Well 50 years ago this week anyway, that the Beatles first arrived in America. Last night marked the anniversary of their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. It was celebrated on CBS in a huge overblown extravaganza, taped after this year's Grammy Awards, featuring a few great moments (Imagine Dragons' "Revolution", the Eurythmics reunited over "The Fool on the Hill", and Dave Grohl and Jeff Lynne sang the often overlooked "Hey Bulldog." On the other hand there was a bizare performance of "Yesterday" by Katy Perry in a mu mu (However, since Yesterday is one of the most covered songs in history, she couldn't do much more to it than had already been done). All in all it was a long march to the only thing anyone wanted to see (other than more video of the original performances) and that was Paul and Ringo together on stage.
I watched the whole thing with my daughter, a fledgling Beatles fan, who says Ringo is her favorite Beatle, but likes John Lennon's solo music. Last week the Girl and I had attended Akron's Rubber City Beatlesfest at the Civic Theatre, a lovely old movie palace. We had excellent seats about 15 rows back to see several cover bands perform the best of the Fab Four, including the original Ed Sullivan set. (I might add, I was not quite 4 that night in 1964. I almost certainly witnessed it, as we always watched Ed Sullivan, but I don't remember it.) There were also vendors with all sorts of things to look at and the Girl and I had a grand time.
Sociologists have written long treatises on why the Beatles happened when and where they did. They point to the depression that swept America after the assassination of John F Kennedy the previous fall, and how the Beatles brought clean cut fun and joy back. (The Beatles, it was said, wanted to hold your hand, while the Stones wanted to pillage your town.)
Musicologist point out that the Beatles were restoring in America Rock and Roll roots that had spread in England while falling out of favor here. They were heavily influenced by Chuck Berry and Little Richard and Buddy Holly and others from the 50's.
I myself didn't really start getting into the music till the 70's, when I was in high school. The Beatles no longer existed as a unit, but all four were actively recording and performing then, so I learned first to like their solo music, before I listened much to the group recordings. The first Beatles record I ever owned was a 45 of Hey Jude/Revolution, perhaps the best A&B sides ever (unless its Strawberry Fields/Penny Lane). Eventually I acquired them all.
What made the Beatles great? To me there are several things. One is the sheer density of the music, so many albums in a few brief years, each of them packed with enough classics to make another band's career. Another as many others have pointed out is the chemistry of the band, 4 performers who would all do well on their own, but created an extraordinary magic together, the classic example of a sum being greater than the parts.
In the end though, the greatest quality may be the sheer joy and pleasure of the music. The early recordings are full of fun. The boys are having a grand time and they are taking us along for the ride. Even in the later, often drama filled years, the music they produced is still uplifting, not depressing. For Boomers there's an aspect of nostalgia of course, but I think even for the kids of today there is still that joy, that sense of fun, that passion waiting to be tapped.
Because there is something timeless about the Beatles and their music. Pull Sgt Pepper up on the IPod, slide A Hard Day's Night into the DVD play--the medium doesn't matter. They are waiting, like old friends, when we need a boost.
Cause in the end, all your really do need is love.
This post is part of the I Don't Like Mondays Bloghop hosted by Elleroywashere.com.