Let me tell you story, my Chapman’s General Store patrons. ‘Twas way back in the winter of ’64, and my music world consisted of listening to the likes of Bobby Vinton, Gene Pitney, Bobby Vee, Paul Anka, yes, even Andy Williams. Hell, we didn’t even have much Elvis in the house. My sister Karen had some Elvis soundtracks but even The King was way too controversial for Bourneville, Ohio at the time. Mom and Dad had some Dean Martin stuff I could throw on the turntable, if that clarifies my situation at all. I was 8-years old but listened to music as often as I could. I was too young to buy 45s, so I was dependent on whatever was brought home by Mom & Dad or my two older sisters. Bleak times indeed. Those times had become bleaker in November of ’63 when my 2nd grade teacher walked in the room to tell us that JFK, a man for whom I’d passed out flyers around Ross County with my strongly democratic family, had been blown away in Dallas. I was shaken, even at my young age. Seeing your dad cry for the first time will do that to you. With the country knocked down to one knee, it certainly needed a wake-up call. I, and everybody else, got one in February.
I’d heard rumblings of something strange going on. My older sister Karen, the rebel in the family, had whispered to me the news of a new band. Not one guy like Elvis or Bobby Darin, but rather four guys who all sang and played instruments. Hell, rumor had it that they even wrote their own songs. Outrageous. Trust me, at the time it was mind-boggling. Then one day it happened. Good old Sis, corrupting as ever, brought home a new record– “Introducing the Beatles.” She insisted that I give it a listen, and when Paul McCartney began counting “one, two, three, four . . .” as an introduction to “I Saw Her Standing There” life as I’d known it was over. What the hell was THIS?
I know it’s hard for anyone under 50 to understand, but this was something w-a-y different. The music was melodic, infectious . . . completely new. The guitars, the voices, the harmonies, everything was totally unique to me and millions of others. Again, it’s hard for anyone born later to grasp how dramatic this shift was. The Beatles music just set off a spark in my soul that has never been extinguished. Anyway, I think I played “I Saw Her Standing There” at least 10 times before moving the needle to the next song. I just couldn’t believe my ears. By the time I got to the last song, “Twist and Shout” it must have been hours later. Although it was my sister’s record, between her and I we probably wore the grooves almost completely through the vinyl. Later that day, when dad got home from work, I heard words for the first time that would be repeated thousands of times over the years . . . “TURN IT DOWN!” Heh-heh. I knew I was onto something.
From that point onward it was The Beatles who defined everything musically to me. I couldn’t wait for the next single, the next album, the next TV appearance. They covered so much ground in their short existence that, although they tried, no other group could keep up. From “Introducing the Beatles” and “Meet the Beatles” all the way through to “Let It Be” and “Abbey Road”, The Beatles provided the soundtrack of my youth. Hell, they’re still the soundtrack today, always playing in the background somewhere. And to think it all started, at least for me, in a small living room in Bourneville, Ohio, in the winter of 1964.
Note: As I was writing this, I remembered a moment that sort of defines the Beatles and how their music affects people. My son Kip has been listening to music with me since he was 6-months old. When he was around 5 we were driving somewhere in my car when he asked me to put The Beatles on. I then asked him why he liked the Beatle’s music. His answer? “It makes me feel good.”
Editor’s Note: YouTube video of the Beatles’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show in February, 1964.