1964

We Beatles fans have surely been relishing all the “Beatles 50” hoopla that has built up these last few weeks. Yesterday, February 9th, was the 50th anniversary of the Beatles first appearance on American television on The Ed Sullivan Show. I happen to enjoy commemorating watershed moments, whether they mark points in serious history or popular culture, if only because they add structure and context to our perceptions of place and time, and replenish our memories. Also, I just love history of all sorts.

Over the past fifty years, the Beatles have been the beneficiaries of much mythologizing, fanaticism, and hagiography; deifying treatments that John Lennon himself often repudiated and felt were unwarranted. The elevated status of the Beatles irks some, and as a hard core Beatles fan I can appreciate their opinions. I think much of it has to do with the Beatles serving as a symbolic proxy for Baby Boomers, a generation that has become, fairly or not, a subject of derision in some circles. Nostalgia is great, but it does seem to have a breaking point when people just tire of it all.

It’s fairly futile to quarrel about the Beatles music or whether they are fully deserving of their exalted status, a point of contention which was being disputed on Twitter last night during the CBS Grammy tribute. The larger point, I think, is the Beatles’ fortuitous position in the 60s zeitgeist: four young men who morphed from fresh-faced playful innocence into disillusioned cynicism before the world’s eyes over the course of a mere six years – a mirroring of the world itself during the same transformative period of time. It might be worth examining the significance of the “50th” in terms of 1964 itself. The Beatles on Ed Sullivan was just one notable event in an overall notable year. So what else happened in 1964? A lot. Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston to become the heavyweight champion of the world. Shea Stadium was opened and the Polo Grounds were demolished. Three civil rights activists, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner, were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi,. The Warren Commission report was published. The New York Times Co. v Sullivan Supreme Court ruling upheld the First Amendment. Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison. Dr. Martin Luther King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Ford Motor Compnay unveiled the first Mustang. Jack Ruby was found guilty of assassinating Lee Harvey Oswald. A computer program written in BASIC was run for the first time. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor got married. And my brother, Chris Hajian, was born on September 29th 🙂

Since we’ve all seen the grainy footage of Ed Sullivan introducing the band, extending his arm and hollering “The Beatles!!”, the ensuing screams, and the opening guitar chords jangling away, let’s watch a different video for Music Monday. Here are the Beatles singing sweet harmonies in “This Boy”. The year, of course, is 1964:

11 thoughts on “1964

  1. peter howard says:

    Interesting post about The Beatles, Claudia. Some ridiculous stuff has been printed about them particularly about John Lennon. However. I can’t think of another band who changed styles so many times and who have had such an influence on other musicians. They were fortunate in the timing of their success but fortune only gives you an opening, their talent and personality did the rest.

    • artmodel says:

      peter,

      I agree. Timing alone isn’t enough, although it surely contributes to popularity at a given time. In the case of the Beatles, that popularity has spanned time. Great band, great songs, true icons.

      Thanks for your comments!

      Claudia

  2. T.O. Fife says:

    I love how the Sex Pistols kicked out the original bass player and main song writer because he professed to liking the Beatles!

  3. Derek says:

    I remember 1964 I was 15 at the time and I was fortunate to see them 50 years ago. It was a pleasure for you to share with us with the music that we grew up listening when we were kids.
    These four lads had been the most influential rock bands of any generation. They were the first stadium band and sold millions of records worldwide during that short period of time.. They were creative genius in the studio especially a great producer like Sir George Martin who is now 88 and still healthy after all these years.

    I was a kid when I saw them live the screaming chicks unfortunately was annoying cause I came to hear the bloody music, which is why the band stopped touring in the first place and during their non touring years they made their best works from 1966-69.

    Sadly John and George are no longer with us but they left an everlasting legacy. McCartney and Starr are still rocking in their 70’s and they still make music on their own. Here is something to celebrate and this is the band I remember seeing them back in 1964-65


    Cheers
    Derek

    • artmodel says:

      Derek,

      I’m glad you mentioned Sir George Martin, who deserves much of the credit for the Beatles’ success. When I was watching the CBS Grammy special it was sad to see that Paul and Ringo are the only surviving members. Half of the Beatles are tragically gone, like you noted. But of course, their music lives forever.

      Thanks for your comments, and the video!

      Claudia

  4. Bill says:

    When people think about the Sixties, they usually think in terms of Woodstock Nation — sex, drugs, Nam, etc. But that was the late Sixties, and the Beatles bridged the gap between the black-and-white days earlier in the decade and the psychedelic times that followed. Sure, their music was good — sometimes really great — but it was their ability to ride the zeitgeist of that era that really set them apart.

    • artmodel says:

      Bill,

      So true. I can’t think of another decade that ended so dramatically different from how it began, in terms of societal mores and cultural attitudes. Ten years is hardly a long period of time under ordinary circumstances. But the 60s was unique in that regard.

      Thanks for your comments!

      Claudia

  5. Dan Hawkins says:

    When I saw the title 1964, I immediately thought of the Cardinals beating the Yankees in the World Series. I guess I have baseball on the brain.

    And for the record, I was not even born until 1966.

  6. Derek says:

    You mentioned earlier that you saw the performance of Sir Paul and Ringo. My daughter has emailed me a video of that she found in some site and it came from american telly .and I must say it was somewhat bittersweet some of the performances from the artists performing their classic songs was somewhat redundant and I did not fancied Katey Perry singing Paul’s “Yesterday” it looked and sounded very pageantry or the country artists doing John’s “Revolution”. I did fancied Joe Walsh and Gary Clark doing George’s “While My guitar Gently Weeps” that was one the great highlights.

    The one that stole the show was the remaining members of what is left of the Beatles. Paul can sing and bass like a bad ass bass guitarist and sing like a demon at 71 and Ringo getting so much energy and singing with Paul for the first time since 1969. It must say they were the highlight and they outperformed the other artists who sadly murdered their songs. It brought me and my kids and grandkids to tears I am now 65 and I am someone who witnesses that important milestone. It must be to be a child of the 1960’s and witnessing someone that was dear to me.

    This is what I found and it was like seeing them again 50 years ago. So many movie stars and even young and old enjoying this timeless music.

    Here is a clip that was one oif the highlights of the event that you mentioned and maybe you can share it with the friends and family.

    from the bottom of my heart thank you for mentioning my favorite band God bless you luv
    from this old geezer

    Derek

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