I love the Beatles, make no mistake about that. It’s funny writing this because I didn’t really know who the Beatles were and what they were all about. Yet, they were as much a part of my young life as air, food and water.
My sisters, San and Susan, turned me on to The Fab Four. They were both teenagers when the Fabs hit the shores of America, and like seemingly every other teenaged girl back then, they both fell in love with the band. They even went to the one and only concert held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and couldn’t hear a thing! Not that they weren’t listening, but the fans in the arena were screaming so loud that literally nothing could be heard. Back then, Beatles concerts were 35 minutes long, 25 minutes if they didn’t like the crowd, and it was literally over before it began.
The Beatles were on the radio all the time, and each time they came on, my sisters would swoon to the tunes. As one new song played for a few weeks, the expectation was always there for the next new song to come out. Back then, pop music groups were expected to put out several new singles per year, with a couple of supporting albums to boot! That is completely unheard of in today’s music world, where an established artist might only put out a new album every other year, or literally whenever they feel like it. But everyone always waited around the radio for the next latest and greatest Beatles single, and for years afterward, that became a fact of life.
They looked different too. Gone was the greasy combed back hair from the 50’s, and in its place was the dry haired mop-top look. Instead of leather jackets and jeans, the Beatles wore suits and ties when they performed, and they bowed after each song in a gesture of “Thank you” to the audience. The hairstyle, manner of dress and the humility that they showed on stage was unheard of in popular music, and people began to see that there was substance behind the flash.
My sisters told me how they commandeered the television away from my parents on the night of February 9th, 1964, the night that the Beatles played on the Ed Sullivan show. My folks sat with them and watched The Fabs perform, as my sisters attempted to take pictures of the screen with their Brownie Starflash cameras. (None of the pictures turned out, by the way, because they were using flashbulbs. Once the film was developed, there was only this large bright white blob on the film.) My Dad took a particular liking to the Beatles, he always liked a good beat to dance to, so he was always curious about music in general. After that night of watching the Fabs on Ed Sullivan, my own father called the music “timeless,” and from then on, both of my folks became Beatles fans too. My Dad grew out his sideburns and got rid of the Brylcreem, while my Mom began making mini skirts on her sewing machine, for my sisters to wear.
This was the magic of the Beatles. Not only could they cross over into different styles of music, like country, rockabilly and folk, but they also crossed over into different generations. My own parents were big band enthusiasts and die-hard polka fans, but once the Beatles became popular, the only music that was played in our house, from then on, was pop music.
I, of course, had no clue. Through all this time, I was still into Mary Had a Little Lamb, when my sisters were into Rubber Soul. They had gotten most every original album, from Meet The Beatles, Sgt. Peppers and Let it Be, but it wasn’t until the late 70’s, and long after they moved out of the house, that I came across these albums and decided to play them, just to see what The Beatles were all about.
At that time, my musical tastes were Emerson Lake and Palmer, Rick Springfield, the Eurythmics and Robin Trower, with a little bit of Ted Nugent thrown in for good measure. Sure, I heard about the Beatles, who hadn’t, but as far as I was concerned, they were just another rock and roll band that no longer existed.
One night, sitting in front of the stereo with headphones on, I put on the first album I grabbed called, “Beatles For Sale,” and I sat there mesmerized in the glow of the stereo dial light. No, it wasn’t the Bee Gees, no, it wasn’t Deep Purple, no, it wasn’t David Bowie either. It wasn’t The New York Dolls, The Sex Pistols or Rush. What I was listening to was a revolution, songs, melodies and tunes so far and away above anything else I had ever heard, that virtually any other band I ever listened to had sounded just like noise. If you can call this a mind blowing experience, than that’s exactly what happened. I was hooked, and from then on, there were the Beatles, the Stones, and everyone else.
But my sisters had figured that out years ago. Although teens, which automatically exposed them to the fads of the day, they understood that the Beatles were no fad. They knew, and so did my Dad, that the Beatles were going to be around for a while, and they were right. 50 years ago, the Beatles came to America, played on the Ed Sullivan show, and forever after, the world, as we knew it, was a different place. And the proof is that, we are still writing about and talking about, the greatest rock and roll band there ever was and how everything changed when they played that first show on February 9th, 1964.