It was my very first television memory. All six of us were gathered around our jumpy RCA victor black and white TV that Sunday night 50 years ago. I was two months shy of turning six years old. My brother Donnie was 15 and about to have his life changed by those four boys from Liverpool. My parents were about to be horrified.
Ed Sullivan, looking an awful lot like Richard Nixon with his five o’clock shadow, spun around and shouted, “The Beatles!!” I was mesmerized by the spectacle of the thing. The volume and intensity of the screaming girls was actually a little scary. I glanced at Donnie and Linda. They were both nodding their heads in rhythm to the music. Paula’s expression was wild eyed excitement, not unlike what one would expect on Christmas morning. Mom and Dad stared at the screen as if they were watching someone killing a living thing. They were both destined to hate their music, but what they really didn’t like were their haircuts. Thanks to Ed Sullivan, a generation gap was introduced into the Dunnevant home.
All of this comes to mind after watching the Grammy’s salute to the Beatles special the other night. It was easily the best two hours I’ve spent in front of my television in quite a while. The musicians selected to perform their songs were all wonderful. Towards the end, Ringo performed a three song set followed by Paul who absolutely nailed “Get Back,” I Saw Her Standing there,” and “Birthday.” Here were two guys in their 70’s still having fun playing rock & roll. It was a joyous night.
My wife often accuses me of being out of step with contemporary music. She is correct. The music I most enjoy all seems to have been originally recorded 30-50 years ago. “You have to keep up with the new acts honey,” she says. “If you don’t, you’ll get old!” I must admit that I was introduced to a few of them watching this show and was mightily impressed. But when your first introduction to contemporary music was the Ed Sullivan show on a February night 50 years ago, it’s a hard act to follow. Transformational talent doesn’t come along every day, and when it does it has a tendency to ruin you for whatever follows. There were thousands of classical musicians from 300 years ago who have completely vanished from history, so ordinary and unremarkable were their works. We still celebrate the likes of Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach because they were special, transcendent talents. Similarly, the vast majority of current popular music will be a mist 300 years from now. Not so the Beatles.
But my wife is right. Maroon 5, Imagine Dragons, Dave Grohl, John Meyer, Keith Urban, John Legend and Alicia Keys were all fantastic, immensely talented performers. I probably should tune in more often. It’s bad enough that I am getting old, it would be a crime if I start acting old.
Just don’t ask me to give Hip Hop a listen….not gonna happen.