Category Archives: pop music

#153 – Heart of Glass

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#153 – Heart of Glass by Blondie

Blondie

– I’ll go ahead and claim to have developed at least some semblance of New York City street smarts by the time we closed out the 1970’s. That’s a brave statement considering I’d only lived in the city for a couple years. It was basically the result of a make-it-or-get-out survival technique learned from moving to the city while it was stuck in the seediest era of its modern history. With lots of time riding the subways and a job at Broadway theaters that included making night deposits of large sums of money in the seediest of all the seedy neighborhoods, Times Square, I picked up a defense mechanism that native city dwellers are born with:

Keep my eyes open and my senses on alert.

I was never near being as street as the punks and new wave rockers that hung around the seedy clubs in The Bowery and Manhattan’s Lower East Side. For one reason, that scene never appealed to me. I can understand later generations glossing it over as 1970’s urban poverty rock and roll chic thanks to the great music that came out of clubs like CBGB and The Great Gildersleeves. But I was more inclined to hang around neighborhoods where I didn’t have to pay too close attention to anyone walking behind me when I went out to buy a newspaper or cup of coffee.

There was no way I would fit in with that scene’s hard core street smart society.

Debbie Harry

By the time I arrived, the bands that had made it out of the Bowery clubs were a bit older and had moved onto bigger stages. That would include The Ramones, Talking Heads and Blondie, just to mention the upper tier of famous. What was left behind seemed to be mostly teenagers and early twenty-something wannabe’s who gravitated to what was still a seedy neighborhood after the now-gone rockers had given it some notoriety.

Is that where Heart of Glass takes me for this episode of The Classic Rocker?

To be honest, not really. As mentioned, I wasn’t part of the downtown scene where Blondie and the others had paid their dues. But it didn’t mean I wasn’t aware of what was going on.

I had heard of Blondie by the time the song came out in the winter of 1979. Anyone with an interest in pop music living in Manhattan would have to. But I don’t remember the song or band being anything close to ground-breaking or the new thing everyone always seemed to be waiting for. Heart of Glass was just one of many catchy songs getting a lot of play on the radio and in clubs where we would hang out.

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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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But it wasn’t ground-breaking or a new thing to rock my subconscious when I woke up with it in my head on October 26th. It was on my digital playlist and I had just heard it before heading off to my mind’s Club Dreamland. So with a flair of street smarts, I’ll shove it into the recent memory category.

Not too seedy for me

Even though I don’t recall anything specific when listening to Blondie’s Heart of Glass, it inspires me to dredge up images of the other New York City club scenes we hit while this song was riding the music charts. I never ventured inside CBGB, though I did rock to a few bands in the neighboring Great Gildersleeves. For the most part, the places we hit didn’t need an extreme teenaged punk attitude or dangerous look to fit in. But a sense of street smarts didn’t hurt.

I’ll name-drop a few.

Studio 54 was still a hot spot for the disco-scene wannabe’s, even though it was on its last legs the couple of times I went there. I don’t remember having any problems getting by the legendary velvet rope doorman, but once inside my interest was mainly just to look around, have a couple drinks and dance to a couple songs.

It was also cool to have some bragging rights just to say I had been there (and done that). And that’s what I just did (thanks for reading and being so impressed – ha!).

Next…

Doesn’t look like a Sunday night

My pals and I also hit Max’s Kansas City on (usually) Sunday nights. It was considered an “off night” based on crowds that packed the place on Fridays and Saturdays, and we could always get a seat at the bar. For a Blondie connection, Debbie Harry used to be a server at Max’s. But she had left for the music charts by the time we rolled in.

The third club I’m reminded of from this era was another legend, The Mudd Club which was located on White Street in Lower Manhattan. Since the TriBeCa district was a long haul for my gang of non-punks who were centered in Midtown Manhattan near Gramercy Park and Union Square, we only sprung for the taxi fare when it was a planned destination.

And since the venue was earning a major destination reputation for the rock and new wave scene in 1979, we made the field trip a couple of times just to say – once again – we had been there (and done that).

In case you’re not familiar with The Mudd Club and its reputation, check out the Talking Heads song, Life During Wartime.

“This ain’t no Mudd Club, or CBGB, I ain’t got time for that now.”

So yeah, I’m talking about THAT Mudd Club. And I have time for that right now…

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Our first visit was almost a major disappointment. After my then-girlfriend and two buddies got out of our cab on a dark White Street sometime after midnight, we saw the line to get in stretched around the block. There was also a velvet rope type of atmosphere with a large bouncer not letting anyone in until he felt like it.

At least that’s what it seemed like. It also seemed like he was not going to feel like letting us in.

The Mudd Club

Since my girlfriend wasn’t the type to stand in line and had born-in-her street smarts as a native New Yorker, she led the charge to find an alternative entrance. While sneaking through an alley behind the club, we spotted a door. We thought it could be a back door to The Mudd Club, but there was no way… And if it was, there was no way it would be unlocked…

And… surprise! It was.

One of us pulled the door open and walked into a dark room just behind the bar. We peeked around a corner and saw we weren’t far from the dance floor, so an on-the-spot plan was made to dance our way into the club. The goal was that we would easily blend in since it was crowded and the music was loud.

And… surprise! It worked.

We stayed in The Mudd Club for at least an hour, but it didn’t live up to our heightened expectations. Instead of the celebrity rockers featured on Page Six of The New York Post as they pretended to hide from the paparazzi (while paying publicists to make sure they were seen, photographed and featured) it didn’t seem any different than any other rock club. The best entertainment factor was all the girls looking like Debbie Harry and guys looking like Keith Richards.

My main memory is The Mudd Club looked like a sea of bleached or black dyed hair and black leather jackets. So, it really wasn’t our scene.

But… surprise! We tried it again.

Only this time we didn’t have an easy access pass…

After another cab ride we used our street smarts to bypass the line outside and headed down the familiar alley to our secret back door entrance. With my girlfriend acting like she had the cool of Debbie Harry and me assuming an attitude not even close to the cool of Keith Richards, we opened the door.

It was dark and loud, but not enough to miss seeing what was standing in front of us.

One of the Keith’s?!

Obviously, the back door entrance was not a secret anymore and we were face to face with a large bouncer. His job – also obviously – was to deter street smart deprived wannabe’s like us from skipping the line and paying a high cover charge to enter a club where you might actually see the real Debbie or Keith blending in with the wannabe Debbie’s and Keith’s.

Our not-so-friendly bouncer’s appearance certainly opened my eyes and heightened my senses – thus raising my New York street smarts aptitude.

Since I’m not afraid to exaggerate certain situations, let’s just say the bouncer was twice my size, had arms bigger than my legs and I saw flames coming out of his nostrils. He also sounded very punk rock-ish when he emphasized the “F-Bomb” when asking us, “Where the f**** do you think you’re going?

And… surprise! That was the end of our conversation and final destination journey to The Mudd Club.

Heart of Glass? Maybe the song was playing at the club that night, but I would’ve never heard it since my concentration was on getting us a cab and back to our less-seedy neighborhood. But even if I’d had enough street smarts to get past the back door bouncer and into The Mudd Club and Debbie Harry was actually hanging out avoiding the paparazzi, it’s doubtful I could’ve picked her out from the sea of bleached hair hanging out with the sea of Keiths.

Here’s the “official” video of Blondie performing Heart of Glass

 

 

To purchase Blondie Greatest Hits with Heart of Glass 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 2019 – North Shore Publishing

 

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#154 – When Doves Cry

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#154 – When Doves Cry by Prince

Prince

– When the film Purple Rain came out in 1984, Prince kicked up his popularity a major notch by adding a Movie Star credit to his resume. With the soundtrack single When Doves Cry hitting the top of the music charts and the video in high rotation on MTV, it would be easy to make a case that Prince ruled the music scene.

I was living in New York City and had heard of Prince a few years earlier when a musician pal of mine saw his first-ever (I’m assuming) NYC show in a small venue near the East Village. My friend’s after show review raved about his music and performance, while not sparing any descriptive shock value about Prince hitting the stage wearing women’s stockings, garters and high-heels.

He sounded like a combination of Jimi Hendrix and The New York Dolls.

Purple Rain was a huge hit in NYC – even outside of the East Village. But for some reason, possibly to avoid the long lines and crowded theaters, my girlfriend (at the time) and I never made an effort to see it.

In the theater anyway…

When you live in NYC things just seem to happen. Of course, I have tons of stories that I can refer to as life adventures to back up that boast, but not all of them could be called legit.

What do I mean by that?

Reigning Purple

I consider myself to be a pretty honest guy. Okay, I’ll admit to some minor discretions over the years, but nothing too crazy. In fact, I can’t even think of anything at the moment that can be called really bad, other than having a fake ID to buy beer when I was underage. Oh wait… There was a situation when two girls I was dating at the same time sat next to each other in the NYC restaurant I was managing and started comparing notes about their “boyfriend.”

That wasn’t a fun life adventure – and that’s a legit statement.

As mentioned, my girlfriend (and the only one at the time – I swear) and I didn’t make it to a theater to see Purple Rain when it came out in July 1984. But we still saw it that summer. It just so happened the head chef in the restaurant where I had played the failed version of The Dating Game loaned us a videotape of the film.

I know ignorance of the law is no excuse, but we didn’t think there was anything non-legit about watching a VHS tape of a movie WHILE the movie was still in theaters. Maybe that fact should’ve set off an alarm, but it failed to ring in either of our heads as we settled on the couch in our apartment to watch Purple Rain – even while fans were still lining up outside first-run theaters to view the same flick.

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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

+

The Beatles In Cleveland:

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

*

Both books available in paperback and eBook through Amazon.com

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

————————————————————————

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until part way through the film someone stood up. What made it noticeable was that this action didn’t occur as a scene featuring Prince or any other cast members within the movie. Instead, it was someone in a theater getting out of his seat, moving to the end of a row and walking up an aisle until he disappeared from our television screen.

In other words, we were watching a bootlegged version of Purple Rain that some crook had filmed with a handheld camera from the back of a movie theater. It was copied onto VHS tapes and hustled on the streets of New York City, along with other first run films. This was a common practice for bootleggers and money-grabbers that we saw all the time, but never considered buying anything from them.

Obviously, our restaurant chef felt differently. He soon learned a lesson in NYC street smarts

Flying Doves

But first, When Doves Cry became morning smarts by joining this Dream Song list on October 24th. As a huge Prince fan, it’s a no-brainer to confess I own a copy and had just heard it – which makes it a legit member of the recent memory category.

Sometime after Purple Rain had finished its theater run and probably just getting ready to come out on legit VHS tapes, I was working behind the bar of the same NYC restaurant while the same bootleg-loaning chef and his crew closed the kitchen. It was around one o’clock in the morning and though we were done feeding our patrons, the drinks could flow – legitimately – for another three hours.

As usual, a few of my buddies were hanging around trying to scam me into giving them free drinks and we all yelled “Goodnight” to the kitchen gang as they walked out the front door and headed down Third Avenue.

About twenty minutes later the chef came back into the restaurant. He was out of breath from walking fast and carrying a big box advertising a video camcorder inside.

This was a large and expensive piece of equipment in the 1984 VHS era and we all knew it. In fact, I don’t remember anyone in our tight group of friends actually having enough money to afford a video camera – especially the pals that couldn’t scam me for free drinks.

And speaking of scams…

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Our on-the-street-shopping, bootleg-buying chef also knew this was a high priced item and was all excited to brag about buying it only a couple blocks away for the cheap, under-the-table price of $50 in cash. He placed the box on top of the bar, ran back to the kitchen for a knife to cut away the plastic wrapping and told us about the guys selling these “hot” cameras from the trunk of a car. He knew there was nothing legit about the transaction but didn’t seem to care since he was now the proud owner of a camcorder he couldn’t wait to unpack and show us.

The first clue something was wrong happened almost immediately.

Once he cut through the plastic, images of the valuable camcorder that should have been part of the packaging fell off with the wrapping, leaving a plain, brown cardboard box. I can still hear his gasp and the half-laughs from my buddies around the bar watching this major unveiling. He ripped through tape sealing the top of the box, pulled out a pile of crumbled-up newspapers, reached in and pulled out…

Another brick in the wall

A brick.

Yeah, just like you would use to build a house or a brick driveway. Cursing, he ran out of the restaurant to “get these guys,” but as can be predicted, they were long gone – with his fifty bucks – and probably in search of more customers with not-so-street smarts.

Okay, to be honest (legit) I don’t remember When Doves Cry being a soundtrack for this particular life (learning) adventure. But when I think of the song, I think of the movie. And when I think of the movie, I think of the bootleg film. And when I think of the bootleg film, I think of the chef. And when I think of the chef…

Well actually, I don’t need to think of the chef. I can pretty much look at any brick house and be reminded of my own street smarts. Never buy unless it’s legit.

Have a comment? Please use the form below.

Thanks for reading – and keep rockin’!

Here’s the video of When Doves Fly that should remind Prince fans when MTV was truly Music Television.

 

 

To purchase the Purple Rain soundtrack with When Doves Fly 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 2019 – North Shore Publishing

 

#160 – Those Were The Days

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#160 – Those Were The Days by Mary Hopkin

 – Take an old Russian folk song, rewritten English lyrics, a talent show winner and a Beatle and you come up with a 1968 hit record. That was the formula for one of the earliest releases by Apple Records that hit number one in England. In the States it was kept from the top spot by another early Apple release, Hey Jude by the same Beatle and his three business partners.

Working off trivia memory that I must have read somewhere, Paul McCartney heard this song performed in a London club by Gene Raskin, an American folksinger. Raskin is the guy that wrote the English lyrics, which is information I can’t claim to have in my memory bank. He’s given songwriter credit on the record.

One Beatle and Mary

McCartney liked the song, but never had any intention for the Beatles to record it. Those Were The Days was so very different than anything else on the pop charts that he needed someone very different to record it. When Mary Hopkin won the televised British talent show Opportunity Knocks, he found the voice. Taking a break from recording The Beatles (The White Album) he took her into EMI Studios and produced this very different sounding song.

It was also a very different way to wake up on September 21st with Mary Hopkin’s voice singing this song in my mind. It’s not one you hear… well, at all on Classic Rock Radio. And since I don’t own a copy and haven’t heard it in… well, it seems like forever, it goes in the subliminal category of Dream Songs.

But I did own a copy at one time. It’s a very catchy tune and after hearing it on Top 40 AM Radio late that summer, I bought the 45 rpm single. But it wasn’t the type of song my friends and I would play at parties because it wasn’t exactly uplifting. It wasn’t the vinyl you’d put on a turntable to get everyone up to dance.

But speaking of parties…

My best friend and I were fifteen years old and had summer jobs at my family’s bakery when this song was climbing the charts. We lived in a tourist town on the shores of Lake Erie and though we started work early in the morning, we’d usually be finished around noon. That gave us plenty of daytime to hang out at the beach or ride our bikes around town looking for adventures. And since fifteen year old guys don’t need a lot of rest, we’d stay up most of the nighttime supposedly sleeping outside in one of our backyards (both with and without a tent), which was actually an excuse to have no parental supervision. That meant we could also ride our bikes around town all night looking for more adventures.

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We were pretty much inseparable and kept ourselves – and our circle of friends – very entertained.

I’ll go ahead and say Kevin and I were ringleaders of fun because we always had ideas and something going on. One of our objectives was to have parties so we could hang out with the cool girls in our class. But we didn’t want to throw a party like everyone else. We had to make it seem like an event, which meant we would have a theme.

Our most popular was a movie premier.

If you wanted to see a movie in 1968 you either went to the local theater or watched television. There were no video rentals, we had never even heard of Beta, VHS or the very futuristic DVDs, cable, internet or streaming services. Of course that lack of technology wouldn’t stop this great theme idea. We just had to make our own to make it happen.

Something like this!

Kevin’s family had a home movie camera (we’re talking about using a reel of film) so we became producers, writers, actors and directors. Kevin and I were cast as the stars (hey, it was our movie) and if we needed villains for any scenes, we’d use his younger brother and best friend. We’d pick on them anyway, so the only difference would be filming it.

We’d create short scenes of craziness and comedy bits, separated by brief psychedelic light shows. This visual effect was accomplished by holding the camera lens directly on different colored light bulbs for a few seconds each, resulting in changing color bursts when we projected it on a screen, signaling the end of one bit and the beginning of the next.

We had no editing capabilities, so whatever we shot would be in the movie. There was also no sound with 1968 home movie cameras (at least not on the one we had), so like silent movies we had to write out any important dialogue on poster boards and hold it up in front of the lens. It’s no wonder our sight gags (silent) worked the best.

Much of this is lost to memory, but one bit is worthy of being stuck in my mind.

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The scene opened with me sitting at an empty kitchen table. I’d rub my stomach acting like I was hungry, act like I had a great idea and snap my fingers. Kevin would stop the film and I’d stay motionless as he put an empty dinner plate in front of me. He’d start the film and just like in the television show Bewitched, it looked like I had magically made the plate appear. We continued with the routine until I had silverware, a napkin, lit candles, a wine glass and then the glass filled (but not with wine). In what should have been my final finger snap conjuring up a delicious meal, an old shoe appeared on the dinner plate.

But wait – that wasn’t the end of the bit. Acting disgusted, I snapped my fingers again. Then, like magic, I disappeared and Kevin was sitting in my chair at the table with a sandwich on the plate. Acting happy, he reached for the wine class (not with real wine) and took a sip.

Laughter and applause from our audience, a psychedelic light show on the screen – and then onto the next scene.

Samantha Stevens

As the scene’s featured thespian my emotions had to run from hungry, to surprise, to almost elated and at the end, disappointment. Too bad we never came up with an awards ceremony theme to our parties because I would’ve been a shoe-in (pun intended – thank you).

The final films were about ten minutes long. But just so our invited guests (especially the cool girls) didn’t have to watch a completely silent movie, we’d also record a soundtrack playing various instruments (we had some talent) onto my reel-to-reel tape recorder. We’d do our best to sync the sound and film when we’d hit “play” on both at the same time.

Together we were also a good promotional team and built up the anticipation for these premiers that would happen at one of our houses. And since we also had a good group of friends these were successful parties. There were always enough laughs for us to show the latest film a few times, then play the latest records, dance, laugh some more and talk up the cool girls. And if our star power was bright enough (like a psychedelic light show) the evening might end with a kiss, or two… or three.

So, would I say those were the days? Yeah, they really were fun.

But even though I enjoy reminiscing as The Classic Rocker, and Mary Hopkin with Those Were The Days stirred up memories of my cinematic career as a fifteen year old child actor (where was The Disney Channel when I was looking for a job?) I don’t think I’d ever want to go back. Just like each song on this countdown serves as a reminder, I think there are plenty of adventures, laughs – and even a little magic – down the long and winding road ahead. I’m still finding ways to entertain myself. Yesterday was cool, but you never know – tomorrow might be even cooler.

I just wish there was a psychedelic light show I could use to signal my next bit. Why? Because it would look very cool projected on a screen before my entrance into the new scene.

Have a comment?

Please use the form below – and keep rockin’!

Here’s a video from 1968 (with production quality a lot better than mine!) of Mary Hopkin performing Those Were The Days.

 

To purchase Come and Get It: The Best of Apple Records with Those Were The Days and Mary’s follow up hit Goodbye (written by Paul McCartney) 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 2019 – 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.