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FreeThinker

For Younger Awesome Dudes... and maybe the rest of us....

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A history lesson. On Sunday night February 9, 1964, music changed forever in the United States. On that night, more people tuned into one television program than had ever done so before when The Beatles made their first appearance in the United States on The Ed Sullivan Show. I watched it and I was six years old. Here it is:

The Beatles, Ed Sullivan, 9 February 1964

The second clip is my all time favorite rock-and-roll song and was certainly my favorite in the first grade! I'm not sure what night they performed this on the Sullivan show. I know they were on three Sunday nights in a row and the set is different in this clip, so I am thinking it might have been the second or third performance, which seems strange since "I Want to Hold Your Hand was their debut song in the US. it was first played by DJ Carroll James on WWDC in Washington before it was released on December 26, 1963 when he had an illegal copy flown over on BOAC- The first case of pirated music?

I Want to Hold Your Hand

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First grade? Yikes, I was 20 and a DJ at WLCY St. Petersburg, Florida. I was off on that Sunday night and my boyfriend invited me over to watch it on his family's new TV. I was blown away!

It sure changed my life. Within a few weeks I had boots, pegged pants, Nehru jacket and a Beatle wig and appeared onstage so attired when I emcee'd the next Star Spectacular at the Clearwater Recreation Department auditorium. Until then, I had been a mousy-looking guy with a crew cut and thick glasses who nobody on the street would would have associated with DJ 'Lucky Pierre, the boy with the Beatle hair.'

It was a thrill to introduce new Beatle hits week after week on my show and to ride the wave of excitement that came with the British Invasion of the American music scene. They were more than a 'flash in the pan',though, and there were casualties, as many of my American singer friends were pushed out of the top Billboard slots by the Fab Four and those other British acts that followed. American music was never the same after that.

FT, thank's for posting that... a real Blast from the Past!

Mike

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Yeah, I'm just a little bit older than Free Thinker and was 9 years old when the Beatles hit in February of '64. We had already known about The Beatles, of course... because my entire family listened to WLCY! I have no doubt I heard The Dude on the radio when I was growing up in Great Tampa Bay. (Dude, the next time I see you, I'll sing all the WLCY jingles for you, just to prove it.)

People forget that America was still grieving for JFK, who had been killed by an assassin's bullet on November 22nd. I remember the mood of the country as being very bleak and mournful at the end of 1963, but when the Beatles hit in early 1964, it was like a light switch turned on... and everything changed. I've often said that I think the innocence and simplicity of the 1950s really ended in 1963, and what we call the "Sixties" really didn't begin until 1964. Everything seem to change overnight: hair styles, TV, clothes, magazines, music, every element of pop culture. And the British Invasion just steamrollered over everything.

BTW, what was the first British rock group to have a #1 American hit? The answer is... The Tornadoes, who hit in late 1962. The Beatles had had several failed singles in 1963, and I've always felt that the American market just hadn't progressed to the point where this music could work. In 1964, everything synced up... and it ended the careers overnight for Bobby Vee, Neil Sedaka, Bobby Rydell, Del Shannon, and a dozen other American artists who were swamped by the British Invasion. At least Sedaka got a second chance at a music career in the 1970s. But it's amazing to see what a difference there was between the hits of 1963 and the hits of 1964: the landscape really changed, almost overnight.

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Okay, 1964...I was fifteen when the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan. I thought the music was good, barely hearing a thing above all that screaming from the girls in the audience. That early Beatles music was all over the airwaves the next few years and like everyone else I listened, but the British Invasion really didn't sink into my head until other groups started coming ashore.

By time I was in high school American bands took on the British sound for a while and then Bob Dylan, the Byrds, Janice & Big Brother...that's where my interest went, but the British musicians never stopped coming. Cream, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones. We were lucky to get it all.

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I agree with Pec that the world changed after November 1963, but it had already suffered an earlier, equally profound change, when the men came marching home in the mid-forties and the nation entered upon a post-depression, post-war boom period, enabling middle class children to grow into rebels and rock-n-rollers and beatnicks, ripe and ready to embrace the sea changes in personal and social and political philosophies of the Sixties. The transitions in popular music from the thirties through the sixties and beyond reflect that revolution, which in my opinion has spanned much of the twentieth century.

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Well... let's see... I was born on November 21, 1989, so that's 25 years, 9 months, and 12 days after the Beetles were on the Ed Sullivan show. That sure makes me feel young. Does that make anyone around here feel old? :wave:

Colin :icon_geek:

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I enjoyed watching the videos of the Beatles' performance partially because it was interesting to see the differences in broadcasting between 1964 and today, the black and white picture, the graphics, the camera techniques, the fact that there is no way Ed Sullivan could have made it on TV in the Twenty-first Century, the way the show was introduced. I enjoy watching vintage TV clips and seeing how culture, society, entertainment, and broadcasting have changed and evolved. Plus, imagine. In 1964, most cities had only 3 or 4 channels, instead of hundreds, so watching TV, watching a particular program was an experience that united people in a way TV can't now. A hit show today might be considered a success with 3 or 4% of the audience. Then- 25 or 30% and a special might draw 50% or more, as the Sullivan show did on February 9, 1964. In a way, its a shame that we have such a diverse selection of programming now. Its all ratings driven and most producers go for the lowest common denominator. It's counter-intuitive, but even with the diversity, most of it is just sex and violence driven and when a channel is created for something meaningful, the way TLC, Bravo, A&E, History, etc were, they devolve into reality shit like tattooed pawn brokers, a redneck trash family in Georgia, gator-hunting, hateful bitches in Orange County, or the daughters of a famous shyster who spend their days cheating on their husbands and are known only for being rich and slutty. Back then, yes, we had My Mother the Car, Please Don't Eat the Daisies, and Petticoat Junction, but we also had Playhouse Ninety, the National Geographic specials, Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts, and The Twentieth Century. People would watch quality programs and be exposed to the arts and music because there wasn't that much else to watch. The very diversity in programming that is supposed to be such a blessing today instead gives us a plethora of crap.

There was a great quote on Elementary, one of the few programs on commercial television I watch now (CBS-Thurs 10 ET 9CT). Sherlock refers to something as "soul-crushing in its awesome banality." That's TV today.

Let's hope the Republicans don't have their way and kill PBS. At least there's one channel with something meaningful on, though even there we see them dumbing down programming, too.

Wow, this post sure went in an unexpected direction! :wacko:

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I enjoyed watching the videos of the Beatles' performance partially because it was interesting to see the differences in broadcasting between 1964 and today, the black and white picture, the graphics, the camera techniques, the fact that there is no way Ed Sullivan could have made it on TV in the Twenty-first Century, the way the show was introduced.

Well, it's kind of an unfair competition. I wouldn't trot out a 1964 movie and compare it to a 2013 movie either -- it's a completely different time, a completely different sensibility, totally different attitudes, and a totally different culture now. For its time, the Sullivan show was pretty cutting edge, certainly as good as any variety show of its time.

Note that this first Beatles appearance got a rating of a 45.3 (!!!), which is unbelievably high given that this represented a whopping 72 million viewers.

Back then, yes, we had My Mother the Car, Please Don't Eat the Daisies, and Petticoat Junction, but we also had Playhouse Ninety, the National Geographic specials, Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts, and The Twentieth Century. People would watch quality programs and be exposed to the arts and music because there wasn't that much else to watch. The very diversity in programming that is supposed to be such a blessing today instead gives us a plethora of crap.

Well, that's the Newton Minnow philosophy of TV becoming "a vast wasteland," which he said way back in 1961 -- long before TV turned into what it is today. What I'd observe is that Playhouse 90 was already gone, and most of the high-minded shows you cite got no ratings for the most part in the 1960s. I'm not saying that everything that was on in the 1960s was crap, but it wasn't all the high-class, intellectual kind of fare you think of.

I could make a counter-argument that some of the greatest TV shows ever made are happening right now: Mad Men, Downton Abbey, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, even mass-market shows like Dexter, Walking Dead, and Homeland. Virtually none of them involve a subject matter that could've even been put on the air in the 1960s. Granted, there's a plethora of horrific reality shows (take the Kardashians, please), contest shows, fake news shows, and a lot of pablum that just kinda sits there. But there are some really fine TV shows out there if you look for them. Plus, one of the conveniences of modern life is binge viewing, where you can sit down over a weekend and blow through a dozen episodes of a major show, either through streaming or DVD (or our preference, Blu-ray HD).

One of our favorites we recently went through was the BBC's Sherlock, which to me is far better than CBS' Elementary -- both a contemporary take on Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. To me, the BBC show is far better and more subtle, even more believable. But again, we're not seeing shows like this on mass-market broadcast networks; we're seeing them in cable, where there's fewer restrictions and much less censorship.

There's a bunch of shows that are almost gone today: comedy/variety is a good example, particularly the straight variety shows like Sullivan. Westerns are pretty much gone. Prime-time contest shows (like quiz shows) are pretty much gone, and the ongoing trend for competition shows (Survivor, etc.) are kind of waning. Soap operas are almost dead. Cop dramas, lawyer shows, and sitcoms are successful to a point -- NCIS is the #1 show in America, which is pretty stunning -- but I like to think there's always room for a quirky new show to get an audience and stick around for a few years. Fringe was a recent favorite of ours, despite its occasional flaws and plot inconsistencies.

I'm as baffled by anybody by the preponderance of reality shows, which are mostly horrible. I generally hate them, partly because they put writers, actors, and traditional post production people out of work, but I understand why they're successful: they're cheap, they're relatively easy to make, and they take up space between commercials by presenting outrageous stories that audiences want to see.

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... they take up space between commercials by presenting outrageous stories that audiences want to see.

That seems to me to be what it all comes down to, at least on American commercial TV. The hit shows that are audience favorites, like NCIS, depend upon a format requiring plot development and delivery within a much less than one hour frame, to allow for the commercials. It almost amounts to flash fiction, with similar lack of time for any complicated character development or plotting depth. Instead TV writers rely on building character "complexity" into the ongoing soap-opera relationships among the continuing characters. The result is utter fluff and little actual acting. Every once in a while a production team lobbies for something a bit more complicated, and the audience-dreaded 'To Be Continued' notice flashes up at the end of the hour--almost guaranteed to frustrate viewers who appear quite unwilling to carry over in their minds what has gone before. The success of continuing dramatic offerings like Downton Abbey notwithstanding, the vast majority of television viewers have an attention span trained down to bare minutes through a lifetime of watching commercials.

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Of course commercial TV is going to appeal to the masses; that's it's purpose, to appeal to the largest number of possible audience members. The average IQ is 100. This means shows are purposely built to be attractive to people with that IQ. Nothing strange at all about that.

The annoying thing is, with the plethora of channels we have today, we have great opportunity for high quality, innovative and cutting edge niche TV, yet we rarely seem to get it.

Commercial TV is bound to get worse. With more and more of the audience now finding it easy to skip commercials, the costs of these shows will become harder and harder to defray as advertisers begin to ask why they're paying all that money with fewer people watching their advertising. So many areas in our society have been affected by this, the tech age. Our entertainment as a whole, both the content and the way it's delivered, is taking as large a hit as any other area in our lives.

I'm just hoping they don't do away with books. Books have been a constant in my life for over a half-century. I don't want to curl up in bed with a good Kindle. I like turning pages.

C

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Our PBS in the UK, that is the BBC, has been managing a few interesting variations on reality shows. We have a significant revival of choral singing as a result of Gareth Malone taking scratch choirs through to national prominence in a single season. He took a choir of wives of men serving in Iraq and Afghanistan right through to a performance at the Remembrance Day (our Memorial Day) Service in the Albert Hall. There is also the boost in uptake of university physics as a result of the Prof. Brian Cox phenomenon (take a cool young professor and kids will even watch physics). Perhaps things will improve as watching a channel becomes worldwide. There may be enough people globally to support a maths channel!

PBS is worth fighting for. Maybe you could suggest it to the NRA, they need a better cause.

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