On February 9, 1964, television host Ed Sullivan, introduced The Beatles to America. Appearing on stage at New York City’s Ed Sullivan Theater, the Fab Four set off a frenzy – especially among teenage girls, that would span America for decades to come. Little did we realize the true impact that performance would have on America…until 50 years later.
Fast forward to February 9, 2014. While watching the CBS program, “The Night That Changed America: A GRAMMY Salute to The Beatles,” it was like stepping into a time machine. It was a land where giggling girls wore mini skirts, donned small, white go-go boots, teased their hair, and accessorized with colorful hair bows and pale, mod make-up of Slicker lipstick and false eyelashes. It was where giddy girls chomped bubble gum, wore mood rings, battled raging hormones and fell in love. The object of their affection had to be John, Paul, George or Ring. Could there be anyone else?
In 1964, I spent countless hours listening to The Beatles as I huddled in my pink bedroom in Muncie, Indiana. It was thrilling for this 10 year old and her friends to hear the 45s on the small, mono record player! Back in the day, we enjoyed quality music without stereo, headphones, I-Pods, MP3s or the like. We chimed in with every lyric and performed impromptu shows in which we lip-synched. Even when my pink Princess Phone would ring, as The Beatles played in the background, I told my friends I had to hang up. Pictures of the band lined my mirror and posters decked the walls.
Homework took a backseat to more important things such as contemplating if The Beatles wore wigs. It was a major controversy- even with parents. Phone chat centered on who was one’s favorite Beatle and why. “Meet The Beatles” completed every record collection and then came the movie, “A Hard Day’s Night.” The Rivoli Theatre in Muncie, Indiana is where my up-close experience with The Fab Four began. My girlfriends and I didn’t miss a cue as the frenzy of “A Hard Days Night” lit up the screen. With each close-up of a Beatle, we looked at each other and screamed. In unison. Never missing a beat. We grasped our hair as tears rolled down our cheeks. Pictures of The Beatles appeared on everything from record albums to squared cards in bubble gum packs. My Beatle of choice was Paul. I was intensely in love to the point, my fair skin would blush when others teased me. I was determined to marry him. My girlfriends and I were divided between loving Paul or Ringo. Once you “chose” a Beatles, you did not waiver. After all, this was about lifetime loyalty.
That night a half century ago, impacted America in ways we never dreamed. Is there really anyone in this world who does not know the lyrics to Beatles’ songs? Is there anyone on the planet who has not heard “I Want To Hold Your Hand?” I dare you to find one Beatles’ song you detest!
I did not get to see The Beatles in person. Even if I were in attendance, I probably would not have seen them anyway. They would be a blur through my tears. I do however, remember the agony of coming close. Just not close enough. Being in Muncie, Indiana and knowing the group was performing in Indianapolis (an approximate hour drive), I remember sobbing. The date was September 3, 1964- at the height of Beatlemania. I sounded like a broken record as I whined to my parents, “This is the closest I will ever be to them. I won’t ever get to see them again.” After supper, my emotions took control as I sobbed into my pillow until I fell asleep. It was the end of the world as this 10 year old knew it.
A half of a century later, as I watched Paul and Ringo on TV… It was wonderful to see a new generation of Beatles lovers- ones who were not yet born or who were very young, when The Beatles were the rage. Some of these young artists performed on stage, as did Country Music entertainers. Paul and Ringo obviously enjoyed the tribute as they sat in the audience, singing along to their songs.
People who never really were Beatles fans took a second look. If this music that has sustained listenership for half a century, cannot bring the world together in peace, nothing will.
Personal stories were shared of George Harrison writing “Here Comes The Sun” one day in a garden and Paul McCartney writing “Let It Be” in reference to his mother, Mary. Despite concert footage and movie clips of young girls nearly fainting, being carried on stretchers to ambulances and climbing fences to catch a glimpse of the guys, chasing them and other antics, serious musicians obviously emerge from the hysteria. “Yesterday” by Lennon-McCartney says it all.
Perhaps The Beatles music and its era made us better people. After all, these were down-to-earth, good guys who came to America and the world would never be the same. We learned to love deeper and have a strong appreciation for music. The Beatles were really about dreams. Because of these musicians, many were inspired to learn to play an instrument. I well recall 6th graders playing guitar, at the time, who aspired to be just like these guys from Liverpool. The memories that accompany the songs are priceless and they forever live in our hearts. The Beatles may have been there when the 12 year old kissed you behind the broiler room at school. Or, “I Should Have Known Better” played in the background, the first time you made out amid fogged car windows. If you can listen to a Beatles song and not have some type of memory, you must not be human!
While watching the show, I flashed on something an elderly man once asked me. It was a profound question. “What does it say about me if I think more about the past than I do the present?” There is a simple answer. It says you experienced the best of times. They were times that made you smile, and they were keepsakes or happenings that will probably never be topped in your lifetime. You may not have known their importance and place in your life back then…but you do now. This night of television tribute was for this gentleman and the millions of others who toyed with innocent love, met the love of their lives, lost the love of their lives and who still find comfort in that very music.
Sure, the singing, dancing, stage attractions and energy in “The Night That Changed America: A GRAMMY Salute to The Beatles” were mesmerizing. Still, there was something even more incredible happening. It was the contentment that only memories from half a century ago can provide. Watching the program, and Ringo leading, “We All Live In A Yellow Submarine,” the audience got caught up in the moment. I watched Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and an audience and stage comprised of musicians, actors, older people and younger ones, be transformed back to a precious time. It was about smiles, tears, people giving peace signs, dancing and singing every word, people being themselves and forgetting problems, issues and agendas and just celebrating life! All felt right with the world. Every barrier crumbled as the crowd grooved to the music. Who could imagine the impact, one night, 50 years ago, could have on America…that it would bond and transcend generations. More important, that it could bring such harmony in a turbulent, dramatic, opinionated, stressful world. We need more of this.