Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Dance Party: Lads from Liverpool

The stars of this week's Dance Party do precious little dancing (and by "precious little," I mean none), but when has that ever stopped me?

The following clip has some personal significance for me. In 1965, The Beatles were already a world-wide phenomenon, with huge hits on the charts, and their famous appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show already behind them. Though they had toured quite a bit in Europe, the Beatles had not performed a live concert in the US. They changed that on August 15, 1965, with this appearance at Shea Stadium in New York. The fact that there is news footage of the concert proves that the guys generated mainstream media attention, even back then. Not only was this concert a first for the Beatles (that is, their first American concert), it also changed the way music concerts were presented. Their appearance at a sports stadium was a first for a musical act; the superstars of today can thank The Beatles for proving that people will attend a concert in a sports arena, an arrangement which is now common.

There is a personal reason I enjoy this clip. Two nights after that history-making concert in New York, I saw The Beatles at Atlanta Stadium. My parents had succumbed to the entreaties of my older sister, who was a big fan of the Fab Four, and bought tickets for us to attend the Atlanta concert. I have very few memories of the event (I was quite young), though the following clip is a pretty decent account of the things I remember most: screaming teen-aged girls. We were seated in the nose-bleed section, and the performers were mere ants on a stage plopped on the mound of the baseball diamond. I don't remember hearing any of the music, only the screams of the girls surrounding us.

My sister, age 12, had more composure than others, perhaps because my father was with us as chaperon. My parents went through a whole lot of trouble to get us to a 30 minute concert which we could not hear nor see clearly, but I am awfully glad they did. The Beatles gave fewer than 50 American concerts in their entire career; only a year after I saw them, they gave up on performing live, and who could blame them? How much artistic satisfaction could they get with the chaos which surrounded their live appearances? Despite the fact that their extraordinary musical output continued for another five years or so, they could not be persuaded to return to the concert stage.

In my adult life, whenever The Beatles come up in conversation, I can be counted upon to bring up the fact that I saw them in concert. Other than my father and sister, I have never run across anyone else who saw them perform live. I've been "dining out" on that event for decades.

I'm glad to have come across this clip for the Dance Party. It shows me some of what was happening on the stage, and in the audience, during that concert I attended, and barely remember, back in 1965.

Everybody knows John (they don't need last names, do they?) was assassinated in 1980, and George died of cancer in 2001. Paul, who was knighted in 1997, is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most successful composer of popular music. Ringo turned 70 years old on Wednesday.