“What are your favorite musicians, bands or albums?”
“A Hard Day's Night,” the first film featuring The Beatles, came out in August 1964, the year I graduated from high school. Was already a fan of the Fab Four by then: John, Paul, George, Ringo. Had seen them on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in February of that year. Saw a black-and-white film clip of them on “The Tonight Show” with Jack Paar the month before.
Saw them. Heard them. Experienced them. Something clicked. What? Not exactly sure. They were hip, relevant, young, energetic, photogenic, and fun. With great music. A recipe for success. The right recipe for the times.
The Beatles were part of what was called “The British Invasion,” a cultural seismic event that erupted in the UK and spread to America. Other musical groups from the land of the Queen (and, later, Queen) followed, including Herman’s Hermits, the Dave Clark Five, Kinks, Rolling Stones, Animals, and The Who.
That was just the beginning.
In a way, the invasion was an amplified, electrified, and electrifying echo in response to what America had sent out with Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, and the Everly Brothers.
We soaked it all in like a cheap sponge on a kitchen table.
I remember sitting on the ground in the rain at a drive-in theater near my college in Shippensburg, PA, with one of those heavy, football-sized, Art Deco speakers pressed against each ear to better hear the music.
Ended up getting pneumonia—but it was worth it.
On a related note:
In high school I played in a little band called the HI-FIs—as in “High Fidelity.” Gary Berkey (my almost-cousin) played lead guitar, Artie Yarzumbeck was on drums, I played bass. (There was another guitar player, but I can’t remember his name.)
We did mostly instrumental songs like “Walk, Don’t Run,” “Apache,” “Pipeline,” “Caravan” and “Sleepwalk.” We didn’t get many invites to perform—though we played for our classmates at an after-graduation party, probably because we did it for free.
No matter. It was fun.
The HI-FIs never really took off, though we did come in second at a Battle of the Bands contest. The musical group that won was talented, slick, and wore tailored Neru-style jackets, similar to the look The Beatles sported early in their career. Us? We couldn’t afford suits—or anything else that matched. But we did bring raw energy to the stage.
Didn’t matter. They won.
Anyway, I still play Beatles songs occasionally, mostly the early stuff—back when we were all young and innocent and idealistic. Before JFK got shot. And MLK got shot. And RFK got shot. Malcom X, too.
Whenever playing “I Feel Fine” or “Help!” or “Hard Days Night,” I feel young again. Like I’m sitting in the rain. With my eardrums pounding. Heart keeping beat. Lost in musical notes and raindrops. With a whole life still in front of me.
Then, “Poof!” it’s gone.
Those were they days, my friend. Those were the days…