Why I'm Just Not Having It With The Beatles' 50th Ed Sullivan Show Anniversary

Friday, February 07, 2014

Don't get me wrong; I love The Beatles. 

I just don't LOVE The Beatles. At least, not the way I used to. 

The 22 year-old in me is probably a bit pissed at my 42 year-old self about this revelation. You see, twenty years ago I was a full-fledged, self-confessed Beatlemaniac. I practically ate, drank, and slept Beatles (it also means I probably shat them out as well.) It all started when a high school friend and I went to see a cover band play--ironically--at our high school. I was 20 years old. Before the band hit the stage, my friend and I were just having a conversation about how absolutely batshit crazy we thought Beatles fans were in the 1960s: crying, screaming, idol-obsessed wackos, beating their hands against their breasts and crotches. 

Two-and-a-half hours later, I was probably bruising my own private parts with Fab Four-induced delirium. The Beatles bug had bit me--hard. But it wasn't just the fact that they were cute with their little dark moptops. It was the music, man, the music! So. Deep. I quickly took a liking anything they recorded after 1965. 

Later that year, I learned about a fun phone number called The Beatlephone, run by the late and great Beatles expert extraordinare, Joe Pope. Joe and I became friends and penpals (this was back in the day before email existed, so receiving a typed letter in the mail from Joe was a treat.) I also subscribed to his fanzine publication, the aptly named Strawberry Fields Forever. But the Beatlephone was a unique concept--a Boston-based phone number with a voicebox that Joe had set up where he could record about 2 minutes of the latest Beatles news, and allow fans to leave messages with their own news bits that he often passed along. Joe didn't realize at the time (well, none of us did) that he was pioneering social media with this concept. And Joe was a full-fledged RIOT; a creative, hilarious, talented man--all of which shone through in his magazine and phone commentary. I was a faithful caller and subscriber to SFF until he passed away of cancer in 1999. 

Joe's death definitely knocked the stuffing out of being a Beatles fan--he was so closely associated with the group in the Beatlemaniac community that it was as if a fifth Beatle or their manager you knew personally had died. After a few years, I moved on. I had no choice. I explored other vintage singers and bands--and became a big Bobby Darin fan as most people know. Once in a while, I did listen to a Beatles album on purpose--and to be honest, it hurt my heart knowing that Joe was no longer with us. 

Now the world is getting ready to recognize the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show--Monday, February 9, to be exact. The marquee outside of David Letterman's studio was revised to appear exactly as it did on February 9, 1964, and there will be a tribute show airing on CBS Sunday night called “The Beatles: The Night That Changed America-A Grammy Salute." 

Yawn. As the anniversary looms closer, I'm realizing how ambivalent I am about the whole occasion. It kind of narrows down to these reasons:

No Joe Pope around to provide witty commentary and news about the anniversary. 
It just plain sucks. No need to elaborate. 

We only have the Fab Two now. 
No offense to Paul and Ringo, but that kinda sucks. Even without John Lennon, I'd love to see a Beatles "reunion" on a stage if George were still with us. After The Beatles broke up in 1970, one would occasionally end up in another's music studio to play or sing on each other's songs. It just isn't anything special or remarkable. 

Paul McCartney's music ever since Linda passed away is pretty meh (in my opinion, anyway.)
I mean, have you heard this new "Queenie Eye" song? I'd rather listen to "Temporary Secretary." And "peace and love, peace and love, stop sending me fan mail you mother&^%ers" Ringo...well, we won't go there. I do love "Give Me Back the Beat" though. That should have been a bona fide top 40 hit!

Speaking of Linda, things hit the skids after she passed away, too. 
It took me a while to warm up to Linda but once I did, I admired her for her down-to-earthness and love of animals. After she passed away, the world was introduced to Heather Mills. Enough said. At least we still have Yoko, right? Hmmmm. (Just kidding. I actually have a ton of respect for Yoko, too.)

I don't really care for covers of Beatles music. 
It may be a strange thing, but I never really enjoy it when others cover Beatles music. A friend gave me the soundtrack to I Am Sam years ago and I only listened to it once. I think it's because the group added so many unique nuances to their tunes (unusual instruments, snippets being played backwards, etc.) that the songs are cemented in my cerebral cortex to sound best when played that way. Ain't nothing like the real thing, as the old saying goes. 

1964 Wasn't When the Band Was Actually Formed
Everyone is acting like the band didn't exist until their Ed Sullivan Show appearance, but in reality the band had already been making waves in the UK a year prior to that. British fans were already stir-crazy over them, and suddenly had to share them with us celebrity-obessed Americans. Ringo joined the band in 1962; hence, the now-infamous line up of the group was formed. But we're talking 1962--how come there wasn't more hoopla over the 50th anniversary of THAT date? 

Instead of watching the CBS special, I think it would be more interesting to watch the original Ed Sullivan Show that aired that night in its entirety. Besides a young Davy Jones, you get a feel for the torturous wait the producers put Beatles fans through as they had to sit through Ed talking to Topo Gigio and contortionists spinning plates on their heads (OK, I'm speculating on those last acts.)

I've always said that The Beatles are classic; you can put them away for a period of time and when you dust off and play one of their records, the songs are just as fresh and new as the first time you heard them. So maybe that's what I'm waiting for. Waiting for that passion to return. 

Are you excited about the 50th anniversary? Or could you care less? 


  1. My only reason for watching is because Gary Clark Jr is performing, he may or may not add to it to make what they do as good or not as the Beetles do, but I think he is a young raw talent much like the Beetles, jimi Hendrix, the stones Led Zep and the Who were in the day, there is talent in the years past, but the level of musicianship has been hard to beat, Gary is one of the few over the past years who has that level of talent in my opinion.

  2. This anniversary has more to do with the United States' reaction to the The Beatles and not with the band itself because, as you said, they had been around for a couple of years prior to this. I still love The Beatles but my introduction to the band was not with this show as I had not even been born yet. I became a fan through hearing their music as a kid on vinyl LPs in the mid to late 70's and the band had already broken up by then.
    I do disagree about McCartney's post-Beatles music being "meh" as their is a LOT of great stuff in his solo catalog and with the Wings.

  3. Hi Luis - I said his music ever since Linda passed away is meh, not his entire solo catalog. I love Wings; it's his past few albums that haven't thrilled me (Memory Almost Full, etc.)

  4. Most of your posters and you are not exactly from the era. I was 5 when I Wanna Hold Your Hand was constantly in rotation on the AM radio stations. It sounds cliché, but it wasn't just about the music, it was about the time, their music was the soundtrack of the Sixties. No one, and I mean NO ONE sounded like the Beatles. Listen to the 50's channel on Sirius, The Beatles changed everything musically. The Beatles were the real pioneers of rock and roll, the first to use the back beat, the first to strip down a song to a guitar and vocals and make it a hit. Again at the risk of sounding cliché, you had to be there to really understand how absolutely RADICAL they were compared to what had been popular music before. Young people copied the clothes, the hair (the term "mop top" comes directly from The Beatles hair style), everything about them was considered cool. I do have to agree with you on their music as solo artists; while there were some really good songs done by all, the sum was greater than the parts. I considered John disingenuous, as "Imagine" was a hymn to communism, but had left England because of the exorbitant tax rate levied against performers there. I guess he was singing about other people's sharing. Paul went with what he knew best, "Silly Love Songs", which brought him solo success. I always thought John's assassination created martyr status to the lesser Beatle creator. George and Ringo recorded worthy efforts in their own right, I always though George got short shrift for his guitar work, he was really quite genius. They all became enormously wealthy from the Beatles and the Baby Boom generation still worships at their feet. The times, they are a'changin' as they say. I don't recognize popular music as even very lyrical today, there are exceptions, but tastes and generations have moved on. Like many pioneers, they're remembered for what they wrought, but as my generation and the Beatles continues to die off, so will their memory.

  5. I'm working in Manchester (UK)and last week as i walked past the Arndale (shopping) Centre I heard four young blokes playing guitars and singing Ticket To Ride. What this stripped down group did was to show the harmonies at the centre of 60's Beatles songs, as good as the glorious Everly Brothers. What made them stand out from much of the 60's music was their ability to appeal to my Bing Crosby fan Dad to the extent that I went to see A Hard Day's Night at the afternoon matinee and my Mum and Dad went the same evening and came home full of the joy of the thing.

  6. I think my problem is I would rather watch old clips of Beatles performances vs. the way things are now. I watched the first half of the tribute on CBS and just found it to be too rehearsed. By the way, George is my favorite fab for his underrated talent plus several other reasons; I blogged about that a couple of year ago.


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