Sunday, February 9, 2014

Personal Essay - All My Loving - The Beatles, Fifty Years Later

According to my relatives, there really was a pall over the United States after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963.  This occurred a few weeks before my first birthday, December 17, 1963.  I look back at family photos and see my parents glowing with happiness over this milestone.  But I've heard too many stories about how hard, how personal the loss of Jack Kennedy was to Irish Catholics.  Many candles were lit,  many rosaries prayed, many novenas said,  and many Requiem Masses celebrated for him. Besides being the ruler of the Free World, the 35th President of the United States and his beautiful wife Jacqueline had a significant influence on pop culture, fashion and art.  But Camelot was over. The temperature on the first day of January 1963 in New York City was a mere 3-degrees.  Spring seemed a long way off.  Grief was fresh and raw, and it seemed as though the country's bereavement would be an extended one.

But then Pan Am Flight 101 arrived by plane from England at 1:20 p.m. on February 7, 1964.  The passengers deplaned on the tarmac of the recently renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport in Jamaica, Queens.  These passenger--John Lennon (23), Paul McCartney (21), George Harrison (20), and Ringo Starr (23)--were the members of a band called The Beatles.  The  group had risen to the top of the UK music charts a year before, in February 1963 after the release of their debut album, "Please Please Me." The commotion across the pond was called "Beatlemania."

Walter Cronkite ran a five-minute piece about the phenomenon on The CBS Evening News on December 10, 1964.  This piece prompted a fifteen-year-old girl named Marsha Albert to write a letter to her favorite radio station, WWDC in Washington, D.C..  She asked, "Why can't we  have this music in America?"   Carroll James, Jr., a young disk jockey at WWDC, convinced a lovely British Airways "hostess" to bring him back a copy of The Beatles single "I Want To Hold Your Hand,"  and played  it on the air on December 17, 1963.  My first birthday.  And then, seven weeks later, The Beatles went on The Ed Sullivan Show the night of February 7, 1964, and opened with "All My Loving."  And the U.S., ready for a resurrection, ready to believe again, gave The Beatles all their loving.

I cannot speak for all Baby Boomers, but I know many of us were shaped by The Beatles and their music. They broke down barriers in so many ways.  When I began to play the guitar and sing at age 9, the first songs I learned (by ear) were Beatles songs.  My lifelong fascination with all things British is linked intrinsically to my love for them.  Their offbeat, dry, zany and intellectual sense of humor had a huge impact on me.  

To commemorate this anniversary, let's focus on that happy day, that time when the United States put away its mourning black.  Young people screamed with joy.  Parents were befuddled by this "new music." We remembered how to laugh.  

1 comment:

  1. I was somewhat older when the Beatles hit the scene. The frenzy puzzled me, but the music still lights my fire. The next big thing I recall in the music scene was that riff -- that opening riff to "I Can't Get No Satisfaction." We were definitely not in Kansas anymore.
    Beyond Acadia