Music was reborn when Beatles took national stage
I guess that makes today the 45th anniversary of the day the music was reborn.
On Feb. 9, 1964, The Beatles made their first U.S. appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show."
Three days earlier, an article in The Reporter Dispatch - a forerunner of The Journal News - reported that folk music was "the most" among American teenagers. In a poll of baby boomers, Peter, Paul and Mary were voted "the most promising vocal group." The story noted that "an English group, 'the Beatles,' appears on the list in sixth place."
So much for the accuracy of polls.
Susan Katz, founder of Westco Productions, was a 17-year-old White Plains High School junior on that long-ago Sunday night, watching at a friend's apartment.
"There were a bunch of us girls there, and we were very excited," she said, smiling at the memory. "When they came on, everybody in the audience started screaming and we started screaming too. They were sooo cute, and we were all yelling out which one we liked the best. In my mind I can still jump back to that night and it's like it happened yesterday. Their hair, their smiles, their energy. They really changed everything."
Through Westco, Katz has spent decades bringing music and theater to children. She's also promoted local appearances by '60s bands including The Rascals, The Turtles and The Fifth Dimension.
After The Beatles conquered America and the world, she said, "a lot of really good groups came out and there was a lot of great music. But The Beatles were in a category of their own. It was The Beatles, and then everyone else. Even after all of these years, talking about them still makes me feel happy."
Rep. John Hall, co-founder of the band Orleans, was 15 at the time, living in Elmira. When The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan, he already played guitar and piano but "planned on following my father's footsteps and going into the sciences," he said with a chuckle.
"When I saw Paul McCartney, with his back to the audience, count off the beat then turn and start singing 'Close your eyes, and I'll kiss you, tomorrow I'll miss you,' my life plan changed."
Hall would later work with Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt, Bob Seger and a host of others and have his own hits with Orleans.
The Beatles, he said, "created a whole new path for musicians. Until then, pop music was dominated by people doing other people's songs. The Beatles created their own songs and did things their own way.
"Looking back, it seems quaint - the haircuts and the suits and the way they bowed after each song. But it was such a departure from the bubble-gum music of the period, and they matured very quickly. They went from 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' to 'Sgt. Pepper' and beyond in just a couple of years. They went from writing pop songs to creating art. It's been 45 years, huh? Thanks for reminding me."
I was 7 that night and watched The Beatles with my parents and little brothers. Until then, the theme songs of television shows like "Flipper" and "The Flintstones" had been the soundtrack of my life, along with a few Disney tunes.
By the end of the year, I was sneaking my first transistor radio to bed, listening to rock 'n' roll on the little white earpiece. My mom played Beatles records on our hi-fi, and my brothers and I constantly argued with my dad about not wanting to get haircuts.
Last week, I checked out a grainy clip of that glorious, black-and-white appearance on YouTube and remembered the shrieking girls, the "haystack hairdos," as The Reporter Dispatch described them, and the sheer excitement of the music.
As Sullivan always said, it was "a really big show," indeed.
In preparation for their appearance, the CBS Television office on West-Fifty-Third Street in New York was overwhelmed by more than 50,000 requests for tickets to a studio that held 703. The legions of fans who couldn't get in tuned into the show at 8 p.m., at which time the site notes "criminal activity in most of the major cities and towns in America was put on hold, and getting a taxi or bus in New York was almost impossible, until their performance was over. Their set for the night included: "All My Loving", "'Till There Was You", "She Loves You", and "I Want To Hold Your Hand."