Get Back, Jojo -- Or, The Beatles in Tucson
Birders have life lists. Travelers have “must-see” destinations. For years, I wanted to meet a Beatle. This was no idle whim. According to the Popstrology website, I was born in "The Second Year of the Beatles,” and "I Feel Fine” was the number one song the day I was born, January 7, 1965 (which happened to be the twenty-first birthday of Paul McCartney’s brother Mike). I grew up surrounded by Beatles music (the original canon, my parents’ easy-listening versions, and songs by other Apple artists, like Mary Hopkin and Badfinger). As a teenager, I frequented the swap meet at Phoenix’s Greyhound Park with my pal Lisa. While she snapped up movie memorabilia, I found Beatles singles and EPs. Two of the EPs had sleeves printed for the Spanish-speaking market and bore literal, if inelegant, translations like "No Me Molestes" (aka "Don’t Bother Me"), "Una Dura Noche" ("A Hard Day’s Night"), "Abrazame Fuerte" ("Hold Me Tight"), and "Las Cosas Que Dijimos" ("Things We Said Today"). Later, a cousin gave me a butcher-cover Yesterday and Today, and a comic-book pal dubbed a bunch of bootleg recordings onto cassettes.
In 1979, one of my eighth-grade teachers traveled from Phoenix to Tucson, to the newly opened Canyon Ranch resort, where she saw, and spoke to (albeit briefly), John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The same year, a friend took me to visit the painter Hildred Goodwine, known for her portraits of horses. When we entered Goodwine’s small house/studio, she had a painting of an Appaloosa on her easel. Noticing that I was admiring it, she handed me a letter she’d received from the people who had commissioned the work — Paul and Linda McCartney. Goodwine was understandably pleased that the piece, which depicted Linda’s own Appaloosa, was going to be shipped to the United Kingdom.
And then in December 1980, John Lennon was shot. I’d grown up hearing stories about where people were when they’d heard President Kennedy had been killed, and for my generation, this had the same time-freezing effect. After that, it was neither fun nor funny to contemplate meeting a Beatle (especially after George’s passing in late 2001). That didn’t mean, of course, that I wasn’t still keeping tabs on their solo careers, or buying new CDs of remastered Beatles albums. In 1998, I even managed to get a story published in an anthology about the Beatles called (in my case, ironically) In My Life: Encounters with the Beatles, which featured work by Tom Wolfe, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, Donald Hall, and various other lesser lights (myself included).
In early 2002, I relocated from Phoenix to Tucson. As I drove through my new hometown with my last load of moving boxes, I had to laugh when "Drive My Car" came on the radio. What a welcome! I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had moved to the most Beatles-centric city this side of Los Angeles. Need some proof? Here are a few examples:
Tucson appears in the lyrics to "Get Back": "Jojo left his home in Tucson, Arizona, for some California grass..."
Linda McCartney briefly attended the University of Arizona, and while in Tucson married her first husband (Mel See — possibly the "Jojo" in "Get Back" — who killed himself there in 2000) and gave birth to daughter Heather in 1962. In 1979, the McCartneys purchased a ranch in Tucson. It was here that Linda died in 1998.
George’s ex-wife Patti Boyd Harrison married Eric Clapton in Tucson in March 1979.
Ringo Starr and wife Barbara Bach checked themselves into Sierra Tucson, the well-known substance abuse treatment clinic, in 1988. Reportedly, they’ve both been clean and sober ever since, with (evidently) no need to return to the city.
And George's song "Miss O'Dell" (B side of "Give Me Love") was written for longtime Tucson resident Chris O'Dell, best friend of Patti Boyd Harrison Clapton; the godfather of O'Dell's son William is Ringo Starr.
It seems that the longer I live in Tucson—which has a population of more than one million—the more people I meet who have some connection to Paul McCartney. A couple of years ago, a guy who made a delivery to my house casually mentioned that he’d done some wrought-iron work on the McCartney property on the east side of town. Another person told me about the archaeological sites on some land east of Tucson that is owned by McCartney. Someone else said he'd seen Sir Paul at a local Mexican restaurant, Casa Molina. My hairstylist told me that some cycling friends riding on the east side of town had seen Sir Paul getting the mail one morning. And just last week, a friend stopped by and said she'd met two elderly horses owned by McCartney, which are boarded at a stable where she’d just given some lessons.
After all these years, I still couldn’t help myself. "These sound like two horses that I need to meet —and maybe it's time to start eating at Casa Molina…"