Beatles were no Carl Perkins, but ...My little sister was the first person I ever knew who thought the Beatles were totally fab. I’ll never forget a trip home from college in mid-winter of 1964, a trip during which I first heard of the lads from Liverpool.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
My little sister was the first person I ever knew who thought the Beatles were totally fab.
I’ll never forget a trip home from college in mid-winter of 1964, a trip during which I first heard of the lads from Liverpool. I might have been the last person in the United States to learn about Beatlemania.
I later became a tremendous fan of the quartet of talented mop-heads, but back in1964, I didn’t have a clue. I was still setting the radio dial to the oldies station. OK, it wasn’t the oldies station back then. It was the Top 40. But on oldies stations today, you can sometimes hear the same stuff I was listening to back then: Carl Perkins and “Matchbox,” Roy Orbison and “Pretty Woman” or the Beach Boys and “Surfer Girl.” Fats Domino, Jerry Lee, Johnny Cash, Buddy and Elvis were always available, too.
So, I was a college sophomore spending a February weekend at home in Chamberlain, when my kid sister, a high-school senior, waved a fan magazine in my face and asked if I wasn’t just crazy about the Beatles. I took a look at the cover shot, and here were four smiling, pretty cocky-looking young men (one of whom had a big nose and a kind of vacant expression). They had about the longest hair I’d ever seen on an adult male, and it wasn’t slicked down or sculpted into a ducktail with Brylcreem. Their hair just lay like mops on their heads, and it was styled with straight-across bangs above their eyebrows.
Well, pardon me for bursting out laughing, but I hadn’t seen anything quite that silly since the last Three Stooges movie, and at least those guys were doing “Nyuck-nyuck” and eye pokes and stuff.
“Who’d you say these guys are?” I asked when I stopped laughing. My sister was not amused. In fact, she seemed a bit hurt at my reaction. I always was her idol, I suppose, and I’d apparently just shown some serious disrespect for something that mattered a great deal to her.
“They’re the Beatles,” she said, shaking the magazine in my face. “Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of the Beatles? Surely you saw them on the Sullivan show?”
That would have been a great time for the “don’t call me Shirley” line, but she was serious about this.
“The Ed Sullivan show?” I asked. “These guys were on the Ed Sullivan show? What do they do?”
By now, my sister was starting to realize that I really was clueless about these guys.
“They sing,” she said. “They’re about the best singers in the world. They’re from England. They do ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and ‘I Saw Her Standing There,’ along with a lot of other songs they write themselves.”
I took another look at the magazine cover. These guys wrote songs and performed them on the Sullivan show? Whatever was the world coming to?
“So, you like them, huh?” I asked, deciding my best strategy was to go along until I’d gathered just a little more information to apply to the question of exactly what the world was coming to.
“Like them? Are you kidding? They’re amazing,” my sister said.
We didn’t talk about the Beatles again that visit home, but before I left for Brookings on Sunday afternoon, I read the article in the fan magazine. The four British musicians were taking over the world. Teenage girls jumped in front of their cars or swooned in the streets. Teen-aged guys washed the butch wax out of their locks, let the back and sides grow and combed their bangs down over their foreheads. Everyone in the country except me had stovepipe pants and Beatle boots.
Me? I pouted a while. The British Invasion was in full cry, and it was driving my American rock and roll heroes from the air waves. Pretty soon, every other platter was the Beatles.
Forced to listen, I began to enjoy the beat, the lyrics, and the lads’ antics recounted in every paper and magazine in the nation. I told my sis I liked the music.
“It isn’t Carl Perkins, but it isn’t bad,” I said.
Terry Woster’s column appears Saturdays and Wednesdays in The Daily Republic.