Sunday, February 08, 2004

Forty Years Ago Today (minus one)......

It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

-Bob Dylan

It was forty years ago today Ed Sullivan had the Beatles play. I remember seeing them for the first time on Ed Sullivan and I remember exactly where I was when I did. I don't remember where I was because of the event, like someone remembering exactly where they were when they first heard Pearl Harbor had been bombed or when they heard John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, or Bobby Kennedy had been shot. I remember the event (the Beatles on Ed Sullivan) because of where I was at the time.

It was the second Sunday in February of 1964 (February 9th) and I was in a bed on one of the wards of Denver's Children's Hospital. About five minutes before the show started a nurse reached up and turned on the TV set perched high on a shelf on the wall of the entrance to the ward. She then switched the channel to CBS. There were 20 kids in 20 beds. Ten beds side by side down one wall and ten beds side by side down the wall on the opposite side of the room. I was in the seventh bed near the end of the row of beds on the right side of the room. Every kid in that room knew who the Beatles were and could not wait to see them. The room was noisy with the chatter of 20 kids excited by what was about to happen. The chatter kept up as the acts before the Beatles performed. We did not care about them we were waiting for the Beatles. Then Ed Sullivan announced, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Beatles!"

I remember leaning forward to see around the kids in the beds between me and the TV. My mother and four other mothers visiting at the time had wandered down to the end of the room where the set was and huddled under it watching the flickering images on the screen. I remember being mesmerized by what I was seeing. These guys looked like no one I had every seen before with their matching collar-less suits, stovepipe pants, pointy boots, and long hair. Then my mother turned her face back to the ward and looked around. (She later said that she turned around because she realized there was total silence behind her. Something she had never heard during her visits before then.) She said urgently to the other mothers, "Look at the kids. Look at their faces."

I pulled my attention away from the screen and looked at everyone else. Every kid was leaning forward like me, some farther forward than others, with mouths open and a look of rapture on their faces. I knew that a moment before I had that same look. I scowled at my mother and sat back, I wasn't there to entertain the grownups.

So, what did I think? With all my vast musical knowledge I decided they weren't that great. Their music at the time would have been considered bubble gum music a few years later. I did not become interested in the Beatles until I heard the songs off the Rubber Soul and Revolver albums. Songs like, Norwegian Wood, Nowhere Man, Eleanor Rigby, Got To Get You Into My Life. But at the same time, something about them that night was mesmerizing. Could it be that every kid in America who watched the Beatles that night subconsciously understood what the Beatles represented? That the times they were a changing.

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