Sunday, February 9, 2014

50 Years Ago Tonight

It is hard to believe it has been 50 years ago already the Beatles appeared for the first time on "The Ed Sullivan Show"! It was one of those seminal moments in history when we remember where we were when we watched as Ed Sullivan introduced the four lads from Liverpool to America. That is if we were alive in 1964!

America needed an uplift because only seventy-seven days earlier President Kennedy had been assassinated and the country was still in mourning. The Beatles gave us that lift and changed America forever. An astonishing 73 million people, or roughly 40% of the population were tuned in to "The Ed Sullivan Show" that night!

It is interesting to note the Beatles got their name because they were big fans of Buddy Holly and the Crickets. John Lennon formed the Quarrymen in Liverpool in 1957 and quickly added Paul McCartney in July 1957. They soon became friends with George Harrison and added him in early 1958 as their lead guitarist.

In doing the research for this post, I found the Beatles had changed their name several times and gone through numerous drummers before Richard Starkey, better known as Ringo Starr, became their drummer.

According to one article, "The story of how The Beatles landed on "The Ed Sullivan Show" began with the group's formation in Liverpool in 1960. They spent their first couple of years playing in small clubs throughout Europe. During late-night gigs in the city of Hamburg, Germany, sometimes playing as long as eight hours a night, the Beatles perfected their act. However, it was not until an appearance on the British television show, "Val Parnell's Sunday Night at the London Palladium" and the 1963 release of their first album, "Please Please Me" that "Beatlemania" began to spread. That March the album hit number one on the British charts, and by the end of the year, Beatles' music permeated UK radio. The "Fab Four" even performed for the royal family. It was only after this burgeoning success at home did the Beatles and their manager, Brian Epstein, choose to launch their American invasion. They decided when they had a #1 song in the US charts, then they would lock in the date of their Ed Sullivan debut.

"There are a number of stories regarding exactly how The Beatles came to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. The most popular is that in 1963, while arriving at London's Heathrow airport, Ed Sullivan and his wife Sylvia encountered thousands of youngsters waiting excitedly in the rain. When Sullivan asked what all the commotion was about, he was told that a British band named The Beatles was returning home from a tour in Sweden. When he got to his hotel room, Sullivan purportedly inquired about booking the group for a show."

Whether that story is true, or any of the other ones is the correct story, is irrelevant. The fact remains. 50 years ago tonight four young lads from Liverpool took America by the hand and helped us through the collective sadness we were experiencing after the assassination of our president.

The Beatles only put out thirteen albums as a group. But, their musical and cultural influence changed America and the world forever. As many music fans know, only two of "The Fab Four" still remain. John Lennon was murdered outside his New York City apartment in 1980 and George Harrison passed away in 2001.

Ringo Starr and Sir Paul McCartney will perform together tonight on CNN for a Grammy salute. The last time the two played together was in 2010 for Ringo's 70th birthday.

I believe it is safe to say there will never be another group that will have the kind of lasting influence the Beatles have had on us. I find it interesting when I get in an elevator and hear a Beatles song being played on the elevator Muzak. I do not believe John and Paul ever imagined that would happen when they were writing all of those number one hits in Liverpool more than fifty years ago.

It is not just the fact the Beatles songs have become elevator Muzak; their influence has taken hold in so many areas like being the standard for new musicians for generations to come. Their music is played by marching bands, school bands and choirs, countless piano recitals, not to mention, how many garage bands have played, or attempted to play Beatles songs? 

By early 1970 the Beatles had decided to break up and go their separate ways. In six short years, these four young men started what had come to be known as "The British Invasion" and British bands and individual artists were making their way into popular music in America.

We cannot deny the effect that musical invasion has had on American culture. And to think it all started 50 years ago tonight.

I look forward to your comments.



1 comment:

Jane said...

Fun post, Mike. I'm watching the tribute show on NBC as I write. I was 14 when thy took New York by storm---and living in north New Jersey. The "bad girls" were writing the name of their favorite Beatle on their midriffs with lipstick or Magic Marker. Paul was considered the cutest, so his name showed up on the most tummies. :) I didn't even own an album since my mom wouldn't let me listen to rock music at home, but I loved hearing "I Wanna Hold Your Hand!" at my friends' houses. We all knew all the words, of course. Today my favorite Beatles song is "In MY Life." But "Hold my Hand" is a great group song, as is "Hey Jude" which was sung by all who attended my sister Jude's funeral.

Thanks for joining in the sweet memories, Mike.