Posts Tagged ‘1964’
It was Sunday, February 9th, 1964. Just eleven weeks earlier, America had been shocked and stunned by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. JFK had been a beacon of hope and inspiration for Americans, especially BabyBoomers. But Lee Harvey Oswald’s gun had silenced those hopes and created a void which needed to be filled. That void was filled by The Beatles.
Music industry veteran, Steve Meyer has vivid memories of that moment and he’s graciously allowing me to share them with you:
“We were four guys…I met Paul, I said do you wanna’ join the band, ya’ know? Then George joined, then Ringo joined…we were just a band that made it very, very big, that’s all.” — John Lennon
Yes…very big indeed, once the “Lads from Liverpool” hit our shores and nothing was ever the same.
Their first appearance on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ was watched by an estimated 74 million people that Sunday night in February 1964 making it one of the biggest events in broadcast history, and the crime rate in U.S. cities dropped dramatically during the show’s broadcast. It was indeed, as Ed Sullivan used to say, ” A really big show!”
The assault on American radio and charts was equally overwhelming. In the past few decades you’ve all read about the chart accomplishments of such mega-artists as Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Madonna, and others, but they all pale in comparison to this statistic:
For the week ending April 4, 1964 The Beatles had 11 singles on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 chart, including the first top five slots:
* #1* – Can’t Buy Me Love
* #2* – Twist and Shout
* #3* – She Loves You
* #4* – I Want To Hold Your Hand
* #5* – Please, Please Me
* #31* – I Saw Her Standing There
* #41* – From Me To You
* #46* – Do You Want To Know A Secret
* #58* – All My Loving
* #65* – You Can’t Do That
* #79* – Thank You Girl
Of course if you’re old enough to remember listening to your favorite Top-40 station back then, you remember hearing all these songs and more as the “British Invasion” started. It’s almost impossible to imagine any artist or band being able to monopolize the charts and radio in such fashion today, and I don’t think we will ever see it happen like that again. It was a different time.
Just how much The Beatles changed everything in pop culture has been the subject of many articles, books, TV specials, and now they teach courses on them in many colleges. Prior to The Beatles, Top-40 radio didn’t play album cuts from best-selling artists … not even Elvis at his height.
But when The Beatles released ‘Rubber Soul’ and made the decision there would be no single released from the album for radio or retail (much to Capitol’s dismay originally), radio programmers simply put “Michelle” on their stations along with “I’m Looking Through You,” and about four other tracks from the album. The Beatles ruled at retail and requests, so radio had to respond.
But the fact is, NOBODY had ever achieved that kind of airplay (album tracks) at Top-40 radio previously. The Beatles were the first. Of course ‘Rubber Soul’ wasn’t the only album they released without a single for radio/retail. ‘Sgt. Pepper’ (the first rock “concept” album) didn’t have a single and neither did their double-album, ‘The White Album.’ But it made no difference, they were all over Top-40 radio. Of course the release of ‘Sgt. Pepper’ (and subsequent concept albums by the Stones, Who, etc.) gave birth to the notion that the radio audience might want to hear more than just singles and great radio men in Boston, San Francisco, New York City, Chicago, and elsewhere, put FM stations on the air that played albums and “progressive radio” (the forerunner of all album radio that followed) was born.
Before The Beatles, there was no such thing as “stadium rock.” Nobody had ever played arenas or stadiums before 1964. But The Beatles sold out Shea Stadium, Candlestick Park, and other stadiums around the country in mere hours after tickets went on sale, shocking those in the press and media who predicted the shows by the group (“a fad” as they were called back then) wouldn’t sell tickets in those quantities. I was lucky enough to see them at Carnegie Hall, Forest Hills, and at both Shea concerts. The word mania doesn’t begin to describe what occurred the minute The Beatles took the stage.
Long before MTV hit the air (thirteen years to be exact), The Beatles made a TV film called ‘Magical Mystery Tour.’ Though the critics in the UK panned it for the most part, in hindsight one can watch it and realize it was merely a long-form video with five separate concept videos to support their new songs. They were years ahead of the curve in realizing how music and video could be merged for greater audience.
Another amazing fact: ‘Sgt. Pepper’ was recorded in four-track. Yup, that’s right. Four track. Listen to it today and you realize what an engineering masterpiece it is, and how many tracks had to mixed down and on top of each other to make the final recording. Many albums made today use dozens more tracks and updated technology … but sonically, Pepper remains a masterpiece.
I could go on and on … I’ve been a Beatles fan for these past 49 years. I never imagined that night I watched them on the Ed Sullivan show that within five years I’d be lucky enough to get a job working for Capitol Records selling Beatles records, and then promoting them to the very radio stations I grew up listening to. When I worked for Capitol Records in 1970 and 1971 in New York City I was fortunate enough to meet John Lennon briefly. The first time I talked to him I got “mealy mouth,” was nervous, and he asked me what was wrong. I mumbled and then said,” I … I watched you on Ed Sullivan …” And he said, “Ah…well, that was The Beatles thing and all that … I’m just John now … so tell me what kind of music do you like?” We talked until the wee hours of the morning and I walked back to my apartment on a cold December morning with my mind racing.
The Beatles created the soundtrack for our lives back in the ’60’s and each song they sang made us feel like the wait wasn’t going to be too long, and that sooner rather than later, we’d all be on our way to better lives. Maybe that’s been only partly true, but it’s what we all wanted to believe because their music made us feel such things. So we sang their songs loud, proud to claim them as “our own.” But we should’ve known they belonged to the whole world and that the world we lived in was moving away from innocence.
John was right…they were a “band that made it very, very big.”
They were all that … and a whole lot more. A helluva lot more.
The closest I ever came to meeting a Beatle was when I was about five feet away from Paul McCartney as he left the premier of his movie, “Give My Regards To Broad Street”. We had eye contact for a few seconds. He didn’t look happy.
I also had the chance to hang out one night with John Lennon’s son, Julian. Unfortunately, I blew it. The realization that I was actually spending time with a Beatles’ son left me tongue-tied. While I should have been having a pleasant conversation focused on him, his opinions and aspirations, I was too busy second-guessing myself so that I wouldn’t come across like a dim-witted fan. Too bad. Turned out that Julian’s a pretty nice, down-to-earth guy.
Stephen Meyer is a music industry veteran who has served in executive positions for several music labels including as National Promotion Director for Capitol Records from 1976-1983. You can subscribe to his weekly music industry newsletter at http://stevemeyer.webs.com/
In this book, Robert Caro picks up Lyndon Baines Johnson’s where he left off in Master of Senate. LBJ was nothing if not a complex person. Victim/bully/ champion of human rights/manipulative politician/devoted family man/adulterer.
Having grown up in predominantly Irish Catholic Southern New England during the 1960s, I was enamored with President Kennedy. Unofficially, he was sanctified by the majority of New Englanders that I knew. So, it’s disappointing to learn how the Kennedys and their colleagues treated Johnson. The Kennedys ridiculed and humiliated the man.
Bobby comes across as mean-spirited, self-centered, and a bit of a jerk. I hadn’t realized that Bobby had been a staffer for Senator Joe McCarthy. And there’s a scene where Bobby mocks then-Vice President Johnson at a dinner party by sticking pins in a Johnson voodoo doll. And Johnson, who was insecure in his VP role to begin with, feared that Bobby would thwart his ambitions to be the Democratic party’s presidential candidate in 1964 and 1968.
Early in this book, Caro reveals some behind the scenes details about the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Being a teenager who grew up in post-World War II America, I presumed that we had the situation under control and that everything would turn out alright. Apparently, we were a lot closer to nuclear war and annihilation than I thought we were. Fortunately, we lucked out.
The dominant theme for most of Caro’s book is the frustration that Lyndon Johnson felt during his time as JFK’s vice-president. Another VP, who was marginalized by FDR’s charisma, John Nance Garner described the office as “not worth a bucket of warm spit”. There’s little doubt that LBJ, who enjoyed using his power as Master of the Senate, agreed with that description of the vice-presidency.
The story in “The Passage Of Power” is far from boring. As the Washington Post’s reviewer writes: “In Caro’s account, LBJ comes across by turns as insecure, canny, bighearted, self-defeating, petty, brilliant, cruel and …domineering.” “Caro infuses his pages with suspense, pathos, bitter rivalry and historic import.”
The book contains interesting behind-the-scenes details about JFK’s selection of Johnson to be his running mate and about RFK’s efforts to thwart that decision. There’s also the story about how, after being denied the presidential candidacy and being offered the VP position, LBJ has staff members research how many presidents had died in office and, doing the math, calculates that the odds are in his favor that he might gain the presidency under those circumstances. Although Caro’s book cites authorities which make it clear that Johnson had no involvement in the JFK assassination, I have little doubt that the revelation of that particular anecdote is sure to fan the flames for conspiracy theorists.
For those of us who live through it, the story of the hours and days immediately following the events of November 22nd, 1963 are the most riveting part of this book. Being the personality type who becomes calmer and more focused during times of crisis, I could relate to Johnson’s reactions during those chaotic hours at the hospital immediately following the assassination. Witnesses marvel at how calm and in control he seemed. We also learn the reactions of Bobby and the Kennedy staff who despised Johnson and their unfavorable interpretations of his behavior. One gets the sense that, even when LBJ was trying his best to be sensitive the Kennedy group’s situation, he just couldn’t win. And, of course, the fact that the assassination occurred in LBJ’s beloved Texas didn’t help the situation.
In Bill Clinton’s review of Caro’s book, he marvels at LBJ’s political skill and talks about how, after Johnson assumed the presidency, he determined to get JFK’s Civil Rights bill passed by Congress despite the strong opposition of his fellow Southern Democrats. LBJ was advised to avoid squandering the political capital he’d gained as a result of the assassination on a cause that seemed hopeless. But Johnson’s response was: “Well, what the hell’s the presidency for?”
Clinton says that that’s the question that every president has to ask and to answer. To LBJ, during the final weeks of 1963, “presidency was for two things: passing a civil rights bill with teeth…and launching the War on Poverty.” It’s LBJ’s knowledge, skill and expertise in schmoozing, bullying, and cajoling Congress which gets the legislation passed by the House and the Senate. One gets the sense that, had John Kennedy lived, his administration wouldn’t have been able to achieve those results. It’s an interesting hypothesis and, of course, an answer which we’ll never know.
One thing that struck me while listening to this audio book is the comparison of how different things were back then when a president and congressional majority leader could use their powers to withhold perks and powerful positions in order to control Congress and get legislation passed. Today, when Tea Party candidates aren’t interested in becoming “professional politicians” and are determined to undermine the legislative system, those tactics can no longer work. So, I’m amused when I hear pundits criticizing our modern day president for not being able to control Congress under these circumstances. One only has to look at John Boehner’s frustration at trying to control his GOP colleagues in the House to understand the dilemmas of American political leadership in the 21st century.
“The Passage Of Power” ends as LBJ is deciding how the USA will proceed with its military efforts in Vietnam. His decisions about that war along with those of his successor, Richard Nixon were factors in creating the divisions between the Babyboomers and their parents’ generation and what Jimmy Carter described as our national “malaise” in the 1970s. As I finished this book, the thought struck me that the erosion of our attitude towards the presidency had its roots in Lyndon Johnson’s administration.
I’m creating this blog to help those of us born between 1946 and 1964 to cope with the rapid changes that are happening all around us. Remember at the end of the last century when a big question was what we were going to do with all of our spare time? I don’t know about you but even though I left my last “official” job over two years ago, I don’t find that I have a lot of spare time.
One of the challenges I’ve encountered is that I don’t have a college degree. When I was 13, I decided that I wanted to be in the radio business. During my sophomore year at Northeastern University in Boston, I was offered a job in broadcasting and I was learning so much and having so much fun that I left school and pursued my career. Over the next 40 years, I had a successful communications management career in places like Providence, Albany, Washington, DC, Pittsburgh, Chicago and New York working for companies like NBC, SFX, AM/FM and MTV Networks.
Despite not having a college degree, I was also invited to teach a communications course at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, served as a faculty advisor at Siena College and was certified by the New York State Education Department as a licensed private school teacher. Nevertheless, I’m finding many organizations refusing to even consider me for employment because I don’t have a college degree. I’ve also noticed that many of the online job application forms that HR departments are using to screen candidates no longer include “Some college” as an option.
Have you encountered this problem? Have you figured out a way to deal with it?
Tell me about it.