I was about 11 and a half years old, living in the Long Island suburban paradise called Roslyn when four guys from someplace in England started both a musical and cultural revolution on a chilly night in February 1964.
In the days preceding this momentous event, I remember the girls in school talking about “the Beetles are coming, the Beetles are coming” or some such insect sounding thing. My father had spent the better part of the previous summer battling the japanese beetles that were eating his roses. I thought to myself these can’t be the same beetles, can they? When I saw pictures of girls wearing antennae in a teen magazine I was pretty confused…but then the girls were always quite a bit “hipper” than us “nature boy” kids when it came to the latest trends in clothes, music, and general “coolness”. I spent most of my time flipping baseball cards, catching carp in the local pond and practicing my clarinet. I guess when it came to the girls were into I tended to follow along or just get out of the way. I was up in my sister’s room reading a book. Why I was in her room, and why I was reading a book at all are memories lost in the morass of hazy time and space. Regardless that’s where I was, happily minding my own business. I clearly remember some commotion coming from the TV set in the downstairs den where the family would watch things like The Wonderful World of Disney…Circus Boy…Bonanza and Terry Tune Circus. Another favoriate of the grownups was the Ed Sullivan show. The kids watched it to but failed to get a lot of the jokes. Anyway my father came bounding up the stairs to the room where I was and said I should come down and see these guys from England. I never knew my father to be the edgy family member when it came to the latest trends but he was a guitarist and a musical fellow and he seemed pretty excited so I went down and watched. The first thing that caught me was the screaming of the girls in the audience. Atthat young age the whole sexual thing had yet to be a factor in my conscious mind so I really didn’t get the girls reaction. Basically I thought they were crazy. Next I noticed the hair on these guys which my mother thought was pretty strange. Then they started to sing and the vocal harmony reminded me quite a bit of my favorites at the time…The Everly Brothers. All in all I thought it was interesting but I wasn’t overly enthralled with the whole thing.
A month later BEATLEMANIA had washed over my head like a monsterous tidal wave of musical and emotional awakening. I needed to know everything about them. I needed to hear everything they recorded. I played their vinyl singles and albums till I wore them out. Though Mom and Dad seemed to like the Beatles, I’m sure the repetition of the music must have drove them a little crazy. Suddenly there was something in my life, and the lives of my pack of street friends, that rivaled stick ball, touch football and even girls! These guys from England were setting the course and steering the ship. I remember being insanely smitten with the entire scene till midway 1966 when it began to coll off just a bit. Then right on schedule they release Pepper summer of ’67 and the intense lunacy swept over all of us again.
By that time I had played in a few local groups…collections of kids with ragtag instruments and debatable talents banging and croaking our way through Beatle tunes. But by then a new wave of music had crossed the Atlantic and filled our transistor radios with a new bright original soundtrack. The Dave Clark Five…Chad and Jeremy…Herman’s Hermits…The Searchers…Gerry and the Pacemakers…Billy J. Kramer…Peter and Gordon…the sounds they were making seem to be saying “Anything is Possible!” Unusual chord changes…interesting lyrics…and the ringing sounds of guitars everywhere. It was awesome! If you could play the riff to Listen People…if you could rock out on I Feel Fine…Day Tripper or The Stones’ Satisfaction, you were destined to play play play.
And I did. I put the clarinet away and started banging on waste baskets until the folks got me a Gretsch drum set! In ’68 I decided to fool around with Dad’s old Gibson guitar and the next thing I knew I was a bass player. In ’69 I bought my first electric…a Gibson SG for $185 at the Sam Ash on Kings Highway in Brooklyn. All the while music of these British invaders continued to soak into my impressionable brain.
It was a time of great hopes and greater dreams. The music seemed to be telling me that I, we, could do anything, be anything, achieve anything. The world was brand new and I was part of this amazing energy sweeping the globe.
It’s been 50 years. Whoa. Two of The Beatles are no longer with us. and many of the survivors of that era are old tired men. But the changes that their music brought to the United States, and the entire world continue to be felt in all walks of life, in all the strata of society. The world surely turns but the feeling of joy and hope that that era brought still reverberates with new generations arriving on the scene.
When I hear that music…when I play that music…when I am reminded of that time long ago, a feeling of peace comes over me and I think to myself….maybe all is not lost…maybe we can achieve anything…maybe we can be anything…maybe we can make this world a much much better place. For a short time 50 years ago, it felt like anything was possible.