Friday, August 14, 2015

The Beatles' Legend Comes to Life with Ed Sullivan

Paul McCartney and Lou O'Neill at the Ed Sullivan Show 1965

This story has appeared on this blog in some form over the past 6 years, but thanks to the typing of our good friend, Michael, here it is the complete version.    Michael informed me that Lou O'Neill was the MC at the Beatlefest in New York in the 1970's and often led the Beatles auction.  

The Beatles' Legend Comes to Life with Ed Sullivan
By Lou O'Neill Jr.
Circus Magazine
January 1981

It was the 60's, oh yes, it definitely was still the '60s.  Inflation didn't exist, LBJ sat in the White House and believe it or not, Quaaludes hadn't even been invented yet.  But rock 'n' roll was changing - for the better.  For years American music had been stagnant.  Elvis never seemed to recapture the old spark after his discharge from the Army.  I still loved his stuff, but it just wasn't the same.  And then came the Beatles!

My taste in music had undergone drastic changes as soon as I began to "get into" (how's that for a 60's buzzword?) what Lennon and McCartney were all about.  To merely state that Messrs. Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr were the  greatest group ever understates their importance since, to this reporter at least, the Beatles influenced not only rock fans, but the world as well.

I first met them in August of '65.  They were in New York to tape the old Ed Sullivan show for CBS.  I can remember begging my Dad for weeks on end to call his old sportswriter friend, Sullivan, so we could get to the show.  It's virtually impossible to describe how excited I was when my father informed me there would be two backstage passes waiting for us compliments of Ed Sullivan.

We walked into the old theater and within seconds I heard the opening guitar bars of "Ticket To Ride". This was too good to be true for there were no screamers present (I regarded them as less than true fans since they screeched throughout the music) and the dress rehearsal was just starting.  It was an unbelievable experience.  Their musicianship, singing and presence was incredible!  I don't mean to be trite, but there was magic in that room.

The Beatles were doing six tunes that night.  Included would be "I Feel Fine," "I'm Down," "Act Naturally," "Ticket To Ride," "Yesterday," and "Help."  Ed Sullivan knew their value.  He would keep you watching the dancing mice or the talking puppet for three-quarters of the "show" before you'd see who you tuned in for in the first place.

Oh yes, it would all be live.  No tapes to stop and start again if a wrong note is hit.  When Ed Sullivan offered me a chance to go back to meet them after the run through, I nearly died.  There I was in the Beatles' dressing room with

Brian Epstein, Ed Sullivan and the Fab Four, as was said back then.  Wake me up when this dream ends I kept thinking to myself.

Minutes earlier, I had encountered Paul McCartney during a "take five."  He was warm and friendly and we talked about American music, particularly the Motown sound.

And here I was being introduced to John, Paul, George and Ringo by Mr. Sullivan.  They displayed a blazing self-confidence.  They definitely knew their worth.  John and Paul were very confident about the sound system Sullivan was using.  They had brought along their Vox AC-100s with 100-watt power to drive the guitars.  Though still a teenager and more importantly, the biggest Beatles fan in New York, I tried to act like a mature young man in an attempt to blend in.  I sat in awe.

John Lennon did most of the talking.  Amazingly, even then he seemed quite unaffected by and scarily accustomed to the continuing insanity and chaos swirling around the band.  Lennon talked about the upcoming '65 tour, about their new film ("Help") and asked me a few questions about America and New York City in particular.  George was very quiet; he hardly said a word.  Paul was happy and bubbly and Ringo seemed to be the comedian of the bunch.  Always fooling around.  There was no doubt that Brian Epstein was calling all the shots.

Later that evening, I would watch the Beatles do it all over, live.  I could barely make out the songs much less understand the lyrics.  It was sheer pandemonium the likes of which I have never seen before or since. 

Fifteen years have come and gone, but the memories remain.  The scientists say it does happen when something leaves an indelible mark on a person.  In my life, the Beatles were that indelible mark. And I wonder how many millions upon millions out there feel exactly the same way I do.

Until next time we leave you with the rosen words of John Lennon and Paul McCartney:
And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make.

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