50 Years Since “The Aliens” Invaded

Like everybody else in the country, I’m thinking this morning about The Beatles.


Washington Coliseum – Feb 11, 1964

I’m posting because I want to pass along a piece I heard on NPR’s Weekend Edition/Saturday about the first live concert The Beatles performed after their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show on Feb 9, 1964 – fifty years ago today.

Their first concert was two days later in Washington DC.

The centerpiece of this NPR report is an interview with Mike Mitchell, at the time an 18-year-old photographer who somehow landed the plum gig of shooting this Beatles first U.S. concert. The report revisits the venue, now a derelict building used mostly for a parking lot.

What struck me was the part where Scott Simon asks, “So what did they look like close up?”

And Mike Mitchell answers,

I’ve said before that they kind of were an alien species to us… At that point they looked incredibly fresh, you know, like a fresh iteration of the human race.

I’d never heard The Beatles described in quite that manner, though it strikes me now as entirely accurate. They were something of an alien species, and one that my generation would emulate in ways that were uniimaginable at the time. Just the idea that boys could let their hair grow out… that alone was transformative in a way that seems quaint and antiquated just to mention now.

I was in the 7th grade when The Beatles arrived, and their records supplied much of the soundtrack of my adolescence. Every time I hear “Rubber Soul’ it takes me back to the basement of Melanie Berg’s house, and I’m making out again with Susan Levin…

As I listened to this story yesterday, while driving in to my weekly AA meeting – the echo of another habit that started in the shadow of the British Invasion – I realized how incredibly fortunate I was to have been a teenager during the time when The Beatles came to America. All you Gen-X/Millennials who were raised on (c)rap, eat your hearts out…

I once heard somebody describe “The 60s” as the period that started with JFK’s assassination in 1963 and ended with Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974. That chronology seems apt.

Much has been written about that dark and confusing season that descended on the nation in the winter of 1963/64, and how the arrival of The Beatles diverted us from our national despair. If the Kennedy assassination signaled the end of one era – the prosperous, suburban, post-war stupor of the 1950s, where I spent the Elysian years of my childhood on the Jersey shore – then the arrival of The Beatles heralded the beginning of something new.

My “boomer” generation carried a lot of idealistic aspirations into the years that followed The Beatles arrival. What I wonder now is where and when those aspirations got derailed… how and when “The Yippies” that inherited The Beatles inspiration became “The Yuppies” of the Reagan years.

At some point, “Revolution For The Hell Of It” gave way to “working within the system.”

My generation has given the country two presidents. One did a good enough job but was the second president in U.S. history to be impeached – for the high crime of getting a blow job; his successor was just a sad, sputtering buffoon who left the country on the edge of an abyss.

There is considerable expectation now that our generation will elect one more president, this time perhaps the country’s first woman Chief Executive. I hope we come up with a better choice than that. My generation had it’s chance. We sorta blew it.

Like everybody else, I’ll probably listen to some Beatles today and maybe I’ll tune into the TeeVee special that commemorates the Ed Sullivan appearance (at least, I’ve set the TiVo to record…).

But what I’ll really be thinking about is the sentiment expressed many years later in this Kenny Loggins song, from his 1991 album “Leap of Faith” – an album that supplied the soundtrack for another Major Transformation in my life.

It starts with the lyric..

Where are the dreams that we once had?
This is the time to bring them back…

Hard to believe even that was more than 20 years ago…