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Jackie Hope: The long and winding road ... to Fargo

Who was your first rock ‘n’ roll crush? New Kid On The Block Donnie Wahlberg? Nutso kid on the block Britney Spears? Please don’t say it was the Beebs. Even if it was, just lie to me.

Something like that is way too hard to be-leeb about someone with your great musical taste.

Well, for some of us Baby Boomers, our first r’n’r crush was Paul McCartney. And one of us was told she was way too young to catch a train to Chicago to see The Beatles at Soldier Field. Not cool, like her baby sitter, who did get to take the train to Chicago. Yup, she went to Chicago as “Arlene,” and when she returned she was “Ringo” from that time on. She brought back pictures — black and white snaps — of The Beatles, taken with a Kodak Instamatic. Little tiny figures on a little tiny stage, about a mile downstream from the nosebleed seats. But, still, it was really them.

And, finally, at last — at last, Paul has come to North Dakota. Paul OMGoodness McCartney! His Out There tour stopped at the Fargodome on July 12, and stopped a few Baby Boomers’ hearts in the process.

Paul was the face of The Beatles. He and John Lennon were instrumental (groan) in defining the soundtrack of the ’60s. After leaving the Beatles in early 1970, Paul formed another killer group, Wings, with his wife, Linda, and former Moody Blues singer Denny Laine. Denny left the Moody’s in the mid-’60s because they were going nowhere. They reformed and reinvented themselves with the addition of Justin Hayward and John Lodge, and progressive rock was born. Win-win situation for both Denny and the Moody Blues.

The Beatles, Wings and solo McCartney ventures have earned 60 gold records, with the “Guinness Book of World Records” calling Paul the most successful recording artist in history. And those Guinness guys know records, gold or otherwise. The BBC reported 2,200 artists have covered McCartney’s “Yesterday.” It’s 2,201 if you include me playing it on my Roland digital piano.

McCartney has sold 100 million albums, 100 million singles and has writing credit for 188 million-selling songs. Do you want to know a secret? I have about 100 of them. Including a mint, still-in-the-cellophane-shrink-wrap vinyl of “Introducing The Beatles.” Eat your hearts out, people.

Fargodome. Saturday night. Not in the front row this time. Dang.

See, American Express card holders were offered presale tickets. But I did not have AmEx. Not to worry, because their TV ads, website and those annoying little pop-ups that pop themselves into the middle of important web surfing — like when reading about America’s World Cup soccer wonder, Tim Howard. Hey, did you know Howard is the goaltender for the English Premier League team, Everton? Bet you knew that. Bet you didn’t know that Paul is a third-generation Everton fan.

OK, American Express. Their ads promised me instant acceptance — don’t we all long for instant acceptance? — if I passed their online test. Oh man, I always get test anxiety. But this one I aced, and moved to Step 2. I got to instant-chat with an AmEx rep.

She told me I would have my card in a week to 10 days. I explained I needed the card in 24 hours, because that was when the McCartney tickets went on sale to “preferred” customers. And I especially preferred to be one of their first customers. AmEx lady thought about that for a while, then told me there were lots of other fine concerts coming up. I explained it was McCartney, for cryin’ out loud, and I needed that card in 23½ hours in order to get the tickets. AmEx lady thought about that for a while, then told me she sympathized and completely understood my wanting the McCartney tickets. And I would get my card in 7 to 10 days.

I didn’t really believe she understood my need for a front-row McCartney ticket, but I reiterated the tickets would go on sale in 23 hours. To the best of my knowledge, AmEx lady is still thinking about that.

So, row 18. And there, direct from a gig in Chicago — karmic closure — was Sir James Paul McCartney, in a black and white Stella McCartney-designed suit, tricked out with his signature Hofner semi-acoustic violin bass. He opened with “Eight Days a Week,” moved directly to “Save Us” from his new “New” album, and followed with nearly three hours of non-stop rock and roll, ending with “Hey Jude” and then tacking on two encores. There was much screaming involved. Most of it was from me.

The Wings song “Let Me Roll It” contained a “Foxy Lady” homage to his mate, Jimi Hendrix, ‘cause Paul said it was payback for Jimi using one of his Sgt. Pepper songs a few days after its release. Then Jimi’s guitar went out of tune during that London concert, so he asked Paul to come up and tune it for him. A whole ‘nother world, folks.

For “Paperback Writer,” Paul pulled out his original Epiphone Casino guitar, which he used on the studio recording of “Writer.” And throughout the night he alternated among Fender electrics, Martin acoustics, his beloved Hofner and a ukulele of unknown parentage.

Pianos? Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! There was a Yamaha baby grand, and an original 1967 “Magical Mystery Tour” upright, painted psychedelically by Dudley Edwards. That’s the piano he used at this year’s Grammys, and also the one where he composed “Getting Better.” It doesn’t get any better than that.

This is the guy who just did a closing concert for the World Cup sweet 16 round, and who closed down the 2012 London Olympics by bringing down the house at Wembley Stadium. He was the first rocker to play in the Soviet Union. Heck, he even played the Super Bowl, and that is the really big time.

And up on the stage, in our own Fargodome, there was a Beatle, Paul McCartney — perhaps the most recognizable name and face in rock ‘n’ roll.

Gracious, funny and totally at home in front of the crowd of “Fargonians,” — his name for the crowd — Paul shared a bit of rock and roll musical immortality. Now it is our legacy to say, “I saw Paul McCartney in concert. I sang along with him, and I danced to the White Album while he sang. I was out there.”

Rock on, Paul, and let it be.

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