The change came dramatically. We were watching the Ed Sullivan Show on television. After the show's introduction came… The Beatles.
First they sang "All My Loving" followed by "Til There Was You." I loved it but was amazed by what I felt inside when they concluded their first set with "She Loves You." It only got better for me. The second set (only two songs) set my little brain and heart on fire with "I Saw Her Standing There." "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was the final song of the night.
Immediately after The Beatles were gone and the show concluded, I went to the bathroom and began washing all of the Odell Hair Trainer out of my hair and I tried pulling the hair down over my ears. Oh yeah, I was changed.
Of course, my grandfather did not like the Beatles, at all. Their hair was too long, he said. What is hilarious now is that it was not that long! At least, not compared to the way John and George would look on the Abbey Road album cover. My grandmother later said that their pants were too tight. I didn’t know what that meant.
My older cousins were way ahead of me and one cousin in particular was a drummer. It wasn’t long before he and some other guys had formed a band. All of this meant that he was listening to everything that came out. So many records and he let me listen to all of them. His younger sister was only slightly older than me and we explored all that music together.
There was the Dave Clark Five, Paul Revere and the Raiders and, of course, the Rolling Stones but I was never a Stones fanatic. I went the Beatles’ way because in those days you chose: the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. They were different styles, to be sure, but they were different people with different philosophies.
No, for me it was John Lennon and all we needed was love.
I can honestly say that I grew up listening to the Beatles. When they first appeared on the Sullivan show, I was only 5 ½ years old. I was seven when Rubber Soul was released and eight when Revolver was issued. And I was digging it all. When Let It Be was released in 1970, I was 12 years old. My musical foundation was intact by that time and the cornerstone was The Beatles.
On Revolver, however, there was a song that haunted me then and now. The song was Eleanor Rigby. The feeling of loneliness and depression was almost overwhelming for me. It was the first song to change my life, even at such a very young age. This is how much I was involved with music! Even at eight years old, I was listening to music so much that I was shaped and transformed by what I was hearing on the record player or on the radio. The power and pull of music is undeniable in my life.
I was nine when I first heard Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I was too young to understand what the album was about. The previous material was all so catchy and uplifting to a young heart but this album was beyond me at the time and it made me sad. What had started with Eleanor Rigby only grew with Sgt. Pepper’s. I have since heard that Brian Wilson (of the Beach Boys) who had suffered a nervous breakdown had done so after “Sgt. Pepper’s broke his heart.” I did not suffer a nervous collapse but the Beatles were now different and I was different, even at nine years of age. I would not understand why for many years.
During that same year I began my instruction in piano and music. I was now learning the craft that would allow me to play that music for myself. So my musical interest was not limited to the singability of the tune or the impact of the lyrics, but now the music itself became of great interest. Sgt. Pepper’s was great for studying music. I once heard a Harvard music historian say that this album brought rock music into the world of art. It was the music that allowed me to rediscover the joy of the Beatles.
One thing about these two albums (Revolver and Sgt Pepper’s) in particular was the universal and immediate effect it had in the world of rock and roll music. That same time period saw the release of Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow, Jimi Hendrix’ Are You Experienced?, The Grateful Dead’s self-titled first album and Pink Floyd’s Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Also in that timeframe were the debuts of The Left Banke and The Strawberry Alarm Clock. Psychedelic was in and I was taken in with it.
I remember listening to Astronomy Domine by Pink Floyd. I was creeped-out and thrilled at the same time! I wanted to know more about music and piano lessons was my way of getting there.
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