Monday, February 09, 2009

The LuLac Edition #718, Feb. 9th, 2009





PHOTO INDEX: THE BEATLES CIRCA 1964, BLOG EDITOR IN 1964 ATTIRED IN HIS BLACK AND WHITE BEATLES SWEATSHIRT, AND BLOG EDITOR IN 2009 WEARING A BEATLES TIE "TICKET TO RIDE" AND HOLDING BEATLES LABEL TIES "NOWHERE MAN" (LEFT) AND "COME TOGETHER" (RIGHT).

45 YEARS AGO TONIGHT

I was only a kid in the winter of 1964 but boy was I ever pissed. The cold winter was lingering. Christmas had come and gone and baseball was what seemed like years away. The pleasures of a young boy, toys, the NFL Championship game, the company of my adult uncles drinking beers and smoking their cigars arguing over sports, politics and the Lehigh Valley Railroad (yep, they used to bitch about their jobs back then too!) was gone with the aroma of Christmas cookies set down in the middle of the TV room by mothers, sisters and aunts. It was the winter doldrums at its worst! Plus I was jealous! The girls in my school were all going crazy for a bunch of musicians from England! Didn’t we beat them in the Revolutionary War? Didn’t we save their collective asses in WWII by way of FDR’s clever deceit and the bravery of World War II vets? Now they were coming ashore with their mop top hair invading our sacred rock and roll founded by Elvis, Billy Haley, Little Richard and Buddy Holly. That Friday as I boarded the bus for home, a girl younger than me (who turned out to be my infamous seventh grade girlfriend chronicled on our 1968 feature last year) asked if I was going to watch Ed Sullivan Sunday night. I responded in a snobbish manner, “No thanks, I’m a Frankie Avalon man!” It turns out like millions of people that night I was in front of our gigantic black and white TV watching Ed Sullivan. They were the Beatles and despite my adolescent qualms, after their performance, I was hooked. The energy, the harmony, the chords, the sound was unlike anything I had ever heard. Unlike the guttural sounds of Elvis, the screaming of Little Richard, the twang of Bill Haley’s guitar and Buddy Holly’s innocence, this was clear and pure. It was barbershop harmony gone wild with the electric guitar and the beat of a drum that was a constant thump to the brain and heart. It was music of emotion. The Beatles and their music moved young people. Just weeks after our youthful political idol JFK had his brains blown to bits with a $12 rifle by a nobody from nowhere, this music, this scene got young people out of their funk. Maybe hope and commitment to a better government had died with John Kennedy in Dallas but Ed Sullivan’s soundstage in New York city gave us permission to be happy again. The kids in the audience (yes even Richard Nixon’s daughters were there!) screamed with wild abandon. My sister was jumping up and down and rocking. I was not letting go entirely but I found myself rocking and rolling even though I didn’t know the term for it just then. My parents shook their heads in confusion. My mother made the comment that the haircuts were like Kay Keyser’s sideman Ish Kabibble. Hey, I loved Kay Keyser (what can I say, I was a very strange little boy back then) and that was good enough for me. After the Beatles opened up with “All My Loving”, they shifted gears and went into a ballad version of “Till There Was You”. My mother asked my father if that was the same song from the classic movie “The Music Man” and he said indeed it was. I felt a thaw from the older generation in the room. The next day at school, the girls were swooning and the boys were trying to grown bangs. By the end of the week, Ametia’s Newstand in Pittston was sold out of the magazines mass produced overnight. They were magazines with glossy covers of Paul, George, John and Ringo. If we knew what a man crush was back then, we had them to show our feminine side for the ladies. “Sure we love the Beatles, just like you. You girls had it right all along! Carry your books, wanna dance?” The Fab Four was our beeline to female adventure. We weren’t quite sure why we wanted the adventure or what to do with it when we got it, but we were certain it wasn’t half bad. And while we’re at it, let’s talk about those songs and how the song lyrics depicted women. “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, “Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you, tomorrow I’ll miss you”, “Imagine I’m in love with you, it’s easy ‘cuz it’s true”, “We Can Work It Out”, “Something In the way she moves”, “You know I work all day to get you money to buy you things”, “Love, love me do, you know I’ll always be true”, “Got To Get Into my Life” and the incomparable love song of stability, “When I get older losing my hair, Many years from now, Will you still be sending me a valentine, Birthday greetings bottle of wine? If I'd been out till quarter to three, Would you lock the door, Will you still need me, will you still feed me, When I'm sixty-four?” I mean these song lyrics sure beat the rap music out there talking about doing your girl friend while the baby sister is watching and the mama is smoking crack on the back porch waiting for the booty call to end, and if mom is high enough maybe she’d want to join in on the wild thang! Yeah, that’s how we sing to women these days!!! Anyway, I digress. Getting back to 1964, that month, February, the Beatles were all over the place. Because of a competing record war for their services, the Beatles had three record deals with Capitol, VeeJay and Swan. Every radio top 40 station was playing wall to wall Beatles. Even the flagship station of the ABC Network, WABC became known as WABeatleC. The funniest thing was that the southerners were up in arms and their attention was diverted a tad with the music as Martin Luther King worked on the down low for Civil Rights marches in the south. The good old boy bigots were so concerned about the Fab Four, that they dispensed hosing down brothers with industrial strength fire hoses. (Oh they got back to that horrendous behavior but for the month of February they were concerned about 4 white English boys who they were convinced were going to get their daughters raped by that darn new fangled music.)
It took Louie Armstrong with “Hello Dolly”, The Four Seasons with “Rag Doll” and Dean Martin with “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime” to get them off the number 1 spot on the charts. The year 1964 continued the fight for civil rights, the formation of the Conservative wing of the Republican party, the near death of Teddy Kennedy in an airplane crash, the Great Society proposals of Lyndon Johnson and his acquisition of a Vice President, Hubert Humphrey, the 1964 Phillies collapse, the start incrementally of the Vietnam War, the Presidential run of Pennsylvania Governor Bill Scranton, and the election of Johnson to a term in his own right. The Beatles music was a soundtrack for the year 1964. That aspect of the group continued through 1970 when the group broke up. Grade school, high school, Latin tests, scary nuns, baseball and football, (this time as a participant not a watcher,) political activism, the deaths of Bobby and Martin and Malcolm X, kids going to Vietnam coming home in body bags, choices of love and career, some bad, some good, the Beatles were part of that time. You wondered if you could bed a spinster like “Eleanor Rigby” and if that would have changed her life. You wondered if you had what it took to be a “Paperback Writer”, and tried to avoid hanging around with that guy known as “Nowhere Man”. In ’67 we agreed that “All You Need Is Love” and marveled that radio stations played the whole 7 minutes and 11 seconds of “Hey Jude”. When it was over and the Four Liverpool lads went on that “Long and Winding Road”, we joined them charting out our own lives and paths. But as we traveled that highway, they were always there on the radio, the 8 track and CDs and Ipods with us. Some of my friends got married to Beatles songs, some of us became radio successes by merging a weekend show called “Beethoven and the Beatles”, and some took it to the next level and played their music. As they aged and died, so did we. Now 45 years later, to young co workers, friends, children, lovers, pop culture fellow travelers, we find ourselves explaining what they meant to us and how they played a major part in the society that molded us. Sometimes we get blank stares, others understand and many more dismiss it all. It’s easy to say “well you had to be there”. That statement gives the start of this music era a disservice. The only way to sum up that night 45 years ago is to say it was a monumental shift in the way my generation felt. It was inspiration born out of the rubble of the mess that was the 60s. It would be our lives. Our touchstone in time. A friend at the time, Dave Emershaw said this in 1966, “At the turn of the 20th century and into the 21rst, the Beatles would be just as popular and well known as they are right now. And it won’t be because of us, but because of them”. How right he was. As I remember that night 45 years ago, I shed a few tears for the choices I’ve made, the people I miss and some chances squandered. But then I hear the music, the chords, the harmony, the beat and just like 1964, I have permission to just be happy with no strings attached. Only the Beatles could do that for people of my ilk. Their music remains to this day a lot like us, ambitious, imperfect, aged, flawed but still combatively happy.



5 Comments:

At 12:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yonk!!! JUst hopped on the site and need to tell you that was an incomparable essay on the boys from Liverpool. Great job. Love the ties too. I remember Bonton selling them in the 90s? Am I correct on that?
Gus

 
At 7:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for noting this very important pop cultural anniversary. Really good stuff!!!!

 
At 7:14 PM, Blogger David Yonki said...

IN RESPONSE
I remember Bonton selling them in the 90s? Am I correct on that?
YES, I SAW THEM AT MACY'S IN NEW YORK BUT DID NOT BUY ANY. WAITED FOR ONE OF THOSE BONTON SALES AND SCORED THREE OF THEM. I BOUGHT THE THREE TIES NOT FOR THE SONG NAMES BUT BECAUSE THEY WERE A PERFECT MATCH FOR THREE SUITS I OWNED AND STILL OWN. MY ONLY REGRET IS NOT GETTING THE WHOLE COLLECTION. BOUGHT THEM IN '91 AND TO THIS DAY STILL GET COMPLIMENTS WHEN I WEAR THEM.

 
At 10:42 PM, Blogger JimboBillyBob said...

David:

Great, great post. I really enjoyed it. I missed the initial wave of Beatlemania (I was just 7 or so in 1964). They stormed into my life on a day I was home sick from grade school. My Mom and I were in the car, and she turned the radio on. "Hey Jude" had just been released. The first few bars played, and my Mom reached for the dial. "NO!" I shouted. "I want to hear this!" At that moment, with that song, my life changed. I'd wanted be an astronomer or an astronaut. Suddenly all I wanted was Beatle records. A guitar and bands came later. I still get goosebumps (good ones)thinking about that day long ago. I'm also glad she didn't have a polka station on...I might have grown up to play the accordian instead....

 
At 7:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave,
Beautifully stated and meaningful piece on the impact of the Fab Four. The Beatles WERE pop music in 1964, and 45 years later can instill such fond memories says much of their impact of the boys legacy. It is a good feeling for me also that this has been passed on to my adult daughters who were nourished on Beatle tunes growing up. Thanks for the well crafted essay and the memories there in.

 

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