Leadership over Eisenhower’s America, a land in which a cheery facade of orderliness and drowsy post-war peace had reigned for eight years, was handed over to a young, handsome, somewhat brash Irish Bostonian named John Kennedy. His eloquence rivaled Lincoln’s. His enthusiasm for change and for challenge woke a sleepy nation up from its contented, carefully coiffed American dream. There were, of course, vast numbers of Americans not allowed to freely participate in that dream – blacks and other minorities, women, homosexuals, free thinking young people – all were marginalized, held back, corralled, and kept in place by the acknowledged ruling elite – white men.
The picket fences began to strain, however, under the new push for freedom, encouraged in part by this youthful president, in part by a charismatic young Southern Baptist minister named Martin Luther King, and finally by the swelling turbulence of the time itself. What the time demanded was expansion, new ideas, and a casting off the old.
Then, in a single, startling moment, the pure light of this new hope was pierced, stained, rent with gaping holes. John Kennedy had been shot and the entire nation, stunned – stopped, wept, questioned, and lived past it, but were forever changed.
Hope, nonetheless, had begun.
Meanwhile, over in England, a scruffy band of leather clad musical lads had finished a grueling tour of Germany’s clubs, playing six or seven hours a day, fueled on ‘prellies’ (uppers), and alcohol. They’d returned to Liverpool, triumphant in their small home port. What emerged from their time spent in the Hamburg trenches was a musical group as tight, polished, cocksure, and wildly exuberant as anyone had ever seen. Their fame spread, their manager cleaned up the band’s appearance to prepare them for a wider audience. They sported a so-called mop-top hair style, which, to the day’s standards, was radically uncoiffed. Beatlemania sprouted in England. Soon enough, it would engulf the entire world.
John, Paul, George, and Ringo. It’s the only way you can say those four names together. And that was the key – together. All together now. The principal message of the Beatles, which they demonstrated in their wit and banter along with their music, was one of unity – the whole is greater than the parts, perfect alchemy creates gold, when minds are interconnected and working for the same outcome, magic happens.
So, in February of 1964, they arrived in the US, on the strength of the single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” certified number one by Cashbox Magazine in January. Three appearances on the Ed Sullivan show later, the floodgates had burst open. Boston songwriter Bart Caruso, years later recalled the time, in the following lyrics :