Category Archives: Beatles

#136 and 137 – Sunny

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#136 & 137 – Sunny by Bobby Hebb

 

Bobby Hebb

Here’s a cool story. It’s also one I don’t think is shared by too many people. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say no one has ever had the exact same experience, though there might be some journalists or music fans that can say something similar.

But not like this…

First of all, I can say Bobby Hebb was cool. He was also a nice guy. How do I know? Because I talked with him – not only once, but twice. And I have that bragging right only because he was nice. I’m sure there are some other artists that wouldn’t have been the same.

Sunny – 1966

Bobby Hebb is best known for his number one hit Sunny, that topped the charts in August 1966. I didn’t need to do any research to give you that fact because I’ve known it since… well, August 1966. But his story includes much more than just one song.

He had been in showbiz all his life, starting as a child dancer in Nashville at the age of three. How do I know that? Well… I had to research. But I also learned he played multiple instruments, performed at the Grand Ole Opry, sang backup for Bo Diddley and replaced the original Mickey in Mickey and Sylvia, the duo famous for the 1957 number one song, Love Is Strange. Through a mutual connection, I’ve also learned he would write a song every day for most of his life.

That’s quite a feat considering some of us have a hard time just getting out of bed every day.

Sunny scored on this Dream Song list twice – August 29 and September 23. Both times have been marked as recent memories, which is no surprise since it’s usually around mid-August every year when the song finds its way back onto my digital playlist.

There is a reason for that – which gets me back to telling my cool story.

I saw Bobby Hebb perform once. That would be cool enough. But to kick the coolness up a notch, I had the opportunity to talk with him about the concert – forty years later. And to raise that experience into the freezing coolness stratosphere – I talked with him about it twice.


The Classic Rocker is the author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland

For details, visit our Author Page on Amazon.com


In August 1966, Hebb was on the brightest concert stage in the world with the country’s number one hit song. But instead of being the headliner, he was an opening act for a band that hadn’t had a number one hit in two months and was winding down their career as a touring act.

In case you’re not a boomer or a pop music historian with immediate recognition of the significance of that month in that year, the act he was touring with was The Beatles.

I also didn’t need any research to know that, because I attended their concert in Cleveland on August 14th and watched Hebb, along with The Remains, The Cyrkle and The Ronettes set the stage for The Fab Four. And though we were there for the Beatles, I’ve always remembered Hebb’s performance. Especially when he did Sunny, and the crowd sang along. After all, it was the number one song at the time, and everyone seemed to know it.

So, can this story get any cooler? Well, it took forty years for that to happen, but it was worth the wait.

After talking about… actually, bragging about being at this show for decades, I decided to write a book called The Beatles In Cleveland. Besides including my memories, I put the word out on the internet to interview anyone personally involved with the tour or the Beatles. I started hearing from people and one connection would lead to another, and that would lead to another and eventually, I heard from Bobby’s manager. This was around 2006 and if you do the math, that makes it forty years since we had shared the same air in a large stadium near downtown Cleveland.

His manager said Bobby was available for an interview – if I was interested.

Are you kidding me? We set it up and I counted the days until our phone conversation.

Getting Bobby’s autograph!

When we finally talked, Bobby seemed more than happy to share his memories of the Beatles tour and anything he could recall about the Cleveland concert. He also remembered the bus ride following two shows in Detroit the evening before. While traveling along the Ohio Turnpike on the way to Cleveland, they stopped at a service plaza. That moment was very vague for him – and basically, he only remembered stopping and getting out of the bus to stretch his legs.

It wasn’t until later in my research I learned this rest stop happened in my hometown of Vermilion, Ohio. If my cousin, best friend and myself (we went to the concert together the next night) would’ve had advance notice, we could have jumped on our bikes for an annoying (on our part anyway) meet and greet in the parking lot where the Beatles smoked cigarettes and ate ice cream bars.

I’m thankful Bobby’s interview is in the book. The only problem is that it’s not the one I had planned. After a casual, informative, and fun conversation, I thanked him, and we hung up. Then I experienced every journalist and writer’s nightmare when it comes to doing important interviews.

I had forgotten to turn on my audio recorder. Yeah, it was panic time, which makes it seem this story is not as cool as promised. However, it’s about to get cooler.

I put my nerves and mental embarrassment aside and redialed his number. When Bobby answered I explained my dilemma, apologized if I was being a pain in the you-know-what and asked if he had any other plans. In other words, could we do it all again with the audio recorder turned on?

Only one person in this photo had the current #1 song!

And this is once again when he proved he was a nice guy – and very cool. Saying it was not a problem, he waited for me to hit “record” and once again took me back to the 1966 tour with the Beatles, the Cleveland concert, and his memory of a bus stop in my hometown.

On a sad note, Bobby Hebb is not with us anymore, passing away only four years later in 2010. But he’s still with us whenever you hear a new version of Sunny (there are many) or played on a classic pop-rock radio station (and there are also many of those). That’s the beauty of music, and this one carries with it the fab memories of a nice guy who was also very cool, and the excitement we were all feeling in August 1966.

Have a comment? Please use the contact form below and as always… keep rockin’!


Wish there was a video of Bobby Hebb performing Sunny in 1966 – but a great song is a great song…


Be sure to follow The Classic Rocker as we count down to the #1 Dream Song!

Keep Rockin!

Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

For information about author presentations for both books – including rare concert films – visit BeatlesProgram.com

Copyright 2021 – North Shore Publishing

#140 and 141 – California Sun

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#140 & 141 – California Sun by The Rivieras

Surfin’ all the way from Indiana!

People my age can be really annoying bragging how things were in “the good old days.” Especially when it’s aimed at generations currently living in the time they’ll look back on as their “good old days.” Based on my memories, a lot of it wasn’t all that much better and I’m happy to be dealing with things in the “current days.” If you need examples, my list includes better meds (health care), seat belts (better safe than sorry) and even better frozen foods (aluminum tray TV dinners vs. microwave meals).

The best reason I’d ever have to go back in time would be to tell the youthful me to “smarten-up!”

However, as you may have noticed, these Classic Rocker ramblings are all about going back in time. So, is the joke on me? I don’t think so because if I was forced to clarify, I’d call it what it is – reminiscing. Music brings back memories, which can be fun, enlightening or even nightmarish to recall. There’s nothing wrong with that and I enjoy doing it here (you’re welcome very much). But when all is said and done, I would rather be waking up in my own bed – today – instead of in an era before the internet, laptop computers, cell phones and streaming music.

Speaking of waking up in my own bed…

That’s how California Sun joined this Dream Song List – not once, but twice. First was on September 29th and again November 28th. I must have been dreaming about escaping to a warm Pacific coast beach during a couple chilly fall nights near the north coast of Cleveland, Ohio.

Speaking of up north…

The best-known version of this song is by the surf band, The Rivieras, who also came from up north. If you don’t believe me, look at a map. The group formed in South Bend, Indiana, which in the 1960’s had a music scene about as far from the surf as London, England.

Speaking of England…

California Sun can also be seen – if you imagine a pop music map with your mind – as a line drawn in the beach sand separating “the good old days” for people older than me and “OMG!” For boomers my age lacking benefit of Gen-X’er or Millennial hanging around the house, that translates into, “Oh my gosh!”

In other words, it signifies a great divide.

The song was released in January 1964. Boomers will immediately know what happened the month after because the music scene went through the OMG big change I referred to above and one we’re still trying to explain to younger generations. California Sun has been called the last American rock and roll hit record before The Beatles and The British Invasion.

Aging punk rockers with “good old days” that are not as far back (but close) will undoubtedly remember the version by The Ramones that was also featured in the classic 1979 movie Rock ‘n’ Roll High School. Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy may not have a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame membership for being a New York City surf band out of the clubs in lower Manhattan, but they were geographically closer to an ocean than The Rivieras in South Bend.

Surf’s Up!

But I need to stick with The Rivieras with this edition of Dream Songs since it was their record that rode a double wave onto this list. I had recently added the song to my digital playlist, inspiring me to cure my wife Disco Deb’s insomnia with the following reminiscence. So, for that reason it charts on the recently heard category rather than as a non-prescription sleep aid.

Let’s discuss the “good old days” of vinyl records…

I hate to disappoint my fellow classic rockers, but I lack the mania we once had for vinyl records. I’m not into the cracks, pops, fizzes, and other sounds that accompany the music we were meant to hear on disks dragging a stereo (or hi-fi) needle around in circles on a turn table. I’ve also had my fill of accidental scratches, needle jumps, sun warps and worn-out grooves we suffered through before 8-tracks and cassettes became state-of-the-art replacements. Imagine how psyched we were to play our songs in a moving car! Currently I’m more than happy with my digital playlists and can stay home downloading favorite tunes while collectors are out re-buying re-issued vinyl during industry-driven “record days.”

Hey wait… Don’t go broken record on me and repeat over and over that something must be warped in my boomer brain for admitting to that. We learned in the 1960’s we have choices and that’s mine. I’m a proud veteran of “the good old days” when records were the only way to hear a song other than waiting for a deejay to play it on the radio. And during that time, I was a dedicated vinyl head.

State-of-the-art sounds!

For my segment of baby boomers that were young teens or preteens, the start of The British Invasion on February 9, 1964 was ground zero for vinyl record collecting. Only a year or two before, the pop-rock music scene was missing the dangerous excitement that came from the original rock ‘n’ rollers. I mean… seriously… Pat Boone singing Tutti Frutti? But once The Beatles hit the charts and other English groups followed on their collarless jacket coattails, kids within walking distance or bike ride to a record store could scrape up enough change to buy the latest hits.

I was no different. But I had to be careful with my funds.

Being a pre-teen in a family that had a family business, having a job was a given. In fact, it was given to me when I really didn’t even want it. But the main benefit was the weekly pay envelope. With money I’d earned stuffed in my pocket and only a short bike ride to a store with a record department, I started a collection of vinyl 45 rpm singles that I had previously only been able to hear on Top 40 AM radio stations.

Now I could own these records! That was a big deal…

But not all the singles being sold in our local stores would go down as classics. In fact, many of them weren’t even played on the radio. That meant the sellers were stuck with dozens of unheard and unwanted records. So, they did what merchants have done in the decades before and since.

They came up with gimmicks.

One of these ploys was to take five random non-selling 45 rpm’s and packaging them into one “surprise” bag. You never knew what records were in the bag, but you would have five to take home for only one dollar. That was a lot of money for pre-teens in 1964 when hit singles were priced at about sixty cents, but some of us were born to gamble.

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In 1964 our town had a new outdoor shopping center, which would today be described as a strip mall. It was just a mile or two east and appeared state-of-the art when compared to the older buildings in our downtown area. It had a good variety of stores and we could ride there on our bikes.

The shopping center had a pretty good variety of stores. There were two grocery stores (A&P and Kroger), a drug store (Marshall’s) with a good-sized lunch / dinner counter that was popular in those types of stores back then. There was a men’s clothes store, a couple women’s clothes stores, and one that I’ll call a hardware store. It was Western Auto (they might still be around) and it’s where we went to buy streamers, lights, banana seats and handlebars (boomers will remember those) and stuff like batteries, flashlights and I’ll assume – though I couldn’t drive at the time – accessories for cars (autos).

One item I distinctly remember was displayed on a glass counter near the cash register. It was a pinkish-red solid body electric guitar. I have no idea what brand it was or even if it would sound good. I just knew it looked cool and I wanted it. I’ll also assume a lot of pop music influenced guys in our town did also. But I didn’t know anyone my age that could afford it. I remember getting a “No” from my mother since it was considered an expensive item at the time and I had no clue how to play it. So, every bike ride to the shopping center included a few moments spent in Western Auto paying respects to this out-of-reach, state-of-the art instrument.

Next to Western Auto was a “Five and Dime Store” called Ben Franklin’s. Again, I think there are a few still around, but probably few and far between. It seemed to have everything in stock from clothes to school items to candy to… yeah, you know what’s coming – records.

As a preteen I remember they had a decent number of records for sale. Not everything I wanted – I’d have to go shopping with my mom and dad to bigger cities for the best selection – but it was possible to find something that was fab enough to buy for about sixty cents and bring home. I also remember it being the first place I had seen photos and posters of The Beatles on sale.

Ben Franklin’s is also where I fell for the gimmick mentioned above. They had “surprise bags” on sale for a dollar and it caught my interest…

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I only fell for it a few times before I “smartened-up” and realized almost none of these records were worth listening to. In showbiz terms they were duds.

But in one of these packages was California Sun by The Rivieras. I had never heard it since American rock ‘n’ roll was practically non-existent on our transistor radios during The British Invasion. And surprise of “surprises” – it was good. With The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean already making breakthroughs over the airwaves and turning us on to the California Sound, this was ground zero (surf-breaker?) for me.

California Sun was the lone survivor from that “good old days” era and is probably (hopefully) collecting dust in a collector’s collection. Then again, I still have a few stacks of vinyl 45’s hidden away in my “secret” storage space. It could be there with the original British Invasion records I’m still proud to own but have no intention of playing again.

And there’s really no reason to when so many favorite songs are stored on my digital playlist. It’ll make it so much easier than carrying a box of vinyl if I decided – once again – to go chasing the sunshine in California.

Here’s a video looking back at “the good old days” of baby boomers digging the California Sun:

They’re out there having fun in the warm California Sun!

To purchase California Sun The Best of The Rivieras visit Amazon.com

Have a comment? I’d love to hear from you. Thanks – and keep rockin’!

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2021 – North Shore Publishing

#147 – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

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#147Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles

The Band

– It was late spring 1967 and we really didn’t know what was going down. At least not where I was living in small town northern Ohio. It had been less than a year since we saw the Beatles at Cleveland Stadium during their (what we thought at the time) annual summer tour. And while we waited for the next Beatles moment, we were being entertained by a new show on NBC called The Monkees.

Yeah, I won’t deny they were the cool thing at that moment. When the show premiered in September 1966, it seemed most of my eighth grade friends had a case of Monkeemania. But since we were first generation Beatles Fans, the novelty began running out not long after the release of their second album and hit single I’m A Believer, which was right around the Christmas holiday.

After that I had the feeling that we went into the winter months waiting to see what The Beatles would do next.

In January 1967 we were treated with the primetime television special The Beatles At Shea Stadium, which kept us in a fab mindset. But by that time the 1965 birth of stadium rock was more historical document than a current event. It was still very exciting to watch, but comparable to a greatest hits album.

We were ready for something new.

The Look

Then in February, we were finally gifted with the group’s latest guaranteed hit, Penny Lane with the flip side, Strawberry Fields Forever. All of a sudden, the pop music of The Monkees and other Top 40 hits seemed more for a younger generation.

The original Beatles fans were maturing with the group.

But the first thing we noticed from the picture sleeve for their latest single was that they looked different. The mop tops and matching suits were gone. The new look was longer hair, mustaches and colorful clothes. Then once we heard the music it was a game-changer. It was a long way from I Want To Hold Your Hand to Strawberry Fields Forever.

Then came another bombshell.

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Three of the wildest concerts in Beatles – and rock & roll – history!

The Beatles At Shea Stadium:

The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert

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The Beatles In Cleveland:

Memories, Facts & Photos About The Notorious 1964 & 1966 Concerts

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Both books available in paperback and eBook through Amazon.com

For information about Dave’s author programs visit BeatlesProgram.com

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In May 1967 I read a short newspaper article that said the Beatles would not tour that summer. In fact, they may never tour again. I learned later, as an author of two books on the group, they had made this final decision during the 1966 North American tour. But their manager Brian Epstein kept it under wraps in hopes they would change their collective minds and not put his job scheduling concert tours in jeopardy.

And if you don’t believe me, a copy of a newspaper article titled Beatles May Sing Swan Song appears in my book The Beatles In Cleveland. I cut the story out of our newspaper in May 1966 and saved it since it was ground-breaking news at the time and… well, still is.

The Album

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released in the U.S. on June 2nd. I honestly can’t say, because I honestly don’t remember, if that was the date that I actually bought the LP. Since my small town in northern Ohio wouldn’t be on any record label’s list for first-day releases in stores, as I assumed it would be in New York or Los Angeles, I’ll say it arrived for us a few days later. I just know I first heard our local record store had copies on the day of the graduation party for my eighth grade class. I phoned my pal Kevin (who had seen the Beatles with me in Cleveland), we jumped on our bikes and rode off to make our purchases.

Kevin was and still is a year older than me, which might have given him the advantage. He moved fast to the record bin and grabbed the last copy of Sgt. Pepper with the prized word “Stereo” displayed at the top of the now famous, pop culture work of art album cover. The only one left for me read “Hi-Fidelity.”

What’s the difference?

In 1967, supposedly a lot. With newer stereo technology, you could sit between the stereo speakers and hear different sounds coming at you from both sides. In Hi-Fi or mono, the same sounds come out of both speakers.

But you know what? We didn’t find out until decades later – at least as fans – that the Beatles never intended Sgt. Pepper or any of their earlier albums to be stereo. It was all “mixed” in the studio to sound great coming out of one speaker. That’s why when looking – and listening – back, early Beatles albums including Sgt. Pepper don’t sound as fab as the mono mixes. They were given “artificial stereo” technology that carried the Instruments out of one speaker and the voices out of another.

That was not the way their songs were meant to be heard.

Though I was disappointed when I bought the album in Hi-Fi, it turned out I was the winner all along. From the first time I listened, it was the way The Beatles meant for it to be heard.

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Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – the song and not the entire album – joined this Dream Song List on December 14th. Yes, I own a copy. And as a matter of historical reference, I still own the same Hi-Fi copy bought in early June 1967. Except now my listening is digitalized. And since a true Classic Rocker can’t go very long without hearing it, that’s why the opening song on the album that provided the psychedelic soundtrack to The Summer Of Love floats into the recent memory category.

But don’t let the above term psychedelic be a reference to my personal summer of 1967. As an eighth grader heading into his first year of high school in the sheltered environment of a small town, the closest any of us would come to experiencing psychedelic was when we listened to Sgt. Pepper with our eyes closed and imagining Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.

As mentioned, the album landed in my local store the same day as our eighth grade graduation party. I made it through one entire listen before my mother chased me out of the house so I wouldn’t miss the first social event of my pre high school experience. I’m pretty sure I would have stayed home long enough to hear it again, but the party was promising to be a good “boys sneak out to find girls” all-nighter that none of us could really afford to miss if we wanted to head into ninth grade with a “cool” rep.

The guys were set to camp out on a small island in the middle of a man-made lake that was in the middle of a new housing development. I don’t know where the girls were staying, but if I remember correctly, we planned to meet on a nearby golf ball driving range after it closed. I also have this vague memory of all the guys having to swim to this island with our dry clothes in plastic bags on our heads. But that might have been just what we did on a hot afternoon anyway. I’ll go ahead and assume there was a rowboat that we took to stay dry as we escaped from the island for the evening driving range rendezvous.

The summer soundtrack?

And since there were probably about two dozen of us, that rowboat was kept busy most of the night.

The last memory is of most of us still not being as cool as high school students yet. The golf ball driving range turned into a grade school playground where we ran around, found golf balls and acted like the kids we were. Eventually the girls disappeared back to where they were staying and the guys took turns rowing a small boat back to our small island where we talked, laughed and probably made rude noises in sleeping bags under the stars.

It was a great way to start a fab summer. And the soundtrack wasn’t too bad either.

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The Beatles never performed Sgt. Pepper live – but here’s what is being called the “official” video:

 

To purchase the remastered classic LP Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, visit Amazon.com

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2020 – North Shore Publishing

 

August 15, 1965 – The Beatles At Shea Stadium

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– It started earlier than you might think…

sidbernstein

Sid Bernstein

During the winter of 1963 Sid Bernstein, a New York producer and entrepreneur, decided to expand his horizons by taking a course in Political Science. The instructor said if students wanted learn about democracy they need to study Great Britain, so Bernstein trekked down to Times Square every week and bought the British newspapers.

After reading updates about the government, he turned to where his real interests were – the entertainment section. He noticed the name of a pop group called The Beatles. At first the articles were small, but each week they continued to grow in size. They also included two words about their performances that caught Bernstein’s eye:

SOLD OUT!

To his producer’s way of thinking, these were the same words that described fame-predicting appearances by Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, two of the BIGGEST names in showbiz. Since expanding his horizons could also mean taking a chance, he located the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein and booked the group – then unknown in the U.S. – for two shows in February 1964 at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Epstein Beatles

Brian Epstein and “The Boys”

When dealing with Epstein there were always stipulations. If The Beatles were not getting radio airplay in the U.S. by December 1963, the deal was off. It was a long wait, but as history tells us they made the deadline. I Want To Hold Your Hand broke the airwave barrier, they were scheduled for three February appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show – and Bernstein SOLD OUT both shows at Carnegie Hall.

Following the Beatles summer and fall 1964 tour of North America, Bernstein took another chance and scheduled them to appear in the brand new, state of the art Shea Stadium in Flushing, Queens. Again there were stipulations that included no advertising without a paid deposit, but Bernstein made a bold guarantee and backed it up by selling 55,600 seats through word of mouth. Once again…

SOLD OUT!

Nothing on this scale for a pop concert had ever been attempted before. Elvis had performed a handful of stadium shows leading up to his army induction, but the largest had been in front of 26,000 fans at The Cotton Bowl. The Beatles had to more than double that number to fill Shea Stadium.

Dressing Room

Away from the crowd

On August 15, 1965 The Beatles landed on top of a building at the neighboring New York World’s Fair and were delivered into Shea Stadium via a Wells Fargo armored truck. The dressing room was crowed with visitors including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and future kingpin business manager for Apple Corp and three of the four Beatles, Allen Klein.

If only Brian Epstein had known…

Their entire visit to New York, beginning Friday, August 13th through Tuesday, August 16th, was filmed for a Beatles In New York (not the title, but the idea) television special. Only backstage and concert footage was used for the final version.

Introduced by Ed Sullivan, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr ran to a small stage set up over second base on the baseball playing field and performed ten songs in about thirty-seven minutes. Whether anyone heard them depended on where they were seated, if they were screaming – or if they were next to someone screaming. Many of the male fans thought they sounded great. Many of the female fans don’t remember.

Shea on stage

Never before in the history of popular music…

Filmed in 35mm, the quality of the concert footage is similar to blockbuster Hollywood movies of the era. For comparison, The Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock movies were filmed in 16mm.

The resulting television special, The Beatles At Shea Stadium, was planned for holiday (Christmas) airing in December 1965. One member of the Beatles inner circle approved the version submitted by Ed Sullivan Productions, while five others didn’t. A secret recording session took place in January 1966 to correct the sound and the special wasn’t broadcast in the U.S. until a year later. By that time fans were only weeks away from the release of Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever by a mustached, psychedelic-clothes-wearing, pre-Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The film has been restored, color-corrected with both the overdubbed and original audio remastered for mono and stereo. It has yet to be released.

But on television that January evening in 1967 they were still the mop-topped Fab Four riding high on the release of their summer 1965 film, Help! And they played, sang, laughed and sweated during a hot New York August night in front of a SOLD OUT audience of 55,600 fans.

It was 50 years ago on August 15, 1965.

It was the birth of stadium rock.

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2015 – North Shore Publishing

 

February 9, 1964

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I was taken by complete surprise. Well, almost.

Jack Parr

Jack Parr

I had heard of The Beatles before February 9th only because my mom let me stay up late the night Jack Parr aired a brief clip during The Tonight Show on January 3, 1964. It had to be a Friday night and not a school night, but I’m not sure. And it wasn’t because we knew The Beatles were going to be on. Again, I had never even heard of them. We just enjoyed watching Jack Parr. For me it was his sense of smug humor (for lack of a better term). I always thought it was a bit risqué to watch his show because I was still a preteen and he was for adults. It reinforces my opinion that my mom was a little more with it than other parents who wouldn’t let their children stay up late to watch when Parr was host of The Tonight Show.

I also thank her and my dad for taking me to a Beatles concert. Again, I’ve heard too many stories from other young fans “under parental control” who were not allowed.

Other than Parr’s brief clip I have no memory of hearing anything else about The Beatles until February 9th. There was too much other “stuff” going on. I’ve been very clear about my recollections of this time in past Classic Rocker columns and my books The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. We were still dealing with a very bleak time in our country’s history following JFK’s assassination in Dallas on November 22nd. We watched the funeral and news updates on television and heard discussions at home and in school about The Cold War and The A-Bomb. Even my neighbor had a bomb shelter and as a preteen baby boomer it was obvious things had changed very quickly.

I often describe my memories during these days as being in black and white. That probably comes from remembering and still seeing reruns of newsreels and television shows from that era being broadcast in black and white. The Beverly Hillbillies, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Patty Duke Show. You know the ones I’m talking about, so no need to mention them all. All the shows were in black and white which undoubtedly affects my memories.

I didn’t even know anyone who owned a color television in February 1964 – not even my neighbor with the bomb shelter. But having a color television wouldn’t have made a difference. The Ed Sullivan Show was broadcast in black and white.

Ed Beatles 2

Rehearsal pre-fab

My dad, mom, little sister and I had been on a four day family vacation that started on Wednesday, February 5th. It was a driving trip to Washington, DC and we arrived home in the early evening of Sunday February 9th.  I had no plans to do anything except eat dinner and avoid doing any homework until the last minute. As we did just about every Sunday at 8 pm we all sat down in front of our only television (“The black and white one,” as John Lennon described A Hard Day’s Night at their legendary Shea Stadium concert about a year and a half later) to watch The Ed Sullivan Show.

Dad, mom and sis were on the couch. I sat on the floor with my back against the couch. I remember it as vividly as where I was when my fifth grade teacher announced to the class President Kennedy had been shot. There are a few dates you’ll always remember if you were alive at that time. These are two of the earliest for me.

It would be cool to say we watched because of The Beatles, but don’t remember it that way. We always watched Ed Sullivan. Like for many of us in the U.S. he was part of our television family on Sunday nights.

As the first performers, he announced The Beatles.

Beatles Ed Sullivan

A moment in time

For myself at that moment and for millions of others watching, our world immediately went from black and white to color. It was that dramatic. To use a comparison from my book The Beatles In Cleveland it was like the film The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy was swept away from a black and white Kansas and unexpectedly dropped in colorful Oz.

And The Ed Sullivan Show was broadcast in black and white!!

Beatles music has been listened to, analyzed, discussed, broken down, recreated, and even taught and studied in universities since. There’s no need for me to do that now. The influence is still felt over half a century later.

But it wasn’t just the music. They had an image unlike anyone else before them. You can talk about how shocking Madonna, Michael Jackson and Prince appeared twenty years later, or even more recently with Lady Gaga, Lil’ Wayne and Miley Cyrus. In February 1964 the Beatles’ “look” was shocking compared to what was considered “normal” at the time.

To put it into a baby boomer context based on our television viewing habits. No man in 1964 had hair like that except for Moe from The Three Stooges.

John Lennon MarriedInstead of letter sweaters and slacks, the Beatles wore business suits with tight pants, skinny ties and boots with pointy toes and high heels (Cuban heeled Beatle Boots). It was shocking! And I only learned their first names because they were flashed under their individual shots on the television screen. The music was lively and happy, the Beatles bounced in time and the girls screamed. Then it was over.

Well, not quite for me. Where we lived in northern Ohio, the dividing line between Eastern Standard Time and Central Standard Time in 1964 was drawn between Cleveland and Toledo. That meant we had two separate television markets airing shows an hour apart. At 8 pm EST I watched the Beatles live on The Ed Sullivan Show. An hour later at 8 pm CST I tuned into the Toledo CBS affiliate and watched it again. I did that for each of their three appearances that month.

Beatles Ed 2

Long haired rock’n roll

I was able to watch their U.S. debut on The Ed Sullivan Show twice that same night. It was also rerun later that year, but then I never saw it again until buying a bootleg videotape on 8th Street in Manhattan more than twenty years later. Now like many other fans, I own a legit DVD copy of The Ed Sullivan Show appearances and pretty much have every moment memorized.

The very next day it was also obvious things had changed.

On the Wednesday before, I had left school early for our drive to Washington, DC. There had been no mention of The Beatles in my classroom or anywhere that I can recall.

On Monday morning following The Ed Sullivan Show most of the girls in my fifth grade class had Beatles fan magazines hidden in their desks and their television debut was the main topic of conversation. The guys tried to act cool about it – or at least that’s my perception because we weren’t supposed to be attracted to them like the girls were. They were in love and lust. But I remember listening to their conversations and know some of the guys, me included, wanted to be like The Beatles. It seemed a lot more fun than kicking a ball around the playground.

I’m sure it was also within that first week one of the guys in my class came to school with a Beatles wig. I bought one myself and still have it. There were also a lot of Beatles trading cards, photos, magazines and other merchandize brought to school that would be considered valued collectors items today.

Beatles Bowing

From black & white to color

Of course, there was the music. By the Saturday following their debut on The Ed Sullivan Show I owned the LP Introducing The Beatles as a gift from my parents after listening to me beg for a week. The next Saturday (after more pleading) I had a copy of Meet The Beatles. Somewhere within that time frame I came up with the sixty cents (somewhere in that $$ neighborhood at that time) for the 45 rpm record I Want To Hold Your Hand b/w I Saw Her Standing There.

The floodgates were open and haven’t been closed since. It was February 9, 1964. It all changed that evening and nothing was ever the same again. Thank you to John, Paul, George and Ringo. It’s been a memorable journey to say the least.

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and the author of The Beatles In Cleveland and The Beatles At Shea Stadium

Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com at THIS LINK.