Ladies and Gentlemen. The Beatles!
February 10, 2014

It was fifty years ago today (Sunday)
That they came to the U.S. to play
I was only a week-old child
But they drove all of America wild
When they were introduced to you
On the Ed Sullivan Show
The Beatles: John, Paul, George, and Ringo

Anyone who was probably from five to 35 on February 9, 1964 likely was tuning in to CBS that night. Even people who hadn't heard of the Beatles were likely watching, because The Ed Sullivan Show was the thing to watch. Older people scoffed at the lads from Liverpool and their haircuts. Teenagers, especially girls, were going crazy, but even boys were watching, and were amazed at the look and sound. The Beatles changed music, and America, forever, and that was the night it happened.

CBS had a 50th anniversary special Sunday night. It was a Grammy salute to the Fab Four, and it was done Grammy style, with lots of musical performances. In 1964, the Beatles opened with All My Loving. The CBS show on Sunday did the same thing, with Adam Levine, Dave Grohl and others performing. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were there, and so was Yoko Ono, and George Harrison's wife. Paul and Ringo would perform later in the two-and-a-half hour program, taped days earlier at LA's Nokia Theater.

Back in November, I wrote about the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, and how I was so into the history and remembrance, even though I wasn't born yet when it happened. I was alive when the Beatles arrived, but only for seven days, and I'm sure I didn't watch, and I doubt my parents did, either (They weren't really into the music, and were probably a little sleep deprived from having a new baby in the house). Even though I arrived in America a week before they did, I've always associated my birthday with the arrival of the Beatles, so this was certainly an event that can't go uncelebrated. I even had my steak and beer dinner that I didn't have in Pennsylvania, and made it a week-later birthday occasion.

The only thing about the program that was a little disappointing, is that they did not play the original Ed Sullivan broadcast. You would think in a 2½-hour show, they would at least show an entire song. There were small clips, but that was it. What was really cool, though, was they had interviews with technicians and directors that worked on the show that night. They even talked to a few women who were among the screaming teenagers in the audience a half-century ago. There were short biographies of each of the band members (I didn't know McCartney's mom's name was Mary. I always thought 'mother Mary' in Let it Be was a religious reference), and vignettes with McCartney and Starr with David Letterman, who does his late-night show in the same theater where Sullivan hosted his program, and the Beatles appeared.

But Sunday night was about the music. Stevie Wonder did We Can Work It Out with, as he put it, 'a little more funky thing with it'. Jeff Lynne, Joe Walsh, and George Harrison's son Danny performed George's Something, and Katy Perry sang Yesterday. Grohl and some of his friends got out of the mainstream with Hey Bulldog, but still rocked the house. The Eurythmics reunited for The Fool on the Hill, and Alicia Keys and John Legend couldn't be topped with their rendition of it Let It Be.

Starr and McCartney performed separately, and then together. Ringo did two songs, one of front and then on the drums. McCartney did three numbers, closing with I Saw Her Standing There. He then went into Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, brought out Ringo for With A Little Help from My Friends, and closed the show with Hey Jude.

Early into the show, you figured out that the evening was less about the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, but the Beatles themselves. That's certainly not a bad thing, and the show, especially with Letterman, McCartney, and Starr in the Ed Sullivan Theater did remind you of what the night was all about. Starr is 73 now, McCartney 71, and although they do look a lot different these days, you wouldn't think it was 50 years ago by looking at them or watching them perform. John Lennon would be 73 if he were alive today, and Harrison, the baby of the group, would be 71 in a couple of weeks. I admit that turning 50 for me has been tough, but having the Beatles and their music with me the entire time, has made it a lot better.

More Beatles: Before watching the CBS Special Sunday night, I watched an hour show I had taped from CNN ealier in the week. The Sixties: The British Invasion wasn't solely about the Beatles, as you can tell by the title, but one interesting thing. It featured a recording of the first time a Beatles record was played in the United States. The song was a request by a teenage girl to a radio station.Pretty cool.

A big week for TV: CBS had the Beatles special, but it was a huge week for NBC. The Winter Olympics made their premiere Thursday, followed by the emotional Jay Leno on his final Tonight Show. I've said this before. I much prefer Letterman to Leno, but Jay got a raw deal from NBC, but has been as classy as he could be about it (publicly at least). Leno's final guest was Billy Crystal, and he did not let you down. Crystal brought out a bunch of Leno's favorite guests as the Shut Your Von Trapp singers, each with a line to the Sound of Music's So Long, Farewell. Jack Black, Kim Kardashian, Chris Paul, Sheryl Crow, Jim Parsons, Carol Burnett, and Oprah Winfrey each made an appearance. Garth Brooks was the final musical guest, followed by Leno's goodbye remarks where he really had a tough time holding it together. Leno hosted The Tonight Show for 22 seasons, minus the seven months that Conan O'Brien got to host. It's true that Leno may have had something to do with O'Brien's ouster, but NBC shouldn't have promised the slot to Conan in the first place.

Jimmy Fallon's 969th and final Late Night was on Friday. Fallon will be taking over for Leno, and moving down the hall, so his farewell was not nearly as melancholy. In his middle segment, Fallon and announcer Steve Higgins reminisced about such times as when Higgins' pants fell down, and musical director QuestLove choked on a glass of water. Not exactly Bette Midler singing to Johnny Carson. Fallon's last guest was fellow Saturday Night Live alum Andy Samberg, and is final segment was with The Muppets singing Take a Load Off Annie with Fallon tapping out a beat on the drums. The song was excellent, but the show concludes with Fallon getting up, walking off stage, down the hall, and onto his tonight show set. Fitting I suppose, but not my cup of tea I guess.

Late night post script: Fallon's new show will say The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. That word was also used when Carson hosted, and when Leno began. Jay tells the story about how his mom thought “starring” was too Hollywood, so Jay changed it to the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Fallon starts on February 17. Seth Myers will begin hosting Late Night a week later.

Note: Mom is still at a physical therapy facility in Lancaster, but she seems to be doing some walking on her own now, and may be going home at the end of the week. If she has a minor setback, another week's stay is possible.

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