Please, please me...

BBC-America reminded me yesterday that it was 50 years ago that the Beatles recorded their first album, Please, Please Me, at Abbey Road studios - and when they debuted on Ed Sullivan's Sunday night TV program, my life changed.  Sometime in the fall of 1963 I remember reading a short article about these guys in Life Magazine - and then started to hear them on my little red Japanese transistor radio in September '63 when "She Loves You" hit the charts.  I know I was aching for a Beatles' album for Christmas of that year but had to wait until January 1964.

Three things grabbed me about the Beatles right away:

+ First, they played GREAT US R'n'B tunes.  Because the first rock and roll record I ever remember was when my Aunt Donna put on Little Richard's "Tutti Fruitti," I was ready for their action.  Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Dion and Jerry Lee Lewis were the sounds I loved in elementary school.  I liked some of the "girl groups," too but HATED the faux soul guys like Frankie Avalon, Bobby Vee, Fabian et al.  In fact, I can still recall the summer before "She Loves You" came out aching to hear something new that ROCKED - and then the Beatles showed up and everything was different.

+ Second, these cats sang and played their own instruments and wrote their own songs.  They could harmonize, play rock and soul and country, were smart and cocky, playful and melodic all at once - and both Lennon and McCartney could scream like banshees! In fact, my own rock and roll scream is based on what Lennon does in the Beatles' version of rockabilly legend Larry William's tune "Slow Down"  and what McCartney does on both "Kansas City" and "I'm Down." To me they were the real deal with wit, intelligence and lots of attitude!

+ And third the Beatles looked so freakin' cool:  black boots with Cuban heels, styled long hair, those collarless jackets and all the rest.  And they kept getting cooler whether it was their early posh thing, the wildass Carnaby Street scene or their explosion into the world of psychedelia, I totally loved the way the Beatles dressed.  About 10 years ago, we made a pilgrimage to Liverpool - and I bought a pair of Beatle boots that I still cherish - and wear.  These sequence with Harrison in "A Hard Day's Night" says it all...

There was a time in 1964 when the Beatles held 8 of the top 10 songs on the pop charts.  And every night I took my little red transistor radio to bed and first listened to the count down on WBZ out of Boston.  And then, if the air waves were right, I could then check in with Murray the K out of New York City on WINS.

As the Beatles matured together - and their music took on greater depth - I loved every minute of the ride.  As Springsteen once said, "Music saved my life..." and for this geeky, little chubby guy in Jr. High I know that was true for me:  I practiced my chords, danced in front of a mirror, practiced my John Lennon scream, memorized lyrics and eventually found some other guys who wanted to start a band in the summer when Sgt. Pepper was released.  I give thanks to God for the Beatles... and still love what they do.

Comments

Anonymous said…
The first song I remember ever hearing on the radio was on a family Sunday drive when I was five years old, I Want To Hold Your Hand. I could relate to that. The Beatles always sang about Love. Amen
Peter said…
Our local radio station played "ain't She Sweet" and then "I Want to Hold Your Hand" over. Two-month period in 1963, a and spoke about them as a very popular British group. For me, the door to rock 'n' roll was Paul Revere and the Raiders. I took a while to warm to the Beatles, but vertically did.
RJ said…
Thanks my friends... off to Palm Sunday worship now thinking that once upon a time we did "Beatles" liturgy for church! Peter I actually LOVED Paul Revere and the Raiders, too - so much dance energy - but the Beatles were what set my world on fire. Anonymous: have you seen Julie Taymore's musical re: the Beatles? Her remake of I Want to Hold Your Hand is stunning.

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