It was 20 years ago today, Sergeant Peppers taught his band to play. I doubt there is anyone in America of my generation that’s not familiar with that line. But on February 9th, 2014 it was 50 years ago today that counted. That was the day America was ready to….Meet The Beatles. After that night came a plethora of new albums, Magical Mystery Tour, Rubber Soul, Revolver, The White Album and more. Help, Its Been a Hard Days Night here on Abbey Road. 50 years ago! Yea, a lot has been made of the recent 50 year anniversary of the Beatles conquering America. But nothing really caught any of the energy that one special evening created. Five songs transformed a generation, gave it something to identify with. The Beatles merely changed the way we spoke, the way we dressed, the way we listened to music, the way we viewed our politics, and in general the way we lived our lives. And it all started on one night all across America in households of families huddled around a Sunday night ritual. The Ed Sullivan show, an institution in the days when most families had only one TV set and the whole family sat and watched it together. Back in those days dinner was served at the same time everyday, an you couldn’t leave the table until you finished everything. Yea, even the vegetables! After dinner the family gathered around the TV set to watch whatever Dad decided we could watch. Saturday mornings we had cartoons and the television belonged to us (so long as our chores were done) but at night there was no democracy. Fascist Pops was in control of what we viewed and we were the remote controls. “JT, go put on channel four. JT, turn this up. JT, fix that horizontal bar.” Pretty much the same in every house, and Sundays were family night. For us it was the same every Sunday, Lassie, followed by My Favorite Martian, followed by The Ed Sullivan Show all on CBS. If I was allowed to stay up after that I had to change to NBC and we watched Bonanza. February 9th 1964 started out just like any other Sunday night, I had no clue what would occur on that special night.
IMHO the Grammy tribute fell way short of recreating any of that energy, not focusing on what that special night really created but instead used it as a promo for Grammy winning acts, popular actors, and an audience that never got a chance to understand the importance that night held to my generation. So I’ve taken it on myself to attempt to capture a slice of the energy released on that special night 50 year ago. For me and my classmates way back in February 1964 that performance was a game changer. A life changer! The moment the first set was over I understood intuitively that something had changed profoundly. For the first time I had my own music, a music made just for me and all I wanted to do was be like The Beatles and listen to more of their music. First I had to wash the Brylcreem out of my hair, remove the slicked back greaser wave and grow my hair. I would have bangs starting the next morning. I wanted to be like The Beatles, those dudes were fucking COOL!
Before that evening like most of my friends I was a follower, a sheep spinning my older brothers 45’s. Not that it wasn’t good music, it was great, but it wasn’t mine and it didn’t have the oomph I would come to know and love. The year before that special night I got my first record player for Christmas. It was a cheap record player that could only handle one record at a time and had one cheesy speaker built in its self contained carrying case that couldn’t go more than four feet away from an electric outlet without an extension cord. My record library consisted of Oh My Darlin’ by Huckleberry Hound, The Theme to Mr. Ed (of course of course) The Chipmunks Christmas song, a searing rendition of The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow, and Sherry by the Four Seasons (That one I stole from my brother, hope he doesn’t read this). But that Sunday night changed all that. In my pajamas with spacemen in spacesuits all over it I sat right in front of the TV. I heard that some Beetles were coming to America, and all I knew at that point was they played music and made girls scream. I was prepared to hear something like The Everly Brothers, or The Beach Boys, or maybe even Bobby Darrin. My parents played Frank Sinatra, Al Hirt, and Andy Williams on the family console but I knew it would be nothing like that. Maybe its four British Elvis Presley’s? But when that first song began, a song called “All My Lovin” my mouth dropped. It was the most amazing thing I had ever heard. And the four guys, long hair shaking as they sang, were just about the coolest things in the universe. I watched and memorized their names, on drums some guy named Ringo. Who has a name like that?! Cool! George, Paul, and sorry girls he’s married John. I knew in an instant this was something I had been waiting for without knowing I was waiting for it. The next tune was called “Till There Was You” sung by the cute guy Paul. In the house next door I heard a blood curdling scream. I looked up startled and my Dad and Mom were chuckling, “Mollie, can you hear Christine next door?” laughter, “Yes I can Joe, listen to her screaming like a banshee for these kids” Christine was my 13 year old next door neighbor who sounded like she was being tortured by the boogey man when in fact in her mind she was asking Paul to marry her. Very loudly and in an eerie shrieking kind of way. Mom an Dad got a good laugh from those cute mop top boys from England. Not quite as funny the next morning when I came downstairs with my hair combed over my forehead in an attempt to copy the look. “You march right upstairs and fix your hair young man!” …..“But Mom!! I wanna………Yes Mom.” That was the first of many years of arguments I would have regarding the length and style of my hair. And it all started on that one magical special night. They finished the first set with a fast rocking tune “She Loves You”, which had all of the kids in school singing yea, yea, yea on the playground the rest of the year.
After another act or two the boys came back for two more songs but it wouldn’t have mattered, the die was cast they had already conquered the youth of America. We were in hook line and sinker. They played “I saw her Standing There” and “I wanna Hold your Hand” what would become two more love anthems of the young. In one special night I had five new favorite songs. I got rid of my 45’s and began swearing a collection of nothing but Beatle songs after that. I had MY music now, not my brothers, not the kid up the blocks, MINE! I bought teen magazines to read about them, had Beatle trading cards, bought many of their 45’s, and a Beatles poster, all of which would make me a bazillionaire if I had them now. As the years passed I could follow my social development by what album came out next. My hair, my politics, my view of love, my global presence all coincided with what the Beatles did on their next album. I didn’t realize it at the time, but every Beatle album I ever listened to could be called a greatest hits album. It was as though they couldn’t make a shit record if they tried.
Whatever The Beatles did I tried to do. As they grew their hair longer so did I, when they dressed more colorful so did I, they talked slang, I talked their slang too, they smoked pot I tried it. I couldn’t get enough information about them. I followed their trip to India in the magazines and adjusted my life around the Fab Four. I especially tried to be like John. Whatever The Beatles said or did validated my doing the same. Not so much for Mom and Dad though, the chuckling over the cute mop tops morphed into a major bone of contention with the generation gap battles. No longer cute and funny lads they were viewed as destroyers of youth, the antichrists. What they really did was to give a voice to a generation and let us know its not only okay to question authority, its a responsibility when authority is being misused. Protest against wrongness, against war, evil and hatred, share love and peace and harmony. What a horrible message to send to kids. Joe McCarthy would have been incensed. With music as their only weapon they conquered us and spread the concept of peace, love, and togetherness to the masses. The Flower Children, The 60’s fashions, The protests, the outdoor concerts, all the positive aspects of the era can be traced back to The Beatles. The Beatles were the truth and the truth set us free. It all began one special night.
I truly hope that another generation of youth will have a perfect storm, a perfect harmony of lives that can reset perfect balance in the Universe the way the Beatles did for mine. Four guys, strangers, all from the same area meet in another country and become a rock and roll band and set the world on its head. Why those specific four? Why that specific area? Why that specific time? Four guys, all with extreme talent that compliments each other forming an unstoppable force. When the world needs it the Universe has a way of supplying the perfect storm like The Beatles. We need a perfect storm now, we need another Beatles. But I just can’t see that happening, the good karma, the positive energy, the light through the darkness coming together at the exact moment, the exact time, for the exact reason. I just can’t! But Hell, I’ve been wrong before, and if it can happen I’ll be glad to be wrong again. C’mon Universe, now more than ever, we need some Beatle magic. Give us just one more “One Really Big Special Night”……PEACE