Post-Beatles, this city was (briefly) one rockin' town


FRANK LIDINSKY, who collects records, is himself something of a broken one, but I kind of like him that way. Almost every year at this time, he slips me a little reminder of what happened on this date in Baltimore history: The Beatles came to town.

The Beatles. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Paul McCartney's band before Wings. John, Paul, George and the luckiest drummer boy who ever lived. They appeared at the then-new Arena (nee Civic Center) for two shows on Sept. 13, 1964. It was the biggest thing to happen to downtown Baltimore since the Great Fire of '04. It was certainly the biggest thing that ever happened to Frank Lidinsky, who was there.

He's been talking about it ever since. This fine Catholic boy became a lifetime Beatles fan and something of a Civic Center rat after the Fab Four hit Lombard Street. Now Frank, who is a grownup (he's an attorney, married, two kids, house in Towson, Beatles museum in the clubroom), has a grownup take on this bit of nostalgia.

"The Beatles' appearance at the Civic Center," he says, "was a baptism of Baltimore into the entertainment big league. For the next decade, every major group added Baltimore to its tour list. The Beatles were followed by the Dave Clark Five, the Animals, Herman's Hermits, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Led Zeppelin and the Moody Blues.

"Imagine seeing, as I did, the original Rolling Stones with Brian Jones in striped pants, live on stage with just a handful of songs performing as real upstarts from London and not as some geriatric dinosaur tour in a big stadium."(Note to Frank: If you want to see those pants again, last I checked they were framed and are hanging in the Hard Rock Cafe at the Power Plant.)

"The top American groups and performers also came: Peter, Paul and Mary; Bob Dylan; James Brown - I didn't actually see James Brown perform, but I met him in the lobby of the Lord Baltimore Hotel while attending a Holy Name Convention there - Diana Ross; the Byrds; Chicago; Paul Revere and the Raiders; the Monkees; Steppenwolf and Iron Butterfly, all in their prime. The Beach Boys came annually. Elvis Presley appeared twice."

But now, Lidinsky says, when it comes to rock concerts, Baltimore is like the Ellicott City railroad station: The train doesn't stop here anymore.

"Rather than lament what happened, perhaps we could think about what would put Baltimore back on the map for the major pop and rock performers," he says. "I know the city has a lot of heavy items on its agenda - crime, education, vacant housing - but shouldn't the Baltimore Renaissance include a fun goal like a rebirth of the present Arena or the building of a new one?"

I agree. A new arena would fit nicely into west-side redevelopment plans. But it's a complicated issue.

I don't think the city - or the Maryland Stadium Authority - should pay. Some multimillionaire should. But that won't happen - this will sound like conventional wisdom but I believe it - unless a National Basketball Association or National Hockey League franchise can be secured. (Note to Cal: Talk to your buddy, Gretzky, about bringing an NHL team here, will you? Note to Mugsy: How about getting a bunch of your pals to pool funds for an NBA team in the old hometown?)

Once more, with feeling

I was pleased to learn that a significant number of TJI readers are sympathetic to a one-year moratorium on the harvest of Chesapeake Bay blue crabs or, failing that, a one-year boycott on our purchase and consumption of them. They especially like my idea of a replacement meal - spaghetti carbonara.

Spaghetti carbonara has nothing whatsoever to do with crabs, and you probably didn't see it at last weekend's Maryland Seafood Festival. (Given the traffic jams at Sandy Point last weekend, you probably didn't see anything at the Maryland Seafood Festival.)

Spaghetti carbonara is a great indulgence. You probably only want to eat it once between EKGs. But if we are to deny ourselves Maryland steamed crabs or crab cakes, then we certainly must treat ourselves to a fantastic substitute.

So pay attention. I'm only going to repeat this recipe once:

More Crabless Than Ever Before Spaghetti Carbonara

Get a big pasta pot, the biggest you can find, something in which in better times you might have steamed crabs. Get a big frying pan and a big ceramic bowl.

You need: Two pounds of spaghetti; a quarter-pound of bacon or pancetta (that's Canadian bacon, only Italian); a quarter-pound ham steak (optional); four eggs; one-quarter cup olive oil; a half-cup grated parmesan; a half-cup grated Romano; salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Dice the bacon and the optional ham.

Make sure you're wearing a shirt. Saute the bacon until it's slightly crispy. Drain the pan. Add the olive oil and cook the bacon a little longer, adding the optional diced ham, then kill the fire just as everything sizzles.

Boil three to four quarts of water.

At this point, you should call everybody for supper. Tell the kids to wash their hands and set the table.

Put on some Italian music. I recommend the soundtrack from either "Big Night" or "Moonstruck."

Scramble the eggs and leave them in a bowl. When the water boils, add some salt, then cook the spaghetti. Don't overcook. Remember: Al Dente rules.

Drain the spags, toss them in the big bowl. Add the scrambled eggs immediately to the noodles and toss so that the eggs cook and cling to the spaghetti. Add the still-hot oil-bacon-optional ham concoction. Toss some more. Add the parmesan, then the Romano. Toss some more. Two nice dashes of pepper. One good dash of nutmeg. Toss and dish it out hot in individual bowls.

Seconds are allowed. Thirds are a must. The chef gets to lap the bowl. Buon appetito. is the e-mail address for Dan Rodricks. He can also be reached at 410-332-6166.

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