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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

The proof is in the pudding
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Friday, January 31, 2014


Not many above the age of 19 seemed to be able to understand it.

Most, like Aunt Ebb, just shook their heads in disbelief, attributing the phenomenon to some sort of freaky mass hysteria that only affected youth.

The preacher was convinced it was the work of the devil, a way to distract young people, to make them more "worldly."

In fact, most were amazed that some kids in the mountains seemed to be just as susceptible to it as youth in big cities.

Not all of the young people I knew were part of it, though. Many just didn't get it and thought it was silly.

I got it.

So did some of my cousins.

It happened 50 years ago, and there was no small measure of excitement when four young British men debarked from a plane and set foot on American soil for the first time. The event was captured on TV, of course, and our little black and white TV created as much anticipation and satisfaction as a huge widescreen TV would today.

I am, of course, talking about the arrival in the U.S. of The Beatles.

And I, among many youngsters I knew during this time, suffered at least some degree from what was termed "Beatlemania."

As far as I know, there has been nothing like it before or since, at least not on such a widespread scale.

Looking back on it, I still really can't explain what happened, or how it happened, what caused the shared excitement that did indeed manifest itself in many youth as hysteria.

When the Beatles played during their first visit here, the cameras often panned to the audience. Teens, mostly girls, were crying, pulling on their hair, screaming, and generally worked up into a state of, well, hysteria.

You didn't have go at the concert. Just watching it on TV produced about as much excitement.

I mean, Elvis was a huge name and he had already developed a following, and he often elicited a lot of emotion.

But nothing like this.

Was it the lyrics in their songs? Well, maybe a little. But at that time, the words were still rather simple songs about young love, like "I Want To Hold Your Hand" or "She Was Just Seventeen."

Was it their style? Probably at least some. They were dressed in matching black suits, nothing extraordinary, but they did have the longer hair, a bit of a shock at the time. They also really got into their songs, great performers, but so did Elvis and many other singers.

Was it their looks? Not really. The only one considered "really cute" by the girls I knew was Paul, and maybe Ringo in a "he's so homely he's cute" sort of way.

Was it their voices? Okay, yes, some of it was. They, mainly Paul and John, had great voices. But, again, so did many performers at the time.

When you put all of that together, though, they had a unique sound, one that was so attractive, upbeat and fun that it was mesmerizing.

They also wrote their own music and performed it flawlessly.

Of course, it was also their personalities. They were friendly, charming, witty and seemed to have a genuine regard for their fans.

For whatever reason, these four guys managed to get together and create something that was a whole far beyond the sum of its parts.

And, of course, it was not just a matter of being a flash in the pan.

The Beatles revolutionized popular music and the complexity of their songs grew up as they did. They were always looking for ways to create better, more intriguing and intelligent music, and in the process, they had an impact that continues to influence musicians.

I remember waiting, along with countless other people, for the arrival of their new albums. Because we all knew that every song, not just one or two, on that album would not just be good, but great.

I am not a musician, so I am sure someone who is could explain their impact on music far better than me. I just know what I like.

I still listen to The Beatles, of course. So do my children. And I'm sure my grandchildren will as well. Their music is timeless.

Yes, I and millions of other youth around the country were ridiculed when we exhibited this strange exuberance for a musical group that in the end did live up to, and far exceed, all of the hype.

I guess we could say, "We told you so."

But we won't.

As they say, the proof is in the pudding.

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