WOSTER: More than 50 years worth of reflections available at new year
There is much about growing older that is not enjoyable, but I have to tell you, it’s kind of fun to get to an age at which you can look back and say, “Yeah, this happened half a century ago, and I remember it.”
I’m thinking that way, maybe, because it’s a new year. While I understand that any day of any month of the year is a good one for reflecting on our past and resolving to improve our future, New Year’s Day is particularly suited for that sort of thing, if only because we’re taught from our earliest years that it’s a very big deal. For me, the arrival of 2014 is a very big deal, because it’s one of my zero years — like 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 and now 70. The things I experienced and observed when I was 20 will be remarked upon in many news stories and television features because they happened HALF A CENTURY AGO.
Coming up in just a month, for example, is the 50th anniversary of the arrival in the United States of, yup, the Lads from Liverpool, the Beatles. Seems like only “Yesterday,” to put it in John Lennon-Paul McCartney language. They were a pretty hot ticket in Great Britain and parts of Europe long before they brought their zany attitudes and mania-inducing music to America, but they hadn’t really arrived until they were a success here in the U.S.A. At least, they didn’t seem to think they were.
I read not so long ago that one of the Beatles, on the flight over to America for the first time, questioned whether the group would be accepted. “They’ve got their own groups. What are we going to give them that they don’t already have?” McCartney reportedly said.
Quite a lot, as it turned out. Still, if the story is true, it’s rather endearing that one of the most talented and successful groups of musicians in the world had doubts about its ability to “Please, Please Me,” as they’d been pleasing their British and European crowds.
And, “Listen, Do You Want to Know a Secret?” (Oh, all right. I’ll stop with the Beatles lyrics. They’ve just been fitting so nicely into the narrative.) Seriously, here’s the secret: I didn’t much care for the Beatles when they first showed up. My kid sister, a senior in high school, was nuts about the mop-tops. I remember that. I’d never heard of them before she showed me a picture of them in a fan magazine or something. And I missed their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan television variety show, maybe the only human being on the planet who missed that performance.
Looking at black-and-white footage of the program, I kind of wish I’d been in the crowd, just to see what it sounded and felt like with all those kids going bonkers over those four lads. I attended a Twins game once (hey, the tickets were free and I was in Minneapolis with a free evening) when Dan Gladden or somebody hit a grand-slam homer. I thought I might go deaf, and I thought the seats might just collapse on top of themselves there was so much noise and vibration in the building. I wonder how that would compare to being in the Ed Sullivan Theater for the Beatles.
At the time, I was a little miffed at the whole notion of Beatlemania. It wasn’t as if those kids were at an Elvis concert, for heaven’s sake, or front-row at a Frank Sinatra show. Besides, they took the spotlight, and the business, away from a lot of American rock ’n’ roll artists and bands. It took me a while to get over that. Once I did, I liked those Beatles. Their early songs were simple and happy. Their later stuff was complex and intense. It’s worth another look HALF A CENTURY later.
I resolve to enjoy every 50-year look-back that comes my way in 2014.
Beyond that, I kind of like what Cyril Cusack, the Irish actor (“Fahrenheit 451”), once said: “If you asked me for my New Year Resolution, it would be to find out who I am.”