60 years ago, Beatlemania shook the world


I was not yet 9 and living in Glenwood, Mrs. Thrash dutifully teaching third grade, when the Beatles invaded America. Asked for a world view, I would not be on the cutting edge of events.

That's 60 years ago, the same month that Louisville's Cassius Clay, speaking out when some Black youths in the South were fighting off police dogs, "shook the world" winning the heavyweight boxing championship.

As Muhammad Ali, whose bravery in the ring didn't stop people from calling him a coward when he refused military induction three years later, the Louisville Lip affected Western civilization.

So did the Beatles, four British chaps who brought their act over from Liverpool and shook the world before Clay entered the ring against Sonny Liston.

John, Paul, George and Ringo wore their hair foppishly long for the time. My dad took one look at the Fab Four and called them "hippies." Still, I ran home from church to watch the mop-toppers perform on the "Ed Sullivan Show."

The year 1964 was to them like 1973 in horse racing for Secretariat, 1998 in home runs for Mark McGwire, almost any year in hockey for Wayne Gretzky. Unsurpassed in every respect, although the Bee Gees came close musically in 1978 like Taylor Swift is doing now.

Six of their '64 hits reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts. The group's manager, Brian Epstein, elected not to chance an American visit until a Beatles tune went to the top.

Although "She Loves You," their second No. 1 in the former British colonies, proved a bigger hit back home, the impact of "I Want to Hold Your Hand," No. 1 for seven weeks on these shores, is incalculable. Compare it in style to the last pre-Beatles chart-topper, "There! I've Said It Again" by Bobby Vinton. One historian called it and Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock" the most important songs in rock history, a changing of the guard observed in all ways.

Vinton's career would survive; other performers of the era could not get their records played. Elvis Presley, who recorded "All Shook Up," was making movies in Hollywood while the Beatles staked out new turf. New York had not seen anyone like them since Frank Sinatra had fans lining up around the block from the Paramount Theater in the 1940s.

Besides their own songs, including "Can't Buy Me Love," "Love Me Do" and "I Feel Fine," the Beatles penned No. 1 "A World Without Love" for Peter and Gordon in 1964.

A look back at the year shows a diverse selection of No. 1 hits from artists other than the Beatles. Louis Armstrong, with "Hello Dolly," knocked them off the Billboard perch after 13 weeks. Dean Martin topped the charts with "Everybody Loves Somebody" and was soon to have a hit TV show Thursday nights on NBC; meanwhile, Jerry Lewis languored. An existing NBC star, Lorne Greene, Ben Cartwright on "Bonanza" Sunday nights, took "Ringo" to the top.

Meanwhile, America got hip deep in Vietnam after the Gulf of Tonkin incident, electing Lyndon B. Johnson to a full term as U.S. president when it was said of challenger Barry Goldwater, "In your heart you know he's right." Back home, Arkansas had the only unbeaten college football team following the bowl games, 11-0 after beating Nebraska in the Cotton on Jan. 1, 1965. Richard Kimble, David Janssen playing a character based on Dr. Sam Sheppard, remained at large in "The Fugitive" and Billy Mills, an American Indian, won Olympic gold in the 10,000 meters at Tokyo.

The Nobel Peace Prize went to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who had a dream and died early.

Mostly, 1964 had the Beatles and nothing was ever the same. Even Glenwood felt the beat; hey, it's there on a Sunday night in 1968 that I first heard "Hey Jude."

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