Search This Blog

Saturday, February 08, 2014

50 Years Ago Tomorrow...

You know, I've decided to switch things up a smidgen for this weekend.  I know that today is supposed to be the day in which I was supposed to feature a Saturday Smorgasbord entry - which for the second Saturday of the month typically features some kind of toy or game.  But given that a momentous event is set to take place this weekend, I've decided to change the topic of the blog just for this weekend only.

(Well, that, plus I can't think of a video game or board game to feature in a blog topic this week.)

So, I'm going to explain what I'm going to be doing this weekend.  They say that music is one of the most universal languages in the whole world.  Practically everywhere in the world (except for maybe Antarctica) uses music in some format.  Whether it be for leisure, for performance arts, or for background music at fashion shows, you have to admit that the world would be a really dismal place if there were no music.

And, as it so happens, this weekend there's going to be an event that takes place that is slated to be huge.

On Sunday, February 9, 2014, CBS is planning a very special tribute to The Beatles by having a television event featuring artists of all genres and backgrounds performing classic Beatles hits.  And, naturally, the special can't be complete without a special reunion between the two surviving members of the band - Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.  Now, mind you, if you watched the Grammy Awards two weeks ago, you know that Paul and Ringo already performed together on that awards broadcast.  But this Sunday's performance is something special.

For it will take place on the fiftieth anniversary of the day that The Beatles made their very first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show - which naturally took place on February 9, 1964.

Now, granted, The Beatles had made it big in their native UK two years prior to that in 1962.  But when Beatlemania struck across the pond and McCartney, Starr, George Harrison, and John Lennon departed that plane to walk on American soil for the first time as a band - I can only imagine that it must have been a huge day.

So, I've decided to devote today to that very special performance, as well as showcasing a song that the band released that was actually topping the American charts at the time the band made their American debut.

So, I suppose the next question is...why are you doing the feature today and not tomorrow - when the actual anniversary took place?

Interesting question.  One that I can supply an answer to.

Because I'm simultaneously celebrating "BLACK HISTORY MONTH" this February, and because I already made the promise to feature #1 hits by African-American artists all this month in the Sunday Jukebox entries, I can't very well just go against that promise that I made.

So, that's why I'm doing the Beatles feature today!

Now, admittedly, I am too young to remember that iconic Ed Sullivan Show performance.  That performance was fifty years ago, and I am only thirty-two.  However, I do know quite a lot of people who were old enough to watch and appreciate that performance for what it was.

You see, both of my parents were born in the mid-1940s.  My mom just missed out on being a Baby Boomer by a couple of months, but my dad was one of the very first Baby Boomers, being born in 1946.  If my math is correct, this would mean that my father was 17, and my mother was 18 when The Beatles first made their debut on American television.  That was right around the average age of the audience who were lucky enough to watch them live on the set of the Ed Sullivan Show.

So, I thought...why not ask them what they thought of the performance?  After all, they were there.

Unfortunately, my father couldn't help me.  Not only did he not watch the performance, but he didn't really care for the style of music that The Beatles played.  He was more content listening to Hank Snow, Patsy Cline, and other 1960s era country artists whose popularity were measured by how loud they twanged their guitar strings or how high their hairstyles reached.

My mom on the other hand...she loved The Beatles.  In fact, I think it was through her that my sisters and I all developed our own love for the Fab Four.  And, she did watch that performance on television of the seventy-three million people to do so that night.

Well, much to the chagrin of my late grandfather who absolutely despised The Beatles, that is.

Of course, my mom didn't really go as crazy for The Beatles as other girls her age did.  She didn't have this obsession with Ringo Starr or Paul McCartney as other fans did (though admittedly I went through much of my early childhood believing that my sister was named after a Beatle - she wasn't).  Still, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and she absolutely enjoyed the whole show.

In fact...if you click HERE, you can watch that performance as it happened some fifty years ago, as well as two other appearances that the band made on February 16 and February 23, 1964. 

That's right!  The Beatles were such a huge hit that they appeared on the following two episodes of the Ed Sullivan Show as well!  Remember, the first appearance of the band is at the beginning of the clip and starts with the song "All My Loving" - a song that actually became a #1 hit single in Canada!

But "All My Loving" is not going to be the featured song choice for today.  Believe me, if I could have found enough information on that song, I easily would have made it so.  But today's song choice is an important one because on all three of the Beatles' appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964, they closed off each set with the same song...a song that appropriately enough was at the top of the charts at the time.

ARTIST:  The Beatles
SONG:  I Want To Hold Your Hand
ALBUM:  N/A (was initially a single-only release)
DATE RELEASED:  November 29, 1963

NOTE:  Although the song was initially single release only, it has since appeared on several Beatles records - including the "1" compilation.

NOTE 2:  The single pressings for "I Want To Hold Your Hand" contained different B-sides, depending on your nation of origin.  Europeans received "This Boy", while North Americans listened to "I Saw Her Standing There".

Now, this single holds the distinction of having a couple of firsts.  It was the very first single to reach the top of the American charts.  It was the first Beatles single to be recorded using four-track equipment.  And, it was one of the first cases in which this song kept another song recorded by the same artist off the top of the charts for weeks (in this case, the song "She Loves You").  Amusingly in the UK, the opposite took place, with "She Loves You" keeping "I Want To Hold Your Hand" off the top spot!

Anyway, the song was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney in 1963 at a time in which McCartney was dating actress Jane Asher, and when McCartney was staying at a guest at Asher's parents' home, located at 57 Wimpole Street in London.  It was at that address that Lennon and McCartney penned the lyrics of the song.  In September 1980 - three months before Lennon's death, John Lennon was interviewed by Playboy Magazine, and he described the songwriting process for the song like this.

"We wrote a lot of stuff together (McCartney and I), one on one, eyeball to eyeball.  Like in 'I Want To Hold Your Hand'.  I remember when we got the chord that made the song.  We were in Jane Asher's house, downstairs in the cellar playing on the piano at the same time.  And we had 'Oh you-u-u/got that something...' And Paul hits this chord [E minor] and I turn to him and say 'That's it!' I said.  'Do that again!'  In those days, we really used to absolutely write like that - both playing into each other's noses."

Fourteen years later, Paul McCartney confirmed that this was the case in an interview he did in 1994;

"'Eyeball to eyeball' is a very good description of it.  That's exactly how it was.  'I Want To Hold Your Hand' was very co-written.  It was our big number one; the one that would eventually break us in America."

And, boy did that song take off.  Though the US release of the single was held off until December 26, 1963, once it was, it took almost no time at all for the single to rise all the way up to the top.

But here's one final story to share with you all.  Initially, the single was to be held off until early 1964, which would have coincided with the date that The Beatles made their American debut.  But then a fourteen year old girl got involved after hearing a clip of the song, and before you know it, she managed to get the ball rolling.  But why don't I just post a snippit of an interview given by that then fourteen-year-old girl, Marsha Albert?

"It wasn't so much what I had seen, it's what I had heard.  They had a scene where they played a clip of "She Loves You" and I thought it was a great song...I wrote that I thought the Beatles would be really popular here and if [deejay Carroll James] could get one of their records, that would be great!"

Turns out that James - who at the time was working for Washington DC based radio station WWDC - took Albert's suggestion to heart and actively pursued the station promotion director to get the British Overseas Airways Coproration to send the station a copy of what was then the Beatles' newest single, "I Want To Hold Your Hand".  Not only did the station get the record, but because they got it in at a reasonable time, Carroll James called Marsha Albert at home and told her that if she could get to the station by five o'clock in the afternoon, he would let her announce the record live on air!  

You don't need me to tell you what happened next, do you?

Anyway, that's our look back at The Beatles and the fiftieth anniversary of the night they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.  Tune in this Sunday at 8:00pm for the special anniversary celebration which will feature both McCartney and Starr.

It's just a shame that John Lennon and George Harrison won't be there.  Alas, maybe they will be in spirit.

No comments:

Post a Comment