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The British Invasion
by Jack Wellman
2008-02-07 10:06:55
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On February 7, 1964, a British invasion of another sort hit the United States, starting in New York. The nation’s and the world’s taste in music would be forever altered - changes so epic in social and cultural influence that even the world’s population dressed differently. The Beatle haircut swept across the nation just like their music did and managed to capture the hearts of the young.

The Beatles induced change almost by osmosis. The Beatles loved the new Rock and Roll in America. Artists like Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry had aforetime influenced them. But the Beatles were no flash in the pan, they were here to stay. And today, they can be heard almost anywhere, from the radio to the elevator, in the elementary music teacher‘s sheet music, to grandpa’s CD player.

When Pan Am’s Yankee Clipper Flight 101 touched down, it was as though the entire nation became infected with Beatlemania. And it spread like wildfire. "I Want to Hold Your Hand" had just been number one when the “Fab Four” arrived at Kennedy Airport and awaiting them were an out-of-control group of over 3,000 screaming fans, who were absolutely euphoric over their arrival.

My parents used to say “turn that long-haired, hippy music down!” Ironically, I can remember many of the songs referred to love and understanding. A classic example was “All You Need is Love”. Now how that message was bad, they never did explain to me. Attribute that to generational gaps. To me it was a party for the ears, but they just called it noise. To many of the older generation, there were only two types of music…Country and Western. But these guys were refreshingly different. The dark suits and the black ties were nothing like the hippies the older generation talked about.

Even on their appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show", it was difficult to hear their music due to the near riotous audience. Nearly half the nation’s homes watched, a record 73 million Americans. And as I remember, there were very few girls who didn’t have a crush on at least one of these four: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Star and George Harrison. It was rumored that Ed Sullivan hated their music, which makes it hard to explain, since he begged them to return for at least two more live appearances.

When The Beatles held their first U.S. concert in Washington, D.C., over 20,000 fans jammed the concert. Police in New York has to close of streets around New York’s Carnegie Hall because of near bedlam in the streets. In April of 1964, The Beatles made history, claiming the top five spots on the charts. Millions of records were being sold and sold out at music stores across the nation. By late August of that same year, their first movie, A Hard Day’s Night, was selling out movies theatres.

The musical songwriting genius of the Lennon-McCartney changed with the times…always reflective of the culture and society in which they lived. This made them easy to identify with, especially the youngest generation. This group was so talent laden that after disbanding in 1970 they all pursued successful solo careers. In 1980, John Lennon was shot to death by a fanatical fan while walking to his New York apartment building and his early death impacted all the former Beatles. In November of 2001, George Harrison lost his battle against cancer.

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are all that is left of The Beatles today. Time will eventually claim them, but will not erase their compositions. The next time you hear an old Beatles song, listen for the musical summarization of the society and culture in which they lived. One in which the 21st century would do well not to forget.

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