The Beatles: The Early Years 1964-1966
The 60s! A time of turmoil to be sure; one cannot think of the Sixties without thinking of assassinations of beloved world figures and riots in the streets, not only in the United States but worldwide. Fifty years later I can still recall in my mind with vivid detail the picture of Robert Kennedy dying on the floor of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles and the burning cauldron of hate and frustration that was Detroit. I remember the words of bigotry spewed from the mouths of people I respected and I can taste the confusion as the simple and naïve life of the Fifties disappeared before our very eyes.
A time of turmoil to be sure and yet a time of excitement and wonder as the established order was turned on its head and shaken, rattled and rolled. What we once knew was disappearing; technology was advancing with a determination not unlike that of a Sherman Tank rolling over the war torn landscape. Television brought realities to our living rooms, realities that at first could not be comprehended and then were oh so hard to accept.
Our beliefs were challenged almost daily; our support system not quite as supportive as we had once believed. Parents could only shake their heads in frustration at the antics of their children; races were forced to at least attempt to understand the motivations and core values of each other.
Through it all there was at least one constant that hovered in the periphery of our consciousness as the Decade of the Sixties unfolded and marched on. The Beatles exploded (is there a better word to describe their entrance) onto the music scene in 1963 and invaded my home country in 1964; from that moment of their introduction until the end of the decade their music served as a musical diary of our times. No matter the nature of the upheaval around us, Beatles’ music was always there, speaking for us and giving lyrics and notes to our thoughts.
This writer is not one to idolize. I have seen far too many who stood on pedestals fall off because of their human frailties. However, it would be absurd to mark the Lads from Liverpool off as just another musical group. Their progression and growth as a musical group paralleled in many ways our growth as a society and they are so interwoven in the fabric of those years that they deserve their own special place in history.
I have always preferred the earlier music of The Beatles before drugs and their own social consciousness changed their music. Perhaps it is because the last few years of their music reminds me still today of sadder days, days I would prefer not to think about. Whatever the reason I loved the early Beatles when their music was lighthearted and fun and you could walk around singing their songs and smiling your ass off. For that reason I will today highlight some of my favorite Beatles’ songs from 1964-1966, a span when we as a people still found magic in the 60s rather than disillusion and confusion.
SHE LOVES YOU
True, this song was written in 1963 but it did not experience huge sales until 1964 after “I Want To Hold Your Hand” signaled stardom for The Beatles in the United States. It spent fourteen weeks on the Top Forty, two as Number One and was one of five songs by the Fab Four that controlled the Top Forty for the entire year of 1964.
On February 1, 1964, when this song entered the Top Forty for the first time, I was a freshman in high school in Tacoma, Washington. I remember hearing it on the radio (KJR in Seattle controlled the airwaves then) and running home for my Mom to hear it. To my surprise she loved the Beatles’ harmony in this song, a harmony that was to win over many a parent in those early days. She and I would sing it often after that, she taking one part of the harmony and I another. I always smile when I think of the happiness that she experienced when she and her son would sing together on a rainy afternoon.
I FEEL FINE
Released as a single in the United States on December 5, 1964, it stayed in the Top Forty for eleven weeks.
In December of 1964 I was feeling my oats. I had finished my first season of high school baseball and been told I would be on the varsity the following season as a sophomore. I was flying high because of that information and then I met Paula and the words “I Feel Fine” took on a whole new meaning for me.
Paula was raven-haired and showing breasts and for a nerd like me that was enough to fuel fantasies, but the fact that she talked to me at a dance that month had me thinking of going steady and future marriage. Oh, the foolishness of youth! It turned out Paula was hoping that by befriending me she would get to meet my friend John, who she really wanted to meet in a much more intimate way. By January of 1965 Paula and John were a hot item and I was in search of a song with that was the polar opposite of “I Feel Fine.”
I’M A LOSER
Yes, I found the polar opposite I had been looking for with this song which was originally going to be released as a single instead of “I Feel Fine.”
I was able to see The Beatles live the Summer of ’65 but by then I wasn’t feeling quite so dejected. I suspect I had already set my sights on another fair maiden by the time I saw them in Seattle performing this song. Still, it was and is a fine song and I find myself singing it from time to time and smiling at the memories associated with it.
I’VE JUST SEEN A FACE
Recorded on June14,1965 and all I can tell you about this song is it just made me feel good. It is lively with a quick tempo and speaks of that special moment when you see someone and you are awe-struck by the vision and you decide right there and then that you absolutely MUST meet her or your life will forever be empty and meaningless.
Go ahead and sing this song and try to be in a bad mood. Go ahead, I dare you! Even today I will sing this to Bev and it is hard to tell which one of us is grinning the biggest grin.
DRIVE MY CAR
This song was actually recorded on my birthday, October 13, 1965. Maybe that explains why I like it so! Whatever the reason, I loved trying to hit the high notes on “beep beep and beep beep, yea,” and my buddies and I (me?) would drive around singing this at the top of our lungs.
Sure it was a song about a bitchy girl but it was still fun to sing. I had finally grown to my full stature, I was well-established on the baseball varsity and college wasn’t far away. What was there to be in the dumps about?
GOOD DAY SUNSHINE
June 8, 1966 and the world was my oyster just waiting for me to shuck it when this song came out. College was three months away, high school was in my rearview mirror and I was livin’ large and lovin’ life. It was practically impossible to go anywhere that summer without hearing this song playing on hundreds of radios simultaneously. It was the summer anthem of 1966 and a perfect end to the fun period of The Beatles.
Even though this song was part of the package called “Revolver,” it still signaled the end of the feel good days. Right around the corner was a landmark rock album called “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” and music seemed to take a detour into another dimension.
AND THEN A NEW REALITY CAME UPON US
Looking back that seemed to be the turning point, not only in music but in our own perspective of the world around us. Life became more complicated after that summer. Vietnam took center stage except for the times when Civil Rights muscled in to wreak havoc with our conscience. College opened my eyes to a world that had, to that point, seemed an abstract theory rather than a reality that had to be dealt with.
We all dealt with that reality whether we were prepared to or not; we really had limited choices, just as one has limited choices when facing a stampeding buffalo. You can choose to run and hide; you can choose to be gored; or you can choose to figure out how to ride that big bastard and hope for the best. Most of us just climbed aboard that hairy monster and held on for dear life.
For a few years, however, all we had to do was listen to The Beatles and enjoy the hell out of life.
2012 Bill Holland (aka billybuc)