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The Beatles by Stephen Meyer

Reprinted from the February 13, 2005 issue of DISC & DAT (a week after Sir Paul McCartney's halftime show at the Super Bowl).  A big THANK-YOU to Stephen Meyer for granting me permission to put this fantastic commentary here on Oldies Connection.

A New Media Newsletter - Vol 3. #6 - 2/13/2005
Commentary - News - Top 20 Albums - Top 20 TV Shows - And More
Commentary and One Man's Opinion
"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." -- The Decca Recording Company, rejecting the Beatles - 1962.

As I watched Paul McCartney rock the thousands in the arena at Jacksonville last Sunday during the SuperBowl half-time show, I realized it was almost exactly forty-one years ago (February 7, 1964 to be exact) that The Beatles landed at New York's JFK airport. Two days later they took the stage on the Ed Sullivan show for the first time. EVERYTHING changed in the music world after that.

It was indeed a different time. We didn't know it yet, but it was the beginning of the "end of the innocence."

I wrote the following commentary last year on The Beatles' 40th Anniversary of hitting our shores and so many of you wrote back such nice comments on it, I thought I'd run it again for all the new readers of the newsletter.  Hope you enjoy it.

"We were four guys...I met Paul, I said do you wanna' join the band, ya' know? Then George joined, then Ringo joined...we were just a band that made it very, very big, that's all." -  John Lennon
Yes...very big indeed. Forty years ago the "Lads from Liverpool" hit our shores and nothing was ever the same. 

Their first appearance on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' was watched by an estimated 74 million people that Sunday night in February 1964 making it one of the biggest events in broadcast history and the crime rate in U.S. cities dropped dramatically during the show's broadcast.  It was indeed, as Ed Sullivan used to say, " A really big show!" 
The assault on American radio and charts was equally overwhelming. In the  past few decades you've all read about the chart accomplishments of such mega-artists as Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Madonna, and others, but they all pale in comparison to this statistic: 

For the week ending April 4, 1964 The Beatles had 11 singles on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 chart, including the first top five slots: 

* #1* - Can't Buy Me Love
 * #2* - Twist and Shout
 * #3* - She Loves You
 * #4* - I Want To Hold Your Hand
 * #5* - Please, Please Me
 * #31* - I Saw Her Standing There
 * #41* - From Me To You
 * #46* - Do You Want To Know A Secret
 * #58* - All My Loving
 * #65* - You Can't Do That
 * #79* - Thank You Girl

Of course if you're old enough to remember listening to your favorite Top-40 station back then you remember hearing all these songs and more as the "British Invasion" started. It's almost impossible to imagine any artist or band being able to monopolize the charts and radio in such fashion today, and I don't think we will ever see it happen like that again. It was a different time.

Just how much The Beatles changed everything in pop culture has been the subject of many articles, books, TV specials, and now they teach courses on them in many colleges. Prior to The Beatles, Top-40 radio didn't play album cuts from best-selling artists ... not even Elvis at his height. 

But when The Beatles released Rubber Soul and made the decision that there would be no single released from the album for radio or retail (much to Capitol's dismay originally), radio programmers simply put "Michelle" on their stations along with "I'm Looking Through You," and about four other tracks from the album. The Beatles ruled at retail and requests so radio had to respond. 
But the fact is, NOBODY had ever achieved that kind of airplay (album tracks) at Top-40 radio previously. The Beatles were the first. Of course Rubber Soul wasn't the only album they released without a single for radio/retail. Sgt. Pepper (the first rock "concept" album) didn't have a single and neither did their double-album, The White Album.  But it made no difference...they were all over Top-40 radio. Of course the release of Sgt. Pepper (and subsequent concept albums by the Stones, Who, etc.) gave birth to the notion that the radio audience might want to hear more than just singles and a great radio man, Tom Donahue, eventually put an FM station on the dial in San Francisco, KSAN, and progressive radio" (the forerunner of all album radio that followed) was born. 

Before The Beatles, there was no such thing as "stadium rock."  Nobody had ever played arenas or stadiums before 1964. But The
Beatles sold out Shea Stadium, Candlestick Park, and other stadiums around the country in mere hours after tickets went on sale, shocking those in the press and media who predicted the shows by the group ("a fad" as they were called back then) wouldn't sell tickets in those quantities.  I saw them at Carnegie Hall, Forest Hills, and at both Shea concerts. The word mania doesn't begin to describe what occurred the minute The Beatles took the stage.

Long before MTV hit the air, The Beatles made a TV film called Magical Mystery Tour.  Though the critics in the UK panned it for the most part, in hindsight one can watch it and realize it was merely a long-form video with five separate concept videos to support their new songs. They were years ahead of the curve in realizing how music and video could be merged for greater audience.

Another amazing fact: Sgt. Pepper was recorded in four-track. Yup, that's right. Four track. Listen to it today and you realize what an engineering masterpiece it is and how many tracks had to mixed down and on top of each other to make the final recording. Many albums made today use dozens more tracks and updated technology ... but sonically, Pepper remains a masterpiece.

I could go on and on ... I've been a Beatles fan for these past 40 years.  I never imagined that night I watched them on the Ed Sullivan show that within five years I'd be lucky enough to get a job working for Capitol Records selling Beatles records, and then promoting them to the very radio stations I grew up listening to. 
When I worked for Capitol Records in 1970 and 1971 in New York City I was  fortunate enough to meet John Lennon. The first time I talked to him I got "mealy mouth," was nervous, and he asked me what was wrong. I mumbled and then said,"I ... I watched you on Ed Sullivan ..." And he said, "Ah...well, that was The Beatles thing and all that ... I'm just John now ... so tell me what kind of music do you like?" We talked until the wee hours of the morning and I walked back to my apartment on a cold December morning with my mind racing.  

The Beatles created the soundtrack for our lives back in the '60's and each song they sang made us feel like the wait wasn't going to be too long, and that sooner rather than later, we'd all be on our way to better lives. Maybe that's been only partly true, but it's what we all wanted to believe because their music made us feel such things. So we sang their songs loud, proud to claim them as "our own." But we should've known they belonged to the whole world and that the world we lived in was moving away from innocence.

John was right...they were a "band that made it very, very big." 

They were all that ... and a whole lot more.  A helluva lot more.

Copyright 2005, DISC & DAT, A New Media Newsletter, Published By Steve Meyer
This newsletter goes to over 400+ music and entertainment industry people in all types of capacities: label people, managers, artists, producers, songwriters, trade press people, TV people, radio people, etc.
Steve Meyer is a thirty-five+ year music industry veteran. He spent 24 years working in executive promotion capacities at both Capitol Records and at Universal Studios’ MCA Records. Recognized as one of the industry’s top professionals, Steve was a recipient of many awards during his industry tenure, including Billboard Magazine’s Award for Excellence in National Promotion, as well as Sr. VP/Promotion, and Record Executive Of The Year awards.

In 1990, Meyer left MCA to form his own consulting company, SMART MARKETING and since then has provided consulting services and marketing strategies to many in the entertainment, media, technology and broadcast industries, A respected authority on pop-culture and the entertainment industry, Steve has been interviewed by Martin A. Grove, now a columnist for The Hollywood Reporter and a CNN Entertainment reporter, for three separate books on pop music: Beatle Madness, Paul McCartney - Beatle With Wings, and Teen Idols.

In 2003, Meyer launched a weekly industry e-mail newsletter, DISC & DAT that contains commentary, news, interviews, and more.

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