'Fab 4 Mania': Cartoonist Carol Tyler Returns to Her Eighth Grade Diary for New Beatles Book

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The Beatles pose for a portrait in front of an American Flag in 1964 in New York City. 

Even more than 50 years later, the Beatlemania spirit hasn't left writer and cartoonist Carol Tyler. It's evident all through her new book, Fab 4 Mania, out this month from Fantagraphics. Presented in a book that looks like a diary, Fab 4 Mania is a joyous voyage back to the years when the Beatles conquered America, complete with Tyler's thoughts and drawings from 1965 of seeing them in concert. The book features an introduction from Hunter Davies, author of The Beatles: The Authorised Biography (1968).

Like most first-generation fans, Tyler, who has been drawing for many years, was hooked the first time she saw them on The Ed Sullivan Show. “That moment I saw them on Ed Sullivan!” she exclaimed in a recent phone interview. “I grew up in Fox Lake, Illinois. There was nothing going on out there. We had moved from Chicago out to Fox Lake. The only connection to the outside world was the radio, TV, telephone. Pretty much everybody's experience in America, but it was not a very built-up area. But to see them on the show!

“I'll tell you,” she continued. “That sense of being stricken immediately. It was immediate and permanent and has carried me through to this day. When I hear those opening chords I still get that thrilling feeling like (screams). My God! It's hard to describe it to my kid. She had never had that. I said, 'You had no idea of what you missed.' I don't even know what you call it. The (immensity) of what the Beatles (did). They just completely flipped the entire world over. They just did it. They brought it.”

Tyler said she was an avid AM radio listener and still bubbles effusively over the excitement of it. “I was one of those kids that listened to the radio. 'What's going to be No. 1 this week?' The DJ s really played it up. And boy, I was a radio listener.” She said she would spend most of her time listening to Ron Riley, Art Roberts and Clark Weber on WLS-AM in Chicago.

And like most young people in those days, her parents weren't Beatles fans. “There was no liking the Beatles (in) that generation. They were into other stuff like Sinatra and what my mom called her 'nice music.' 'They need haircuts,' they'd say. Everything you can think of that was negative they would pull it out.”

She says the book exists thanks to the Sisters of the Resurrection, who taught her in parochial school at St. Bede's School. “When I was 13, the nuns said it was important that you should make a keepsake booklet. Now that is a little different than a scrapbook because what they had us do was write the thoughts and feelings and all that kind of stuff, then we added mementos.”

It was while she was in eighth grade -- just after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which brought a pall on the nation -- that the roots of the Beatles project took hold. “That (the Kennedy assassination) was kind of looming over me,” she said. “And then the Beatles came and gave us energy and a new sense of wonderful.”

And when the Beatles came to town, she just knew she had to be there. “I had money and was going to see them in August '65. So the summer of my eighth grade, going into high school, it was time to buy the tickets.” And it was then that young Carol Tyler started writing down her thoughts. “I kept a book, a booklet about my eighth grade memories. It had so much material in there -- and couple that with the stuff mom kept and everything. It was the Beatles. I had the tickets. So I made a booklet that talked about the time before: 'Oh my God, I'm going to be seeing them in two weeks.' All the excitement. What I had for supper last night. Just stuff.”

The excitement built to a maximum at the concert, which she documented in words and drawings. “When I went to the concert, I came back and wrote exactly everything that I saw. I had a crystal clear memory. It was people in the crowd, exactly the songs they sang, who was on stage, all of that, “ she said. “I called it 'Thirty-Seven Minutes of Madness.' because they were onstage for 37 minutes. And that booklet, it was like, GREAT! Then high school came, then life came. And it got put in a box. I maintained my love of the Beatles through my whole life, but I never tapped into the level of excitement like I did during that time.”

She found the booklet decades later, at a time when several people close to her had passed away, and decided to start a blog.

“It was the 50th anniversary of that concert. I thought, 'Yeah, OK, you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to start [a blog] in February,' which would make it seem like that would be the one year anniversary of actually seeing them. Although I was 64, making this blog I'm just going to put my 13-year-old brain in gear. It was wonderful because I was in so much in grief and sadness, that go back to being 13 again... was a nice, happy safe spot. Mom was still in the kitchen and all that. Dad was at work. My sister was crabby. All that was there. I was able to call that up and BOOM! There you go. So then I started the blog. But then my friend Linda said, 'What are you going to do? Why are you making a blog?' I said, 'I'll make a book eventually.' She said, 'Well why would I buy your book if everything was up on the blog?' And I said, 'Good point!' I'd do a post and then after a while, I'd take it down. And I just worked it through and up to the part about the concert, but I did not publish that part because I wanted it to make the book.” The booklet was expanded for Fab 4 Mania.

She says about halfway through the effort of getting the blog going, her dad's cancer came back. “So in the middle of doing that, I lost my dad in 2015. It took some time to pull it together and do a book. So here it is now.”

Tyler did the entire book. “I wrote and drew the whole thing,” she said. “I even did the cover. I re-did their little heads. All the drawings, all the writing. Every mark in that book. And you know what? I don't do it with the computer. I do it by hand. So I'm dipping an old-fashion pen into the inkwell and I use colored ink for the colors of the illustrations.

“It was all done by hand. And then I scanned it into the computer. There are not too many people with first-person accounts of an actual concert, blow-by-blow. And that's what this is."

Tyler says absolutely nothing beat seeing the Beatles. “I worked at the Olympics in 1980. That was a tremendously remarkable experience. I went over to Italy and England two years ago. That was a great experience. But above everything I've ever done in my life -- even meeting the Dalai Lama – was going to see (The Beatles) in person. It was the greatest thing that ever happened.

“They weren't selling a bill of goods. This was not some act. These guys were as full of wonder as we were. That was the vibe. You could feel that vibe. I've been to concerts over time and I look at people and they all seem to have a shtick or an art or something. This was pureness. It was so real. They were real. There they are! They were up there being 100 percent,” she says with enthusiasm. “They were completely authentic."


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