Can it really be over a half a century since the Beatles burst into our lives on an ordinary Sunday night after which nothing would be the same again?
There are few of my generation who do not recall first seeing the Beatles that February 9th evening in 1964 fifty-five years ago.
Like most Americans, Sunday, night was Ed Sullivan at my house and at 8 o’ clock along with 73 million other viewers my family gathered around the TV set in the living room to watch the very first live television appearance of that British import the Beatles. Like most, my own parents tuned in just to see what the heck all the fuss was about with this Mop Top foursome.
While my parents sat a safe distance away, I plopped myself down as close as possible to the set (without being yelled at by Mom not to sit too close as I would ruin my eyes) to get as good a look at these 4 lads from Liverpool.
America Meets The Beatles
Ed Sullivan in his usual stilted way introduced them to a waiting America : “Now yesterday and today our theater’s been jammed with newspapermen and hundreds of photographers from all over the nation, and these veterans agreed with me that the city never has the excitement stirred by these youngsters from Liverpool, who call themselves The Beatles. Now tonight, you’re gonna twice be entertained by them. Right now, and again in the second half of our show. Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles. Let’s bring them on.”
Of course his last words were drowned out by the screaming of the lucky young girls who filled the audience and just couldn’t wait for the Beatles to appear. The group opened with “All My Loving” which was hard to hear through the screams of teenagers bouncing and hyperventilating, and by the time of their closing song pleading with us that “I want to Hold Your Hand,” I did. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!
When the show returned from a commercial for Anacin pain reliever, my father rolled his eyes and joked he could sure use an aspirin after listening to that racket.
Somehow watching the program on our old hulking Mahogany encased Emerson TV now seemed so dated and old-fashioned an appliance to be viewing something so utterly new and modern. The Beatles ushered in the future and with it a sense of hope and possibility.
The Beatles became a mass phenomenon at a time of profound loss
They burst into our lives at a primal moment- only 77 days after President Kennedy had been killed, the first of our shared childhood traumas.
Ironically, on that fateful morning of November 22 1963 CBS Morning News ran a 5 minute scheduled segment on Beatlemania overseas. The segment was scheduled to reappear that evening, but of course the news was preempted because of the tragedy of our President being assassinated.
The sense of possibility, of optimism, of inevitable progress that had been so buoyant in those first years of the 1960’s New Frontier that Jack Kennedy beckoned us to, died in November of 1963.
Filling this emotional and spiritual void, this deep grieving my generation related to a group of young men, vibrant, upbeat, irreverent a departure from the past.. Like JFK, they were both smart, quick-witted and energetic and we could easily transfer the sense of hope onto these 4 lads from Liverpool.
It is hard to impress the magnitude of the Beatles to those who did not live through the times. There had just never been anything like them.