The Beatles: Has it really been 50 years?

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Column by Jim Clark

Has it really been 50 years? I guess so, at least that’s what my television told me on Sunday night.

CBS televised a tribute to the Beatles, exactly 50 years to the minute that the Ed Sullivan show aired on Feb. 9, 1964.

It was the early days of television, and younger people don’t realize the influence that Ed Sullivan had. If you were invited to appear on his show, you had it made. The only other TV personality who had that much influence on the entertainment industry was Dick Clark with his American Bandstand from Philadelphia.

Of course, there were rules to be followed, most of them set down by Sullivan. When Elvis appeared eight years earlier, they only showed him from the waist up … after all, what he did with his legs was scandalous.

At some point the Rolling Stones appeared and were ordered to change the words to their song “Let’s spend the night together.” They agreed, but then on the air (remember, it was live) they went back to their original lyrics. Boy, if looks could kill, Ed would have been guilty of murder.

But Sunday night, taped earlier in the week in Los Angeles, was dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ appearance. On hand were Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the only two surviving members of the quartet of British young singers.

If you had any doubt about the lasting music of the four guys from Liverpool, they were quickly dispelled as you watched various performers singing Beatles songs. The crowd shots, said to have been born during the Ed Sullivan show, showed those of our age and those a lot younger enjoying the music, singing along with the lyrics and in some cases dancing in the aisles.

The final 40 minutes or so was dedicated to personal performances by Ringo and Paul. Ringo went first, opened with, of all things, a country song, “Matchbox.” He then sang “Boys” while playing the drums at the same time, then led the crowd in “Yellow Submarine.” If you didn’t know better, you would have taken Ringo for about 35 years old with the ability to move that belied his age (he’s 73).

Paul then took the stage and sang a few songs, getting more vocal time but not moving around as much as his friend, starting with “Birthday” and following with “Get Back.” He did the rousing “I Saw Her Standing There” and then added “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Ringo then came out and the pair joined together, with Ringo the main vocal in “A Little Help from My friends.”

Paul then closed out the night with, what else, the song “Hey Jude,” with the entire crowd including Yoko Ono singing along in the audience, and a bunch of entertainers, including Stevie Wonder, doing the backup.

Every once in a while a TV entertainment show comes along that you want to see again and again. To me, this may be the best of all time on the list of shows I’ve watched.

Fortunately, I had the foresight to record this show on a DVR. Now of one of the technological geniuses in my family can help, I’m going to try to save it to DVD.

In the meantime, I’ll be humming one of the Beatles songs all the time. And as I went to bed on Sunday night, for some reason, going through my head, was na, na, na, na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, Hey Jude.