From left, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr perform during the taping of “The Night That Changed America: A GRAMMY Salute To The Beatles,” which commemorated the 50th anniversary of The Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. (Reuters)
Last Sunday night’s CBS special “The Beatles: The Night That Changed America” celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four’s first live appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Feb. 9, 1964, which “changed America” and provided a sociological shift in our culture.
The night featured a reunion of surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr and A-list artists performing classic Beatles songs.
The night also provided many lasting images including:
• Ringo Starr singing “Yellow Submarine” and “Boys.” He was vibrant and seemed to be enjoying himself, despite doing songs he’s done thousands of times during the past 50-plus years. He’s 73, but you wouldn’t know that from his energetic performance.
• Ringo and McCartney together on stage, performing “With A Little Help From My Friends” and, with Ringo on the drums, “Hey Jude.” It was especially poignant when they made a special point to recognize late Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison.
• Black-and-white clips from the Beatles’ first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” which reminded us of the their magic.
• The biographies of all four Beatles were extremely informative without overdoing it.
I could not understand the uproar over Katy Perry changing one word in one of the Beatles’ biggest hits, “Yesterday.” The lyrics in the original second verse were, “Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be … There’s a shadow hanging over me. Oh, yesterday came suddenly.”
Perry changed the stanza to, “Suddenly, I’m not half the girl I used to be … There’s a shadow hanging over me. Oh, yesterday came suddenly.”
When Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band were the headline performers at Super Bowl XLIII, Springsteen and guitarist Little Steven Van Zant did a duet of “Glory Days,” one of the Boss’ most well-known hits. Springsteen’s original opening verse was, “I had a friend who was a big baseball player back in high school.”
In his Super Bowl performance, he changed the verse to say, “I had a friend who was a big football player back in high school.” The switch from “baseball” to “football” was logical because he was performing at halftime of a Super Bowl game, not during the World Series.
And so was Perry’s decision to change the word from “man” to “girl.”
To me, one of the most enjoyable things about the 2½-hour Beatles’ spectacular was the crowd shots. The TV cameras showed people in the audience from preteens to octogenarians standing, clapping, swaying and singing along to the different Beatles’ songs.
This revealed a plethora of things. Great songs last forever and can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
Songs can be memorable without spewing venomous, anti-societal hate.
The greatness of a song can be determined by its ability to withstand the test of time. Part of the reason many of the Beatles’ songs must be considered great is because they have withstood that test. It’s hard to believe songs like “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You” are 50 years old. Where, oh where, did the time go?
The other crowd factor was it was obvious that the thousands of people in attendance were having a thoroughly enjoyable time. Rock ‘n’ roll was meant to be enjoyed, to be fun. It wasn’t meant to be hateful or vicious as too many of today’s songs are. And that’s a shame.
My generation always will have the oldies that they can enjoy. Ask my contemporaries who are rock ‘n’ roll fans about their music, and most will tell you about how a specific song evokes positive memories. It could be about a first date, first dance, first kiss, a night watching the submarines races, prom night or graduation night.
What will this generation be listening to 40 or 50 years from now?
I’m afraid, not much.
Barry Levine writes entertainment stories for The Albany Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.