Sunday, February 09, 2014

THE BEATLES - 50 Years Later, a Personal Reminiscence

February 9, 1964 was a Sunday, and that was the night the Ed Sullivan Show was live on television.  On that night, fifty years ago today, the Beatles debuted in America on that show.

On that long ago Sunday, I was practicing with my rock and roll band in my best friend's garage in the Kooser area of San Jose.  Joe was my best friend through high school, and is still a friend today.

Joe's mom stuck her head in the door to the garage and told us to come quick, and hear this new band on television.  We turned off our amplifiers, put our guitars down and sat on the floor in front of the television in the living room.  The Beatles came on and girls were screaming.  While the Beatles were singing and playing, captions appeared beneath each face giving the name of the Beatle on the screen.  The one beneath John's face read "Sorry girls, he's married."

What was striking about the Beatles was their appearance.  Gone were the Elvis-style pompadour hair helmets.  These guys looked like Little Boy Blue with their hair mops, devoid of pomade, but somehow, we liked it.  They wore cute little black suits with white shirts and black ties.  They used harmony singing, except for the Beach Boys, this was almost unheard of!  When the show was over, the Beatles bowed from the waist in unison.  We went back to our guitars and tried to pick out the tune to "She Loves You," but found it difficult.  This music was a lot different than the boogie woogie rock beat we were used to.

Early in 1964, we were all still in a blue funk over the assassination of President Kennedy.  Traditional rock and roll was dying out.  Anyone who could barely carry a tune was recording songs heavily overlaid with echo chamber effects (to hide their crummy voices), and instead of guitar, bass and drums, had whole orchestras providing the instrumentals.  It sucked.  Elvis was still making forgettable movies like "It Happened at the World's Fair" and Dion sang some monstrosity about "Do the Madison," another idiotic dance step.  It didn't catch on, thankfully.

The music fad just before the Beatles arrived was the hootenanny.  Hootenannies featured folks singers playing acoustic guitars and singing crap like "Don't Let the Rain Come Down -- My Roof's Got a Hole In It and I Might Drown."  One could could only hope.

If you weren't there, it may be hard to understand just how special the Beatles were.  They launched "the British Invasion," a whole slew of British bands that saved rock and roll and created a new genre of great music, i.e. British Rock.  Following in their footsteps were the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Animals, and many more.

I saw the Beatles perform live at the Cow Palace near San Francisco in 1964 and 1965.  They were so cutting edge, so innovative, so talented -- George's fantastic guitar solos added so much to John's and Paul's singing, with Ringo providing the drum beat.  They seemed magical, and it was a magical time in those early days.

Now, fifty years later, John and George are dead, Paul and Ringo are in their seventies.  When I see a photograph of the foursome now, I remember that magic and how it felt, and they still seem cutting edge to me, even though they're not.  Cutting edge today is rap crap and stupid gimmicks, and "songs" that you can't even hum.

Now, like the night they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, popular music is in a low place, dominated by no-talent hacks, the great rock beat nowhere to be found.  Now is the perfect opportunity for a new rock group to emerge, to capture the public imagination, to restore the beat, revive the magic, and restore the joy that rock music can bring.  I hope I live to see it.

Here's some of their greats.


Always On Watch said...

I didn't jump onto The Beatles bandwagon. My preference was for their later material: "Let It Be," "Yesterday," "Lady Madonna," "Revolution," "The Long and Winding Road," etc.

But I well remember all the excitement and all the controversy of those first days that America became aware of The Beatles.

There is no doubt that The Beatles revolutionized music. And hair styles!

Stogie Chomper said...

Their late material was excellent, but it only showed their evolution as a band and as singer/songwriters.