In the winter of 1964, I was not even three years old. Consequently, I do not remember if I watched the Beatles or not when they came to New York to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. What I do remember, however, is wiggling and jiggling, running around the house, and jumping on my parent’s bed with my sister to the songs “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and “She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.”
I think it went on all spring and summer. Because the songs would repeat, I remember them. Who played them? Thus I get to a place in my mind that is, I think, a cross-over between the imagination and conscious memory. I see a little 45. The Fab Four are painted on the record’s sleeve. I vaguely remember bothering my mother to put it on the Hi-Fi, which she would do, only to be asked to play it again and again. When she left the living room, I had to have it. I put my finger in its hole, I bent it, and felt its grooves. In no time, it got cracked. It was thrown away.
The 45 seems like something my father would have brought home. In the winter of 1964 people would still be reeling from the Kennedy assassination; but it also seems that by February people would be tired of being depressed, so they’d find something to be happy about, even if only on a superficial level. So I picture my dad driving down Indianapolis Boulevard on his way home from work. He’s in a Ford Falcon. He wears a fedora and smokes a cigarette. He is sick of the news droning on and on about the findings of the Warren Commissions, not to mention the Johnson Administration cabinet changes. And what about Vietnam? So he flips the radio dial. The Beatles come on. But it is not the first time he’s heard the song; it is probably something like the twenty-first time. He likes it; he thinks they are funny. So he pulls over to pick up the record.
I do not know that this had happened; but when one is three, the parents decide what is heard and watched, so they must have been the ones to let the Beatles in the house. And from the corners of my mind I see the 45 in my little hands, which needed to test its tensile strength so they bent it until it broke. Then it got thrown away. I hoped it would be replaced, but it never was. While a part of them may have wanted to, my parents had a responsibility on their shoulders and could not let themselves get caught up in the fads of young people. They needed to define themselves as adults and so set their generational proclivity towards the fifties, rather than the sixties. Besides, by 1964 they had both entered into their twenties. Thus the decision was made, perhaps unconsciously, to more or less ignore the Beatles thereafter and the little period of Beatlemania in my early childhood home came to an end. But not really. All through the spring of 1964 I would dance with my sister; we’d jump on my parent’s bed, and wiggle chaotically. We only knew the refrain “I want to hold your hand, I want to hold you hand.”
During the Sixties there was a schism in American culture. Did the Kennedy assassination create such a vacuum in leadership, that the establishment generation, so successful in its prosecution of World War II, knew nothing else than to beat the drums of war? How much was the schism affected by the Beatles? After all, they were a band that churned out pop songs about peace and love? So did America’s youth, perhaps conflicted by the futility of global nuclear war simply decided to follow the beat of a different drummer? Funny to think that something viewed as an insignificant passing fad would turn out to be so important.
Thus, the Beatles demonstrate, like no other, the power of music. Such power grabbed little kids like myself too. I do not remember Kennedy or even Johnson when I was little, but I do remember the Beatles. The Beatles are in me; they are a part of who I am. And it seems that little kids in the Sixties got caught in the middle between the culture and the counter-culture. Did they grow up confused? But maybe in the end we are lucky, because we have been able to pick and choose between the two. We’ve gotten to decide what to keep and what to throw away.