The writer’s main point is that as influential as The Beatles have been on popular music, it’s OK to say they’re not your proverbial cup of tea, but you’re dead wrong if you believe they are “overrated.”
I suspect you really had to be there when the Beatles happened to fully appreciate how much they changed the landscape — and how suddenly. There’s a lot of debate about exactly when the rock ’n’ roll era began: It was sometime in the 1950s, but the change was gradual. Not so with the Beatles.
Nope, there was popular music through December 1963, and then “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” struck like lightning. On Jan. 18, 1964, the song debuted on the Billboard Hot 100, and it was No. 1 by Feb. 1. By the time the band appeared on the Ed Sullivan show Feb. 9, 1964, the musical world was changed.
Really. There’s pre-Beatles rock, and there’s post-Beatles rock. It happened in a matter of days, like throwing a switch.
So you may listen to the Beatles and feel “meh” or even actively dislike the music, but you really can’t deny their tremendous influence on popular music. You had to be there.
That boggling sound coming from the second floor of the Advocate is my mind trying to come to grips with the fact that it is now 50 years since all that happened. I was able to deny that I was aging until I realized I hold memories that are a half-century old.
That sounds like a long time. And it is.
It’s long enough to go to high school and graduate, move 1,000 miles to go to college and graduate, take a half-dozen jobs talking to people on the radio, work for three newspapers — wait, four — make scores of mistakes and achieve a handful of triumphs, not the least of which was finding the girl of my dreams in time to spend the last 17 of those 50 years with her.
It’s long enough for the United States to go through nine presidents and the Green Bay Packers to win four Super Bowls — heck, it’s long enough to come up with the idea of the Super Bowl in the first place.
And it’s long enough to hear thousands of songs on the radio, on records, eight-tracks, cassettes, CDs, computers and smartphones — iTunes says I own more than two weeks of music just in digital form.
But some of the things that happened during that half-century don’t seem so long ago and far away. To those who experienced it the first time around, the opening guitar chords of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” still evoke that sense of “Whoa! Who is THAT?”
My favorite movie is “It’s A Wonderful Life,” which concludes with our hard-luck hero getting a glimpse of what the world would be like without him. It’s hard to imagine what the world would be like if the Beatles never existed — unless you lived in that world. For better or for worse, in January 1964 the creative possibilities of popular music were expanded dramatically.
It’s been fun to watch it all happen, especially the part where holy cow, that was a half-century ago. I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun.
Cross-posted from Door County Advocate. © Door County Publishing