An evening conversation: yeah, yeah, yeah

By Stephen Cameron

To be honest, it’s hard to think of just one way of introducing this subject.

Dozens come straight to mind: personal memories, an anniversary coming up this Saturday, that massive effect on American culture…

So where to start?

Here’s a thought: Go grab whatever device you use for listening to music. If necessary, fire up your laptop and find YouTube.

Now close your eyes and listen…

“Oh, yeah, I’ll… tell you something…I think you’ll understand…”


You probably know it already, but those are the opening lines from “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” the Beatles’ first hit in the United States.

And they were the start of something so immense and everlasting that it’s hard to comprehend.

The song rose to No. 1 in this country on Feb. 1, 1964 — just about 50 years ago. And exactly a week later, the Fab Four touched down on U.S. soil for the first time.

A night after that, they appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and suddenly it seemed like everyone in America went nuts

It’s almost impossible to describe the legacy the four kids from Liverpool left with us, with the world, with music in general.

Even way back then, there were people who guessed that John, Paul, George and Ringo would have a lasting impact.

A national columnist summed up this way: “Call it the most important arrival from Britain since the Mayflower.”

They changed how we dressed, how we wore our hair, and most definitely how we made and enjoyed our music.

(They also caused more teenage girls to faint than all homecoming queen announcements combined.)

Half a century on, they are still revered as though no time has passed.

Heck, I just spent $119 for a 50th-anniversary Beatles anthology that contains more than 200 songs, plus conversations with the boys that were taped in the early days of celebrity.

Feels like a bargain, to be honest.

Instead of a phenomenon lasting a few months or a couple of years, the Beatles became — and then remained — musical and social icons, destined to own a place in history that has only grown with time.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney now are recognized as one of the great song-writing duos of all time.

It feels, somehow, as though I enjoy their music even more now than I did when I heard it originally.

And yes, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was my first — sitting in an old ’53 Chevy in a San Francisco parking lot, startled by a radio DJ who said the next song was done by some new group from England.

I can hear the opening verse as though it was an hour ago.

Hard to believe that there were people warning that the Beatles and their long hair would be a bad influence on young people.

And now the “cute Beatle” is Sir Paul.

And everyone on the planet should stop and listen to John singing “Imagine.”

And some Beatles lyrics, from one song or another, fit whatever life brings you — and they’re just perfect.

And most of all, 50 years later along Abbey Road, most of us love them more than ever.


Steve Cameron is executive editor of The Mercury.

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