By MARK YABLONSKYIn early 1964, Americans were still dealing with the shock and grief of losing a youthful, energetic president but were beginning to grow musically as well, with groups like the Beach Boys and Peter, Paul and Mary eclipsing what was left of the country's legendary "Doo-Wop" days from 1955-62.
And then came the Beatles.Believe it or not Feb. 7 is exactly 50 years — to the very same Friday — since the Fab Four landed in America and made an impact never seen before or since, as far as music and show business are concerned. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Richard Starkey (otherwise known as Ringo Starr) landed at a major New York airport and were greeted by thousands of cheering, adoring fans, as well as many media outlets, including the New York Times and just about every television outlet in the major metropolitan area. And the Beatles had them all for lunch that day, answering questions with the wit, candor and charm they were usually known for. With group leader Lennon leading the way, everyone realized that a Supergroup had arrived. When one reporter asked Lennon what the group would do for an encore after conquering five continents, the witty group leader relied, "Conquer six."
Indeed, there is virtually no corner of the Earth not familiar with the four lads from Liverpool and their music, probably as there are very few and far between unfamiliar with the brilliant works of Mozart and Beethoven so, so long ago. Mind you, it is quite inaccurate to refer to the Beatles as the only great musical group of all time, but it is highly accurate to call them the greatest group that ever lived. Selling records and 45s at an all-time high, the Beatles not only changed musically as they grew, they helped change the 1960s even as the 1960s changed them.
Prior to the arrival of the Beatles, pop/rock'n'roll artists entered the studio and did their songs in a common way, singing and playing instrumentally at the sane time. The Beatles, however, introduced the concept of Double Tracking, in which the instumentals are recorded separately before the group then adds the vocals afterward. Prior to the Beatles, groups rarely wrote their own material, but made hits out of songs written by other budding artists, such as Carole King, Gene Pitney and John Denver, just to name a few. But not the Beatles. After doing excellent cover versions of good material on their early records, the Beatles themselves wrote their own material afterward; the Lennon-McCartney songwriting tandem wrote countless hits, including "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "Help!" Their hair styles just about ended the age of crew cuts for quite some time, and when they grew long locks in 1968, that very quickly became the style for many. In fact, it is still the style for some today.
And when the Beatles arrived in America, they blazed the "British Invasion" trail for other terrific groups, including The Dave Clark Five, the Rolling Stones, Chad and Jeremy, Herman's Hermits and Dusty Springfield, all of whom had at least one big hit record in 1964 and 1965.
Mentioning the Beatles alone, however, does an injustice to the two men most responsible for behind-the-scenes work: Brian Epstein, the group manager, who made the group more marketable by having them alter their outfits and hair styles; and George Martin, the group's legendary producer who helped enhance the group's great abilities.
Today, the group's two survivors, Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo are still musically active; indeed, both serve as true ambassadors to the greatest group of all time.
Finally, the Beatles were not immune from the kind of maladies that breaks up other groups, but the Beatles, after the loss of their manager in 1967, went out on top in April 1970 and launching their own individual careers that produced many more hits. Tragically, both John and George died too soon. But the group now belongs to the ages; indeed, so long as there is civilized, quality life on Earth, there will always be John, Paul, George and Ringo.
And so on and so on."Yeah, yeah, yeah, ye-ahh!