and white. But, I have some pictures of them in color and they look very pink to me. (laughs)
Q - Were you able to hear the music?
A - I heard them fine. Now the '64 show in Public Hall, which is in downtown Cleveland in an enclosed building, you could not hear them. It was nothing but screams. It was like a jet taking off. Maybe you could hear the bass drum once in a while. It was total screaming. But in Cleveland Stadium, the way they had it set up is they had the sound hooked up to the stadium sound system...speaker system. So, there were these baseball type of speakers. So, they had the sound coming out of those speakers also. You could hear it, but there was a little bit of a delay from the stage to when it came out of those speakers. Plus, they had speakers along the first and third base line. So, I remember, especially when they played "Yesterday" because it was the only time I ever heard the songs without violins, with two guitars, bass and drums, 'live'. I sat there thinking "This sounds so cool and I'll never hear this again in my life." This was before bootlegs. There were no 'live' albums. They sounded great.
Q - How long of a concert was it?
A - The Beatles played approximately half an hour. They did like ten songs. But now in Cleveland, after the fourth song, "Day Tripper", they had to stop the show. They stopped the show for about half an hour and then they brought them back out. In the book I tried to get some interesting things that people wouldn't normally know about The Beatles. They opened up all their concerts in 1966 with "Rock And Roll Music". But in Cleveland, after the show was stopped and they came back out, they played "Rock And Roll Music" for the second time. They did not play the song "Baby's In Black", which they played at other concerts. As far as I've been able to find, that's the only time during The Beatles concerts in North America that they played one song two times. So, that's the kind of stuff you'll see in the book.
Q - Who opened for The Beatles?
A - The first act on the stage was called The Remains. I interviewed Barry Tashian (The Remains). He's also in the book. Then Bobby Hebb, who sang the song "Sunny". He actually had the number one song that Summer. "Sunny" was number one while they were touring, not The Beatles.
Q - Has Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr seen your book?
A - You know, we're hoping Paul has. One of the distributors of the book is a personal friend of Paul's brother, Michael McCartney. At the end of Spring, early Summer, he called me up and said "They're gonna love this book. I can get the book to Michael. Now, there's no guarantee he'll get it to Paul." I signed a book for Michael McCartney. Supposedly he sent it over to England, but I haven't heard anything. Whether he got it, I don't know. But, we're kind of hoping to hear from him.
Q - How did you locate all the people who interacted with The Beatles on that day? Was it difficult to track them down?
A - Actually, the book kind of wrote itself, because one lead led to another. I had this website up and people started sending me things. I had different photos sent to me. I realized I had a lot of material here and I thought this could be an interesting book.
Q - For a guy who's so into music, why didn't you become a musician?
A - I was a musician. I played in a couple of bands in New York City. I used to play down in the Village a lot, with an acoustic guitar. Clubs like Folk City, where Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel started. I actually had a recording contract in 1985, but it didn't pan out. (laughs)
Q - As a part of a band?
A - That was with a band called Metro. We were out of New York City. The biggest show we ever did was a place called Hudson, New York, up around Albany (New York) and there was a big outdoor show there. I'm going back 1983, 1984, 1985. It was for the Vietnam vets. Raising money for a half-way house kind of thing. And we were on that show. I would say there were about 5,000 people there. We had a record contract and the record came out. It was played on the radio for two days and never sold. Six months later I had a knock on the door and it was UPS. They handed me a box of records. (laughs) That was like my royalties.
Q - What label?
A - Ambassador Group. It was out of New York City. I still have a number of 'em (records) in my basement right now. I know in New York for a long time I was using 'em for coasters at parties. (laughs) After that, I wound up in the comedy business.