04 February, 2014


Look, I bow to no-one in my love of The Beatles but I really don’t give a shit about the impending fiftieth anniversary of the American mass market discovering them. To quote a later icon of British music, America is not the world. I get that 1964 was year-zero for The Beatles as far as a lot of people are concerned, but as far as the actual Beatles are concerned, it was anywhere between two and seven years earlier, depending on where you’re counting from. I mean, for me it was 1986 because that was when I began seriously listening to them, but nobody is ever going to celebrate that anniversary because it’s all about me.

Honestly, I’m glad I was born after Beatlemania because the hype would have pissed me off and it would have made it a lot harder to like them. Discovering them twenty years later allowed me to listen to the music on its own merits.

There is actually an important cultural anniversary connected with The Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, but it’s tangential to The Beatles and will probably be ignored amongst all the hype. It was possibly the first time millions of people had a shared experience of an historic event through live television in a way that became the norm from the first moon landing to September 11th. I could be wrong about that, there may be earlier examples and I’d be interested to hear about them. I considered the Kennedy assassination, but while that was covered live once the story broke, television wasn’t ubiquitous enough for everyone to switch over immediately. People were at work. I’m not saying things had changed three months later, but Sunday evening was a good time for a shared experience through a relatively new medium.

Anyway, that might be a bit too thinky to get a mention during the anniversary specials. Good luck to those looking forward to them. Some of them might tell me that I just don’t get it and they would be right. I know that a lot of people who saw the original Ed Sullivan appearance consider themselves to be The Original Fans. I also know there are still a few thousand ageing rockers from Liverpool and Hamburg who would say, “Oh really? Why don’t you tell me about it?”


  1. Ed Sullivan is the beginning because nothing that happens outside of the United States counts. You already know that.

  2. Enjoyed the post Bill, as usual. And your comments about the Ed Sullivan Show phenomenon. I have the DVD of the complete Sullivan episodes featuring the Beatles (and the subsequent Rolling Stones equivalent release) and I watched them trying to imagine seeing the Fab Four perform for the first time. It worked.

    Born in 1959, I was a small child during Beatlemania and can tell you they appealed in a way that no other pop culture phenomenon would or could. Their songs were so catchy you wanted to start singing them straight away. They were good-looking young men with so much naturally disarming charisma that as Derek Taylor said in Dancing In The Street “Even miserable buggers liked them.”

    And with each new single release, no matter how much their style changed it was still unmistakeably THEM and I couldn’t help but exclaim “Wow. Another great song!”

    I’d be very interested to hear your view of the two posthumous 1995 collaborations Free As a Bird and Real Love. For me, they kind of brought THEM back.

    1. That comment from Derek is actually the first thing that sways me towards the idea that I might have been able to tolerate the hype. I have the Ed Sullivan DVDs too and I love the fact that they include the entire episodes, ads and all. You can see how the Beatles might have seemed like they were from another planet alongside Soupy Sales and Acker Bilk.

      I LOVED the reunion songs. It didn't matter that it was done by studio trickery because the Beatles were always about pushing the technology of the day to its limits, so using a 1967 4-track would have been stupid. Both bring a tear, especially with the videos.

      They were recorded a year apart and both were in the can a couple of years before Anthology was completed, so it's pretty scary to think that even Free As A Bird is 20 years old!