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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Some Forever and Not For Better

When Doubt Came Slowly
1964 Prologue: Part 2

"There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever and not for better
Some are gone and some remain.” (Lennon/McCartney)

“All these places have their moments
With people and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
But in my life, I loved them all." (Lennon/McCartney/Selah)

Two months later in February, I was standing in the same recess line that led to November's tragic news. This time news of a different sort had everyone talking. The night before on the Ed Sullivan Show an English group had just arrived and proved that in America it’s possible to land and “take off” at the same time. The truth is... I hadn't seen the show, but I'd heard my father's opinion the next morning, and he didn't like them.

Beside me in the recess line was Michelle G. She had the angelic look of a Breck girl and wore her hair like the English cousin version of Patty Duke. (My sister Kathy's favorite show of that season.) Michelle's parents also disapproved of the Beatles. I thought that was an awfully good sign. (I had a one-way crush on Michelle for about two years.)

I did not yet own a hand-held transistor radio, but many of the older kids in our neighborhood had theirs tuned to CKLW , which was soon to become one of the most popular top 40 station in America. The funny thing is, the station was not in the US. It came across the Detroit River form Windsor, Ontario, which at this time still flew the Union Jack. I mention England’s flag over Canada because it was on CKLW that I first heard the Beatles. The song was “I Saw Her Standing There.” I didn’t like it—especially the part when they warbled “Oooooooooh! into the microphone.

“That sounds stupid,” I said, “They have too many ‘yeah, yeah, yeahs’ in their songs.” This was true, but I was also parroting my parent’s displeasure with the band.

For decades popular music was marketed to breadwinners (since they bought records). That market did not include young kids and teens whose “spending money” depended largely on parental approval. The home-grown "Rock and Roll" of the Fifties, was not without controversy and was targeted to youth, but much of the best selling music before the mid-60's had cross-generational appeal.

This was no longer the case. Beatlemania was an unprecedented phenomenon. At first parents were bemused, but in a few short years battle lines were drawn in many homes (including ours).[There is an interesting series of Lennon interviews here (if you can get them on Youtube).]

It's important to differentiate "the Beatles as estabished art" (which crystalized over the decades) and the "the Beatles as spontanious influencers" (which unfolded in real time over six years). It's an oversimplification to say that the parents of the mid-sixties were just afraid of "rock-n-roll," or long hair, or even change. They were afraid of uncertain direction. A casual study of the Beatles and the social/ spiritual / pharmaceutical/ political changes they began promoting would underscore the fact that not all change is good. Experience does count for something, and maybe (just maybe) "Father Knows Best."

Prior to this era, TV networks played it safe with the musical choices of "family" and “variety show” broadcasts. Elvis had made several "singing movies" but when he debuted on TV the camera filmed only his upper torso so as not to show his gyrations. Families had transitioned from Perry Como to Ricky Nelson. But in this same year leading up to the Christmas of 1964, Ed Sullivan introduced America to both the Singing Nun (with her own #1 hit, "Dominique") and the Beatles. Talk about culture shock! That same winter the froggy-throated Bob Dylan released his prophetic "The Times There are A-Changin'."

"Come mothers and fathers throughout the land
And don't criticize w
hat you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters a
re beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one

If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn, the curse it is cast
The slow one now will later be fast
As the present now will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'."

Dylan was right, and in the next installment of this epilogue, we'll look at some more of those changes. But until then the following Beatles montage will conclude "1964 Epilogue: Part 1" and show how quickly some those visible changes took place. "Hair length" had become a counterculture statement, but the saddest change in the Beatles faces is in their eyes.

Someone once jokingly told me, "If you remember the late '60's you didn't really experience them." (Implying that the "real participants" were stoned or "mellow" most of the time.) It is sadly true that this was the dawn of psychodelic drug use. By the end of the decade, a portion of my generation (and some of my friends at school) had a different look in their eyes. If you look closely in the following video, you may notice a similar change in these famous faces.
The Beatles -- "In My Life" --Beatlemania 1964-1970 (Click on both the center arrow and the lower left arrow.)

"Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and friends that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
But in my life I loved you more." (Lennon/McCartney/Selah)

This is one of the many Lennon/McCartney songs that transcended the era. I enjoy the Selah cover even more. It took many years for me to separate the talent of the Beatles from the tension they brought to my home's worldview, but the interwoven gifts of these four musicians left many noteworthy marks on our world. Forty years later, their talent and more thoughtful classics are enjoyed by all ages (including many who disdained them at the time).


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