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How Were You Impacted by the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show?

Fifty years ago tonight the generation gap began when "four lads from Liverpool" took the stage and changed a nation.

by
Myra Adams

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February 9, 2014 - 8:00 am
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Fifty years ago tonight, as a nine-year-old girl living in a Boston suburb, I — along with 73 million Americans — watched the Beatles perform on the popular Ed Sullivan Show.

After watching I knew (as much as a nine year old was capable of knowing) that I had witnessed a MAJOR cultural and historic event.

How did I know this?

How could I NOT have known?

President John F. Kennedy famously said in his 1961 inaugural speech that “the torch has been passed to a new generation,” and on that night the Beatles became the musical torch.

Upon the show’s conclusion, I distinctly recall my father saying with complete confidence that “the Beatles are just a passing fad.”

His prediction was totally expected from someone born in 1922, but I knew otherwise. For the Beatles had a sound that was so unique, engaging, modern, young, hip and vibrant, I knew right then that my world was going to be radically different from that of my parents.

Sunday, February 9, 1964, was when a “cultural earth mover” began digging the divide that would later be called “the generation gap.”

Monday on the school bus my friends and I yelled Beatles’ songs out the window. When we arrived in our third-grade classroom there was talk of nothing else. How could there be when clearly something monumental had happened the night before?

All of us were emotionally affected but not capable of articulating exactly what happened. All I remember talking about with my friends was which of the four Beatles was the “cutest,” but instinctively we knew it went much deeper.

Now, viewing the Beatles’ performance through a 50-year historical, musical, cultural and celebratory lens, I ask myself, “Was I exaggerating the importance of the evening?”

That question demanded answers. Fortunately, “valid” scientific research was just an email away and about to be provided by a good friend.

My friend was also born in 1955, just a month before me. (He is well-known in media circles and asked that his name be withheld.)

Furthermore, he grew up clear across the country from where I was in Boston. So, for all those reasons, I was keenly interested in comparing our impressions, which I’ll do on the next page.

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Top Rated Comments   
I was 10 and it was a different time. We watched TV as a family. My dad, mom, sister and widowed grandmother , tucked neatly into a cozy suburb of Chicago's north shore.

We ate dinner together, we read three newspapers together (The Tribune, Sun Times and The American) and we watched whichever programs were in color...on the "big" TV.

My sister was sixteen and had all the albums. Our house was wired with a "hi-fi" that could pump music throughout the house and there was a grand piano in the living room. We sang all the time. I was asked to sing quite often, still sing often for friends and family members.

It was a softer time, grown harder in the November preceding and never to regain it's sepia mood.

Music was a "family" thing. Shared, like a meal for the ears. We liked all kinds of music that you could sing along with. So, it is not surprising that my parents liked the Beatles. (Although, my grandmother said..."So, hold her hand already!")


The Beatles didn't change me...but, the creeping loss of family bonding, the loss of neighborhood bonding, the "me" generation, "taking care of #1" and "telling like it is" while lying and propagandizing changed all around me.

My father would soon pass on and I was to be on my own in a world that no longer operated under the rules of honor he taught me. He was a Marine and he believed in duty, honor, country and sacrifice.

He made a son who was to be out of step with the coming decades. For that, I thank him every day. And for being there for his family for meals, for music and for guidance.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (55)
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I wasn't "impacted".

Nobody else was, either.


Many were affected.

Words matter. Eschew buzzspeak.

44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
IMPACTED: definition from Webster
"strongly affected by something"
Thanks for your comment Mark v.
Since I am interested in words AND readers comments I looked up "impacted" and now I am curious what you think about what Webster says.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't CARE what Webster currently says.

Before you look up "impacted", look up "deconstructionism".


It's called "dumbing down", and it's intentional.


44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
I paid attention to nothing and nothing mattered to me. Did like the Revolver album, which I finally bought four years after it was released....'>......
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was 9 years old when the Beatles came upon the scene. I did not like their early music at all. I could not (& still don't) understand the screaming-meemie syndrome that gripped all those ditzy girls, a variation on "falling out" in church for some, I guess.

I didn't start enjoying the Beatles until around the time of Abbey Road & the White Album, with the latter being my favorite of their output. Thought their movies were really dumb & never did see them live. I do think they will go down in history standing out as musical visionaries.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was 12 years old in February of 1964 and so I was the perfect age for Beatlemania. Their influence is more pervasive than almost anything.

Harrison was my favorite.He didn’t get the credit he deserved but I think his songs hold up very well next to Lennon and McCartney’s. “Here Comes the Sun” is such a great melody. I was at a relative’s wedding reception in 1970 and the band played “Something”. I remember that because it was the last time I saw my parents dance together. Even Frank Sinatra said “Something” was the greatest love ballad ever written.

The Beatles were the touchstone of the Baby Boom generation and every song they sang, every interview they gave, everything they did, reminds us of our youth, which is both happy and sad at the same time.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
I preferred the juggling and dog acts.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
I am sure John, Paul, George & Ringo were devastated to know that. But then later they laughed all the way to the bank!
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
There are two kinds of people. Those who love The Beatles and Flat Earthers. The screaming teenage girls were the worst part of the whole story. Fortunately, unlike all other teen phenomenons, boy bands and things that are merely hype, The Beatles didn't need them at all.
Fifty years on, a Beatles song on the radio sounds as fresh and exciting as the first time I heard it. That's classical music, by any definition. The electric guitar changed everything and no one made the electric guitar more attractive or sold more of them than The Beatles. The girls screamed but the boys played. History was made. Nothing was ever the same.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think we MISSED the Beatles on TV that time, I sure don't remember it. If I remember right, the Ed Sullivan Show was on at the same time as a show we liked better, the Wonderful World of Color, and we were watching that that night. I do remember seeing the Beatles on TV later, and I was ashamed of being a girl, when I saw all the screaming and hysteria and crying and fainting. I didn't even much care for their music, and thought that Ringo in particular was the least talented professional drummer I had ever heard, Charlie Watts or Dave Clark or even some of the boys at school could play LOTS better. And was he ever UGLY?? Yikes! And I thought the long hair and high heeled boots made them look effeminate. Then, one of them said "We're more popular than Jesus" when John Lennon's first book outsold Bibles the year it came out, and then they started treating the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a POTHEAD, like he was some kind of spiritual leader,and they turned to Eastern religion, Leftist thought,used drugs and wrote and recorded songs while high, John divorced Cynthia and married a Japanese woman LOTS older than he was, and they ENTIRELY lost me. Talented? Not particularly. I found John's gravelly voice pretty off putting. I didn't like his books, either, and the two Beatles movies were silly and stupid, I thought. The script of "HELP!" in particular was seemingly written under the influence, and I strongly disliked it. To me, that night 50 years ago on the Ed Sullivan show marked the sunset of Western civilization in many ways, it seemed so to me when I heard about it at school the next day, and it seems I was right. (I was a precocious, serious 11 year old at the time.)
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was days away from turning 13 when my friend had a slumber party so we could all watch the show together on her parent's big console TV. I was fascinated with the haircuts. My friends all thought Paul was the cutest one.

As the albums came out, I loved them all. Each different from the last, more daring.

Do they still have slumber parties where the most daring thing was making brownies at midnight and leaning out the window to smoke cigarettes?
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, the Beatles changed music for ever, which meant to this 12 year old kid growing up in the Midwest, that the Beatles changed everything forever.
Buddy Holly was dead, as was the Big Bopper; and IIRC, Elvis was in the Army, Chuck Berry was in prison, and beach/surfer/hotrod music was getting stale and boringly 'safe'.
The Beatles had a different sound that was unlike anything anyone had heard, and yet it was still rock and roll - fresh, vibrant, pulsating, rock and roll. Music was alive again. My parents hated it, which meant it had to be great.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
I confess I didn't "get" the Beatles at first. Even as a young teen I was something of a non-conformist. I don't know if it was that first or a subsequent appearance on Ed Sullivan, but I recall one evening rushing home from a social event to catch a broadcast of "The Birdman of Alcatraz". No way, I was told by my siblings; we're watching the Beatles!

I never got the "Yeah yeah yeah" or the screaming teenage girls. My first record purchase was "Paint It Black" by the Rolling Stones. Sprit's "Mechanical World" just grabbed me, and as a college freshman I was more into Jefferson Airplane. I mocked the Beatles "White" album as "The Great White Put-On", and found more to like on the Stones' "Beggars Banquet" and "Let it Bleed" albums.

I did like George Harrison's guitar work, but he wasn't in Clapton's league. And I never did take to the message of Lennon's "Imagine".
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
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