Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Beatles Come To America - "A Really Big Show".

The second of my pieces for my CCU Music course.  Other geezers will get it.

            I was 11 years old in February of 1964 when the Beatles were introduced  to me and the rest of America on the Ed Sullivan Show.  I knew they were something special because the girls were screaming so loudly that I could hardly hear their music and my Southern Baptist mother thought they were the devil incarnate.  I had to throw a mini-tantrum for her to allow me to watch.  I had never seen anything like them.  To a blue-jeaned boy with a flat-top haircut these four guys in Edwardian suits and bowl haircuts were as alien as if they had arrived  in a spaceship.  If not for the assassination of President Kennedy a few months earlier, this would have been the most memorable event of my youth.  It turned out to be one of the most significant in my life.
            The arrival  of the Beatles gave the nation a much needed diversion  from  the grim  realities of the previous year:  the Cuban Missile Crisis and the assassination.  It could not have come at a better time and timing is everything.  They made four appearances that month, but none had the impact on the world, or me, that the first one did.  It is estimated that 40% of the population of the United States watched that program.   They performed five songs:  "All My Loving", 'Till There Was You", "She Loves You", "I Saw Her Standing There", and "I Want To Hold Your Hand."  Using my paper route money I purchased Meet The Beatles the very next day from a local drug store.  I was disappointed that only four of the songs I had heard were included, but still excited.  "She Loves You" came in the second of many Beatles albums that I subsequently purchased.           
            My sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Wakefield, was young and beautiful (to a boy entering puberty) and had already become a Beatles' fan.  She used to post the Billboard Top 10 on our bulletin board and each week at least half of those songs belonged to  the Beatles.  She brought in fan magazines and was my source of all things Beatles for the remainder of that school year.  I remember being amazed that though I could sing along with all the song lyrics I could not understand a word they said during interviews.  It was as if Liverpudlian English was a foreign language.
            The Beatles stayed together throughout my Junior and Senior High years until my graduation in 1970.  In just six years they produced more memorable music than any of the flood of British bands that followed in their wake.  Like great composers throughout history, much of Lennon/McCartney music was timeless.  The songs I heard in that first televised performance were nowhere near their best compositions.  They continued to evolve.  Unprecedented success allowed them to continuously experiment and creative genius insured those endeavors were nearly always fresh and interesting.  It seemed to me that every new release ventured into unexplored musical territory, borrowing from many genres of music.  Early in their careers, they covered songs from a variety of artists from R&B to Country.  They were inspired by such artists as Elvis, the Everly Brothers, Beach Boys, Buddy Holly, Carole King, and Little Richard.  Their initial  influences  of American Folk, Rockabilly, Skiffle, Ragtime, and Motown, eventually expanded to include both   Western  and Indian Classical, innovations  previously unheard of in rock/pop music.
            Though I became a fan of many other performers, no others had the life-long influence on me, or the world, that the Fab Four did.  All four had successful post Beatle  careers, though none captured the magic in a bottle that the synergy of their collaborative efforts produced.          

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