Meet the Beatles

Author: David Galassie
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The Beatles in America
The oldies radio I listen to today is a very good reflection of what I grew up with, and having a brother and sister 10 and 9 years older than me meant that, at a very young age, I was exposed to good old sixties' rock and roll, to include the defining moment of a generation.

Though I must have heard rock and roll when I was very young, my first distinct rock memory was watching The Beatles make their first American appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964.

For days in advance, I'd heard my sister Mary and cousin Chrissy Reimer talking about this great new British group that everybody just had to see. Chrissy, a couple of years younger than my sister, lived upstairs in the apartment of our big corner house.

We gathered in Chrissy's living room that fateful Sunday night to watch the show that night. We didn't know it at the time, but we were about to witness a seminal event in pop culture, one that would spawn scores of books and memories forever after.

As expected, The Beatles were an instant hit. I've since obtained the DVD of their appearance that night and subsequent shows and I am amazed that we could hear anything of the Fab Four, what with all the hysterical girls screaming their heads off! Needless to say, we had never heard anything like them before, not to mention their smart fashion sense and those haircuts. Later that week, "Meet the Beatles," was a staple in the two households and that famous photograph of their four heads on the album cover was burned into our collective memory banks.

Being an only child, Chrissy had more Beatles stuff than we could ever imagine. Jealousy was never an issue; we just reveled in it. Mary liked Paul, Chrissy liked Ringo, and I wavered between Paul and John. Beatles bobblehead dolls, posters, bubble-gum cards, 16 Magazine, and even Beatles comic books soon entered our world. When "A Hard Days' Night" premiered locally at the Neenah Theater that summer, the three of us spent an entire Saturday watching it over and over, I think, six or eight times in a row. We were all caught up in Beatlemania in a very serious way that magical year.

But though The Beatles would be a force forever after, the bloom was off the rose by the time 1965 rolled around for me. Oh, I still loved The Beatles, but the fever had subsided somewhat and I don't even remember even seeing "Help!", their second film. The Beatles' arrival had spawned the so-called British Invasion and the dilution of talent across the entertainment spectrum meant instant fame for many other groups, British and American. Each week without fail, Ed Sullivan had a new group on- Herman's Hermits, Freddie and the Dreamers, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, the Dave Clark Five. And new shows sprouted like wildflowers to push this talent at us- Shindig, Hullabaloo, Where the Action Is, joining that perennial favorite, American Bandstand. It was a great time to be a teenager or, for me, a wannabe teenager.

In 1965, I was introduced to comic books and my life was never the same after that. And 1966! Batman premiered in January and I was an instant fan. Even if I hadn't grown to love Batman from the comics, I would have succumbed nonetheless. Soon my extra money was spent on Batman cards (the big hobby of my third grade class) and more Detective and Batman comics. And the coup de gras came when The Monkees showed up on NBC later that year; The Beatles were sadly pushed out of my daily consciousness. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'd still hear them on the radio but their music was evolving in ways I couldn't relate to. For a kid of my age, The Monkees, with their weekly mayhem and bubble-gum sound, echoed my memories of the early Fab Four and it was no wonder it was a more comfortable fit than the seriousness of "Eleanor Rigby" or "Nowhere Man."

From my view today, having The Beatles come to America in 1964, gave us all a chance to get over the JFK assassination just four months before. Much has been written about The Beatles' influence in the Sixties, their message of love, their hair, their hidden messages. But I don't believe they get enough credit for making such a profound noise, for getting a nation on its feet again to get a kick out of four guys in their early twenties who could make young girls swoon and become comic fodder for the likes of old show-biz stalwarts like Bob Hope and Jack Benny. That's the real beauty of The Beatles- when they sang and shook their hair and went "wo-o-o-o-oh!", we were all kids again. If nothing else, it was plain fun. And what kid wouldn't want that?

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