Although I was wearing my Paul McCartney T-shirt — a bold move, I admit, for a guy my age, but, hey, wasn’t the whole purpose of the night a half-century trip back in time? — I found myself missing my Yellow Submarine tie the minute The Taxmen, a band of youngsters playing nothing but Beatles classics, broke into that song last Saturday night at the River Street Jazz Café.
There’s a lot to unpack in that sentence, I know. So, let’s start with the tie. No, let’s start with The Taxmen. Better still, let’s start with the night itself.
My friend Gino had picked up four tickets for the reunion of The Glass Prism, the local band of the late ’60s who scored a hit by ingeniously setting Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” to music. The concert was at The Theater at North in Scranton, in the spectacularly refurbished former North Scranton Junior High School, and, despite our ages — Gino and I and our two concert-going buddies are all in the early stages of our eighth decade — we planned to tack on a post-concert trip to the Jazz Café as well. The music of our youth called for the stamina (translated, craziness) of our youth, didn’t it?
Well, not for our pals. Both opted out, rightly reminding us that with a Santana tribute band going on in Scranton at 7:30, The Glass Prism would be hitting the stage well past our normal bedtimes. They weren’t wrong.
The McCartney shirt, a gift from my daughter when she and her husband saw the legend perform at Austin City Limits in 2018, seemed the appropriate sartorial choice for the occasion, and this was confirmed as soon as we arrived at the venue and ran into former Scranton Mayor Jimmy Connors. Jimmy tells more stories than I do and the shirt reminded him of the time he presented Ringo Starr with the key to the city prior to a concert at Harveys Lake. “I told him I had a reputation for singing a song with all bands that came to the area,” Connors said, throwing the former Beatle a not-so-subtle hint, “and Ringo responded, ‘This is a lovely key,’ and turned and walked away.”
When I asked the mayor if he would be singing with Se Acabo, the Santana band, or The Glass Prism, that night, he said he no longer has his voice. “Surely you have one song in you,” I said, to which he answered, “Maybe half a song.”
We pulled out of Scranton at 10:30 determined, or at least hoping, to find our second wind as we turned our sights on Wilkes-Barre and the Beatles-playing kids we’d heard so much about. The Taxmen made sure we did. All local guys, and all in their 20s, they don’t just play Beatles songs, they recreate them. Note for note. Word for word.
The first song we heard from them was “Paperback Writer,” which like everything they play came out nearly 40 years before any of them were born. I had a “Paperback Writer” tie, too. And a “Penny Lane” one which I took off one day and gave to a student named Penny. She cried and said her dad, whom she rarely saw those days, used to call her “Penny Lane” when she was little. I can’t recall who wound up with my “Paperback Writer” and “Yellow Submarine” ties but I gave them away too.
The “Yellow Submarine” one makes me think of my friend and fellow writer Jack Smiles. I barely knew Jack when I became his editor in 2000. Jack was in the room when I called the newspaper staff together for our first meeting. He later wrote that I was wearing a “Yellow Submarine” tie that day which sent him into a reverie and he didn’t hear a word I said. But when I suggested a story for him, he promptly went out and did it. “Which only proves,” he wrote, “that when dealing with a potentially unruly employee, it is always important to wear the right tie.”
It was well after 1 a.m. when The Taxmen hit the final note of “Day Tripper,” their encore after “Hey Jude,” and I wondered where the night had gone. I long ago realized that I am happiest when time disappears. That happens when I’m engrossed in a book or a movie, when I’m immersed in conversation with friends, when I’m cradling a sleeping baby in my arms, or when I’m lost in musical memories.
That’s what happened Saturday night, beginning with Se Acabo and The Glass Prism in Scranton and ending with The Taxmen in Wilkes-Barre. And it wasn’t just six hours that disappeared. It was more than 50 years.
For the record, time un-disappeared first thing Sunday morning.
Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist. Look for his blogs online during the week at pittstonprogress.com.