Sunday, February 09, 2014


February 9th, 1964…The Beatles appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

This is big nostalgia...for people 55 to 75. That's kind of a narrow demographic to hype, but the two surviving Beatles fall into that age bracket, and, happily, Beatles music is still so popular that people of all ages can celebrate their achievement. PS, it sure beats the other 50th anniversary...the assassination of JFK. Yes, I remember both...and this 50th certainly brings back more pleasant memories. "Beatlemania," it must be remembered, was ignited in America and may indeed have been sparked by a need to seize on something to get over the young president's death and rejuvinate the nation's optimism and youthful spirit...yeah yeah yeah!

America's feverish enthusiasm for The Beatles reached its peak when the Fab Four hit the Sullivan show on February 9th. Would they live up to the hysteria? Damn right! This triumphant show, with the screaming girls and the ebullient foursome handing in a charismatic set of performances, confirmed a new era of rock…and the rest really is history.

It was pretty much after the Sullivan show that the earlier Beatles hits known only in England, including "She Loves You" and "Please Please Me" turned up in America on obscure labels such as Swan and Tollie. Soon many obscure labels were cashing in on The Beatles.

It seemed every other record was either a Beatles cover or some kind of silly novelty. Capitol itself had Donna Lynn's "My Boyfriend Got a Beatles Haircut." There were plenty of Beatles Backlash tracks, too. It was a toss-up here, between tossing a bunch of the idiot tunes onto the blog, or the green-eyed envy numbers. Since the latter are a bit more obscure, they won. So let's listen to some of the grousers and dreamers who tried to reference The Beatles and get some girls to pay attention. But no, these shits never hit the fans.

The five finalists:

1. I'm Better Than The Beatles. Brad Berwick hoped enough haters would buy his little ditty, but nobody was listening.

2. I Wanna Be a Beatle by Gene Cornish and The Unbeetables (get it?). At least this one is kind of harmless in stealing from "She Loves You" and seeming about to riff into "I Wanna Be Your Man." It's actually kind of complimentary…

3. Beatle Maniacs by Ray Ruff and the Checkmates. Another jealous Buddy Holly-type grumbles, "The Beatles, they're the worst…" and tries to show that insipid rockabilly is much better. Yeah, there's also some line about his girl not caring about him because he doesn't have "shaggy hair."

4. The Beatle Bomb. After stealing a chunk of "She Loves You," the lead singer of The Exterminators, with a pretty horrific British accent, moans "By Jove I'll get them yet," and the band plays a somewhat clever but awful combo of surf music and a classic funeral march. Can this stubborn "bomb" of twangy guitar music defeat the Mersey sound? "Oh no" "Yeah yeah" "Oh no" "Yeah yeah yeah…by Jove I think we've done it!" Yes, if you mean created a cult item a few collectors would pay big bucks for decades later.

5. "It's Comin Thru The Doors" by Bobby and the Blue Jays is a dig at the "clanging banging Limey Liverpool sound." The lyrics somehow reduces the Fab Four to three, as Bobby chronicles the beginning of the band that refused to go to a barber and now have somehow stolen his girl, and worse: "Oooh, they wanna hold my hand." A very confused fellow, this lead singer.

The 50th Anniversary of "Beatlemania" is supposed to make you nostalgic, make you buy Beatles merchandise, and, hopefully, make you feel good that something from your childhood still holds up as relevant. A hotel convention in New York was devoted to dealers trying to sell old memorabilia (like a can of Beatles hair spray for $3,000). Paul, Ringo and the widows of John and George did appear on TV for a "Lifetime Achievement Award," and David Letterman, had a "Beatles week" of shows…but wasn't able to get Paul and Ringo to turn up (Sean Lennon, yes).

And yes, if you go to a taping of Letterman's show, it's impossible not to look around and think, "So...this is where The Ed Sullivan Show was broadcast...The Beatles were right on THAT stage..."

Everybody who was alive back then, including me, has had at least a few conversations with others about that extremely unique period in time. Last night I did play a few hours of Beatles addition to checking out some of the cash-ins. I also played tracks from the latest "Beatles at the BBC" album...still wondering why, 50 years later, Capitol and Emi were so sparse about "Beatle Rarities," live tracks and other "bootleg-type" stuff.

Wasn't that a time? Talk to any of us over 50 guys, and you'll hear more or less the same we danced around the room to "I Want to Hold Your Hand," how we were glued to Ed Sullivan and our transistor radios (what an image), and how, with varying degrees of affluence, we bought not only the vinyl, but Beatles collector cards, magazines, toys and games. Yeah (yeah yeah) I combed my hair down, and experimented with a Liverpool accent. One thing I didn't do was show my allegiance by wearing some stupid pin like "I Like Paul." My large pin said "Help Stamp Out Beetles," which I bought as a joke-novelty. So what happened; I got chased down the street by a gang of girls who didn't notice the typo and/or didn't think it was funny. And I was too young to appreciate being chased down the street by a gang of girls.

I'm glad that John, George, Paul and Ringo kept getting better with every album...something no other music act ever did. To be surprised, every year in the 60's, with something not only new but pioneering, was amazing. Unlike the teen idols for most any other generation, my guys turned out to be true artists, still amazing, and still beloved, after 50 years. Then there are the five sour-pusses below...but give 'em a round of applause as they return from obscurity thanks to the Fab Four they couldn't beat...

FIVE "BEATLES BACKLASH" TRACKS...hear Brad Berwick, Ray Ruff, The Exterminators, The Unbeetables and Bobby and the Blue Jays... ...Guys sulking, sneering and dreaming about Beatles fame!


Anonymous said...

amen, brother. was in college in '64. didn't pay much attention to the Beatlemania Buzz, but loved that rockin' music, especially the obscure vee-jay stuff. those that weren't around before the Beatles will never know how revolutionary they were. Plus they opened the door for....everyone. Great blog!
Corky in Texas

Ill Folks said...

Thanks -- right, VeeJay...funny when they put out that "Beatles vs Four Seasons" album. VeeJay did manage to land early Beatles hits, "Please Pleae Me," "Do You Want to Know a Secret" and "I saw Her Standing There." Vs Frankie & The Gang doing "Sherry," "Walk Like a Man" and "Big Girls Don't Cry."