Today marks the 50th anniversary of the “British invasion.” That’s when the four mop-haired lads from across the pond appeared on the most popular variety TV show in America at that time, “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Music and youth culture worldwide would never be the same.
It was the iconic ‘60s — a time of change, protest and promise. America was still reeling from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy a mere five weeks before. News reports were occupied with civil rights marches and the violence surrounding them. The hit songs of the time were “End Of The World” and “Can’t Get Used To Losing You.” Those were grim times.
And then came The Beatles who were a “blast of fresh energy from overseas,” said TV critic David Bianculli, “and America was eager to embrace them.”
And did we ever. Over 73 million people viewed the show that night, the largest number ever recorded for a U.S. television program. Their song “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was a Number One single on the pop charts.
Actually it was a whole generation that adopted them and were influenced by them
The Beatles had long hair so young men grew their hair long. As popular music was starting to wane, it was the Beatles who brought serious consideration back.
It was this generation that was ripe for The Beatles fresh look on life. It was a period when the rebellious youth of the ‘60s and ‘70s felt they could change the world. They championed women’s liberation, civil rights, the sexual revolution and protested the Vietnam War.
And some would argue that these four uplifting, optimistic, charismatic four lads helped spark that feeling of invincibility. They embodied the challenge to “the Establishment.” They certainly had an effect on culture.
The moppish hairstyle became the fad as did their trim cut suits in England. Later, in the psychedelic era, they popularized paisleys and then popularized Indian-influenced fashion and music.
When they started sporting mustaches, facial hair became popular. They were trend setters. But more importantly, they emerged during our era of conflict and doubt with vivacity, cheer and recklessness.
We adopted them and even called them by their first names – John, Paul, George and Ringo.
Today, the music of The Beatles lives on not just because they were master composers but because of the effect their music had and still has on people.
“They did tend to preach a message of hope and optimism,” said author and cultural commentator Steven Stark. “It still has a strong appeal for people.”
And with a little help from my friends, we should remember, all you need is love.