I Saw Them Standing There

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

Since everyone else is titling their reminiscences of February 9, 1964 with the sub-heading “It was 50 years ago today,” I went to great lengths to avoid that one. Besides, the song that this blog alludes to was actually performed by The Beatles on that first of their three historic appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” And coincidentally, that date fell on a Sunday like today.

I was, like so many 13-year-olds, planning to put everything aside to watch their two three-song segments. I remember feeling bad for the competition on the other networks, particularly NBC and the backbone of their Sunday line-up, “Bonanza,” which you’d like to think the network was clever enough to give up that hour and just show a rerun. I have no idea whether that’s what they did, and certainly at the time I didn’t care, since we didn’t usually watch “Bonanaza” OR Ed Sullivan on any regular basis. After February, 1964, I watched Sullivan almost every week, as his show was most often where the hit Rock acts, both British and American, would make their US TV debut.

When they were introduced to ear-splitting shrieks, and the first bars of “All My Loving” came through, I remember wondering if the kids in the studio audience could actually hear The Beatles or if it even mattered. I could just barely make out what they were playing, but the music was secondary to the madness surrounding it. My dad, like so many millions of other dads of the time, was critical of their hair and music, but couldn’t deny they had something special that went beyond that. We didn’t try to intellectualize about what that was, but when I started trying to wear my hair their way in ensuing weeks, he was none too pleased, and thus began about six years of continual battle, with the hair becoming the principal starting point for nearly every political difference we’d have. Oh yeah, and my hair (and The Beatles’ hair for that matter) was only slightly longer than it is now. I didn’t grow shoulder-length hair until 1972, by which time I’d been away from home for two years.

Aside from the fact that I had known about The Beatles almost a year before this historic date (and I’ve blogged about that before), and took personal gratification over that, the biggest impact for me was how their success got me interested in British culture, and seriously thinking about what it would be like to live there. I had absolutely NO idea how I was going to get there, unless maybe I could win a contest where a trip to UK was the top prize. I also had no idea it would take me 36 years, or nearly three times as long as my life to that point, to finally achieve that goal.

A bit of a surprise was that for some reason, I missed the second Sullivan show, broadcast on February 16 from Miami. I can’t imagine what my parents had scheduled for our family agenda that particular Sunday, but for some reason, I wasn’t having a shit fit over missing it either. Hard to imagine, as I was as much a Beatles fan as most other 13-year-olds at the time. To this day, I’ve never seen the footage from that episode. We did watch the third episode, and I remember some Broadway singer trying her best to play the teen crowd who clearly wanted her to just be done. I’m sure I can find out easily enough, but I don’t remember if there was a comedian on. God have mercy in retrospect on that unfortunate soul, if in fact some comic had to suffer that fate.

The only other thing I remember from that day was on our drive home from the Tucson Public Library where my mom worked, about an hour before the show was to air, we passed a dog in the road that had just been run over. I remember being sad that THIS dog wasn’t going to be able to see The Beatles. Funny what you can put into your 13-year-old imagination.

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