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Fifty years ago today, one of the biggest pop-culture waves to ever sweep America made its way to Boston. One local man got swept up — literally — in this particular wave.

On Feb. 9, 1964, Herb Van Dam was at home on the Cape, just one of the estimated 73 million Americans who were tuned into CBS for a very special Ed Sullivan Show.

"Oh yeah, I can remember we were on our bellies there in front of the TV, elbows up, getting rug burns on our knees, watching these guys," Van Dam said. "It’s seems like the whole world stopped for that."

Also watching: the girls in Van Dam's high school class.

"One day in school, one of the cheerleaders came up to me and said, 'You know who you look like? Him,'" he said. "And she pointed at Paul McCartney on the album."

As Beatlemania swept America, Van Dam began hearing the comparison more and more. On Sept. 12, 1964, the day of the Beatles' first Boston appearance, a 17-year-old Van Dam was driving up to Boston to help move a friend into his college dorm.

"The radio stations are saying stay away from the Boston Garden," he said. "Big crowds, the Beatles are there, they’re causing chaos, it’s just insane. So that’s exactly where we went."

They parked the car under the Common and hooped in a cab. As soon as Van Dam stepped out, all hell broke loose.

"What was a good time soon became a horror because the girls started screaming, 'It’s him, it’s him,' and then that high-pitched scream started," and more of them started coming and suddenly they are hanging from my face, pulling on my ears, hanging from my hair. The shirt was literally torn from my back, ripped to shreds."

With a hand from a Boston cop, Van Dam got to his feet and high-tailed it around the corner with the girls in hot pursuit. Like a scene right out of "A Hard Day’s Night," he spotted a parked car, and rolled underneath.

"I could see feet coming one way and feet going the other, and turning, and then they stopped and gave up, and I waited a bit and rolled out and I stood up, and I looked around and here it is — it’s September, I’m topless in Boston."

A shop owner who had just witnessed the whole scene called out to Van Dam.

"'Come in, I give you shirt, you want a shirt, I give you shirt,'" he said. "I said OK. He gave me a shirt, I put it on he says, “'OK, that’s great, now go do it again.'”

Instead, Van Dam found his friend, and sought refuge in a coffee shop.

"I was smoking a Pall Mall and when I put it out, all of a sudden girls from another counter came over and picked it up," he said. "I said look, I’m nobody. 'We saw we know you’re him.' I said I’m not, listen to my voice I’m not even British."

That would have been the end of the excitement for the evening, if not for the waitress behind the counter.

"'Are you gonna see the Beatles tonight at the Garden?' I said, yeah like we’ll get tickets for that. She said, 'I think Arthur’s got tickets down at the corner there.'”

And sure enough Arthur did — second balcony, front row. Shortly after 8 p.m., the lights went down and the lads took the stage.

"It was just insane, all the flash cubes on the cameras," Van Dam said. "They started off with 'Twist and Shout,' and you could hear pieces of that. Stand next to a jet when its taking off, that's what you heard. It was like a mime show — you couldn’t hear a thing. But it was an amazing place to be and an amazing time. The world was changing, we were part of it. We were hearing the music. We couldn’t wait to go and tell our friends."

That day wasn’t the last time Van Dam would be mistaken for the “cute” Beatle. A cabbie flagged him down on his way to again see the Beatles at Suffolk Downs in 1966.

"We rolled down the windows and the driver goes, 'Hi, welcome to Boston Paul,'" he said.

And then there was an incident in Arizona a few years later that made the local papers.

"We looked out the curtains and the whole front yard was teenage boys and girls, and the phone rang, and the voice said ‘Hi this is Capital records, let me speak to Paul we know he’s in there,'" he said.

Van Dam has clearly enjoyed his “McCartney moments” through the years, but they’ve paled in comparison to another, more lasting experience: the music that McCartney made with his three mop-topped friends from Liverpool.

"They became a big part of our life, they were the soundtrack of our life," he said. "You can’t give up on the music. The music is what keeps us going. It takes us to and brings us back to places that meant something to us. Not always good, not always great, but the music doesn’t ever fail you. It never lets you down."

Herb Van Dam, the man who — for a moment — was Paul McCartney, the day The Beatles’ first played Boston, 50 years ago today.