Friday, February 09, 2007

Remembering the Beatles on Ed Sullivan

Even when I was young I had a strong connection to music. I have a clear memory of having a portable record player that I used all the time. In fact, I had a 45 with the William Tell Overture on it and I would play it and run around the house in a particular way hiding behind certain chairs at certain times in the music. I think the Lone Ranger TV show caused me to think that that music required action. I don't even know how we got the record - it just appeared. I was maybe four or five years old at the time. It’s one of my earliest memories. Apparently I did music all the time as a child - once someone asked my mom when I started doing music and she said something like "when he was born."

My musical memory gets another jumpstart in early 1964 when “I Want to Hold Your Hand” hit the airwaves. I had never heard anything like it and was immediately taken by how cool this music was. I remember talking about it with friends on the playground and I remember my classmate Greg who said "I don't like the Beatles because they always sing about love." Somehow, even as a fourth grade boy that didn't bother me. I managed to convince my parents to let me buy a Beatles record - and then another one. I got the “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You” singles and, when I manged to save big bucks, I got an album - The Beatles Second Album, one of those early US-only releases. Looking back I forgot what a rocker this album was. “Roll Over Beethoven,” "Money," "You Can't Do That" and other great songs got me going as a 9 year old. I wore it out.

When I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show, 43 years ago today, (which probably pre-dates my record purchases) I got to see for myself what these guys from England looked like when they played. (Remember, back then we had four or five channels on TV - and that was in the largest market in the country, NYC - and there was no other source of home video. If you didn't watch it when it was broadcast you didn't see it at all. So I stayed home from church (!) on Sunday night and stared in amazement at the television. When I saw John Lennon play the guitar that was it – I was hooked. My brother had a guitar which I started to learn on (despite his desire that I not touch it) and then I found an old four-string banjo in our basement that I tuned like the four highest strings on a guitar. I started playing on that until I finally got my own – a very cheap Harmony guitar that we got from saving trading stamps that they gave out at the grocery store. The guitar arrived on the last day of fourth grade, only a few months after that Sunday night when the Beatles played on the Ed Sullivan Show. I've played ever since. For my last show with the Lazy Blue Tunas in December when it was time to pick an encore we chose a Beatles song - "I Feel Fine." Beatles music has been a constant companion to me for 43 years.


Ron Hatton said...

Great memory, Bob! I missed the first Beatles' show, unfortunately, but caught it on a re-run! Yeah, got my first guitar the following June, just because of the Beatles!

James said...

Again, great memory, Bob. You didn't mention that all the Beatles appearances on the Ed Sullivan show are available on DVD. The DVDs contain the entire show, so you can see Davey Jones in a scene from a Broadway show, as well as other less engaging acts. I'd forgotten how similar the Sullivan show was to vaudeville - great headliners - mostly less-talented acts. Anyway, great post on the Beatles.

Jim Tuma