Friday, June 13, 2008

Are You Old Enough To Remember This?

I remember it well. 1964. I was across the street from Valley Elementary, talking to Debbie Lealos about this new group that we were hearing on the radio. I probably was walking to Wednesday catechism, no doubt. My absolute FAVORITE thing to do in the WHOLE WORLD!

We were talking as only nine-year-old music critics could, about the merits of the latest single from this British group called the Beatles. Having a sophisticated conversation about "I Want To Hold Your Hand".

In the course of our discussion, we also reached a consensus that Paul was the "cutest" Beatle.

Painful admission: I thought that the best singer in the group was Paul, but I actually had the guys confused at the time - not having videos to watch - so the one who I thought was Paul singing was actually John. So, I guess John was my favorite singer, in hindsight.

A while later, it was announced that the Beatles would be performing on the Ed Sullivan Show! (Maybe now I would be able to discern who was singing what.)

Well, this was the absolute highlight of any nine-year-old girl's life, or of any girl's life who was old enough to know what music was. (My two-year-old sister probably didn't meet the criteria).

But, you know, why the heck was the Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday nights? What worse night of the week could one choose? You know how Sundays were. All you did was mope around, thinking about how you had to go to school the next day. (Sort of like now, when I mope around, thinking about how I have to go to work the next day).

But on this particular Sunday, I was filled with anticipation. I think I talked to a few friends on the phone....."Hi, what are you wearing for the big Beatles debut?" I probably never actually said that, but you know, we did have to make our preparations for the big TV event.

Around six-ish, I parked myself in front of the Zenith, tuned to CBS, of course. I think there was something on like "Lassie". (Man, how lame were the shows back then? That Timmy didn't even have any friends. His only friend was his dog. PLUS Timmy was always falling into a well or something. The clumsiest kid ever. I say, if I was his mother, I'd have just left him there. That'd teach him to be more careful.)

But the bottom line was, I was parked there, and I was in charge of the TV. No way was I going to let my mom turn the channel on me. Not that she would. I think everybody watched Ed Sullivan back then. I shudder to think what the competition was, if everyone was content watching Topo Gigio or the guy who talked out of his glove. Remember that dude? And he made money! He sewed some buttons on a glove for eyes, and he drew a mouth on it, and this is how he made his living!

Finally, Ed came on. He probably said something like, "Tonight, we'll have a re-enactment of a scene from the latest Broadway show, starring Ernest Borgnine, the guy who does the glove-puppet thing, The June Taylor Dancers, Topo Giogio, and...........THE BEATLES!" (scream)

And finally, after weeks of anticipation, there they were!

You just wanted to die; it was that good. They kicked it off with "All My Loving", with Paul playing that backwards guitar. (I saw Paul in concert a couple of years back, and surprisingly, he still does that famous head bob. Pretty spry for a guy in his sixties.)

Notice how the girls in the audience are all having conniptions, while the one lone guy is like, "Yea, whatever. I'm WAY cooler than that." (He wasn't).

I also like how John, Paul, George, and Ringo do their very proper bow at the end of the song. Very respectful.

Then they launch into a lame cover song, called, "Til There Was You", again with Paul singing lead.

I'm thinking that John lost the coin toss backstage, because he didn't get to sing lead on any of the songs that night. "What the hell, mate? You mean I don't get to do ANY songs? What am I supposed to do? Just stand there, strumming my guitar and smiling like an idiot?"

They actually showed more shots of RINGO than they did of John!

And notice how this video has their first names superimposed over their images? "GEORGE". Okay, thanks. I know who George is. I was just having a problem figuring out who was PAUL and who was JOHN.

And, of course, all the time, John's thinking, there you go, Paul. You and your self-indulgent Broadway tunes.

Finally, they break into "She Loves You", which is memorable because of the dual head-shake of both Paul and George.

And poor George. He has to keep moving from Paul's mic to John's. No wonder he was so skinny. But at least he got air time. Unlike John.

Then Ed breaks in to announce that he just got a telegram from Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis, wishing the Beatles all the best on their American debut.

Yea, for sure.

You know that Elvis was sitting at home (in the jungle room) watching this telecast and thinking, "Well, it was a good run while it lasted. I guess the "Teddy Bear" songs aren't going to cut it anymore."

Ed also announces that the Beatles will be on NEXT WEEK'S SHOW, along with Mitzi Gaynor. Oh man. I can't miss Mitzi! (Who's Mitzi Gaynor again?)

For their final number, the boys do "I Want To Hold Your Hand" (again with Paul singing lead).

So, there you go. This is when rock 'n roll began. Elvis Presley was all fine and dandy, but he was small potatoes compared to the Beatles.

And I was there. And I watched it.

So, I guess I was privy to the rebirth of rock 'n roll music. Oh, you can quibble, and say that Chuck Berry invented rock 'n roll. I don't disagree, in theory.

All I know is this: Nobody got excited about rock 'n roll until 1964, when the Beatles showed up.

And nothing's ever been the same since.

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