In 1964, during the rising crest of Beatlemania, Robert Morris, a 22-year-old electrical engineering student at U of T, found himself on stage with the Beatles – shoulder to shoulder with Paul McCartney, wearing a blazer with the U of T crest, while flashbulbs ignited around him.
But how the heck did he get there?
The Beatles played two shows at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens that September. Morris was editor-in-chief of the U of T engineering newspaper, Toike Oike. “I decided to try to exploit my editorial position,” he admits. After pleading his case to the Maple Leaf Gardens’ publicity director, Morris was rewarded with a pass to both concerts – and to the press conference.
After the first show, the Fab Four held a Q&A with about 150 reporters in the arena. An informal photo-op followed. “John Lennon was standing at centre stage, approached by absolutely no one,” says Morris.
Morris pounced: he asked the musician to sign his copy of In His Own Write (Lennon’s first book). “Later,” replied Lennon.
“I moved a few feet away, and soon realized that there would be no ‘later,’” says Morris. “I retraced my steps and engaged him one-on-one in a long-forgotten five-minute conversation.”
The experience of seeing the megastars live is captured in Morris’s Toike Oike review: “The legendary voices and personalities were indeed merged into four living beings – these Beatles.”
Watch: The Beatles in Canada: documentary footage, 1964