I don’t exactly recall my level of awareness of rock and roll music prior to February 9, 1964, I, the small town [Bala, Ontario, Canada] boy with access to one television channel, but I do recollect what it was by the end of that day. I couldn’t have been totally oblivious I suppose because I well aware that on that date, the Beatles were making their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show!
I remember quite vividly how my brothers and I [including my older brother Al, who was bedridden that winter with rheumatic fever] sat on our living room floor, eyes glued to the television set as Ed introduced the Fab Four, sending the theater into a frenzy! The Beatles opening number was All My Loving and they played a total of six songs, including my personal favorite at the time, I Wanna Hold Your Hand. That was all it took! A rock and roll love affair was born with a rambunctious eight year old that continues to this day! And thanks to a Christmas gift from my children, I now have this and the other three Beatles’ performances on Ed Sullivan on DVD. Awesome!
The Beatles dominated the Billboard Top 100 charts in 1964, spending a total of 18 weeks in the number one position with six different songs. I Wanna Hold Your Hand alone, spent seven weeks in the number one spot. At one point, the Beatles occupied the top five spots on the weekly chart and at year end, eight of their songs made the Top 100! Their popularity was unprecedented and I loved it!
Believe or not, it actually wasn’t an easy go for lads from Liverpool. Many years ago, I saw an interview with George Martin, famed producer of the Beatles. Martin discussed how difficult it was for them to pique the interest of Capitol Records, EMI’s U.S. label [Parlophone/EMI was their UK label]. They had sent them several songs and were turned down each time. But Martin said, “When we sent them I Wanna Hold Your Hand, we knew they couldn’t turn that down!” Capitol records near blunder was nothing compared to the epic gaffe of Decca Records, who outright turned down the Beatles in 1962! [Decca recovered somewhat when they signed The Rolling Stones a year later on the advice of Beatle, George Harrison.]
Record company blunders are not unique to Capitol or Decca. Pretty much every major rock band was turned down by one or more record companies, including Canadian rocker Randy Bachman, who was rejected by 28 different record companies trying to get a deal for Bachman Turner Overdrive … and that was after he had written American Woman and several other huge hits for The Guess Who. Duh???
I was a huge Beatles fanatic and You Can’t Do That soon became my favorite song. It was on the Long Tall Sally album, one of three hit-filled records the Beatles stormed North America with in 1964. The other two were Beatlemania and Twist and Shout. They released a fourth album later in the year called A Hard Day’s Night. They were incredibly prolific songwriters in those early days. In England, interestingly enough, where the albums were released first, Parlophone used different titles and consolidated the songs on three disks: Please Please Me, With the Beatles and A Hard Day’s Night. There were a number of reasons for the difference, but it seems that it was primarily due to the fact that at the time, most North American record albums had no more than 12 songs, whereas UK albums typically had 14 or more. The Beatles didn’t have a say in the matter, but they were so successful and they were writing so many songs, they likely weren’t too concerned.
Three other notable rock and roll bands made their first appearance in 1964: The Beach Boys, The Animals and The Dave Clark Five. The Beach Boys topped the charts for three weeks with I Get Around, while The Animals duplicated this feat with House of the Rising Sun. Of the three bands, I really liked the Dave Clark Five. Led by Dave Clark on drums and Mike Smith on lead vocals, their Beatle-like mop hair and catchy tunes, like chart topping Glad All Over, made them instantly likable and I was a big fan! It was very disappointing that their career was so short mostly due to their inability or reluctance to transition into the psychedelic era. Such are the machinations of the music business.
Actually, three other significant rock and roll acts hit the charts in 64, including Roy Orbison [Oh, Pretty Woman and Only the Lonely], the Kinks [You Really Got Me] and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, with several hits, but it would be years later before I came to appreciate their music.
People ask me why I like rock and roll music so much. My answer: I love the personalities and the stories, and I’m fascinated by the tragedies. Mostly though, it’s the music! I love the songs, the melodies, the lyrics, the guitar riffs and the drum lines, and as 1964 came to a close, with the British invasion in full swing and the Beatles sitting on top of the charts with their sixth number one song, I Feel Fine, the music was about to get even better!
To be continued ..
Have an awesomely musical day!