50 years of Beatlemania: why the Beatles music endures

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February 7, 2014 - 7:41am
The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.
The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.

The Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show is often called the night that changed the world. This Sunday marks 50 years since that night but fans who watched that performance can remember it like it was yesterday.

“At seven years old I was just… I’m feeling it in my heart right now, my whole insides of my body are just going yay, it was just overwhelming, awesome and totally wonderful,” Gloria Robinson said.

Technically she wasn’t supposed to be watching Ed Sullivan that night it was past her bedtime on her birthday.

“I just kept on watching the clock and I snuck into the other room and I turned the TV on quiet, quiet so mom and dad couldn’t hear me and I watched the show and I’ve just loved the Beatles ever since,” Robinson said.

12-years old at the time, Brian Von Richter also remembers that night vividly.

“I do remember my mom almost turning the TV off because ‘what is that noise you guys are listening to,’” he laughed. “I don’t remember the hype so much but I do remember that I wanted to be a Beatle because the girls were going crazy.”

Across the country some fans from that generation recall the sudden craze for the famous Beatles haircut. For Von Richter, that performance inspired him to buy his very first 45 record. He remembers the craze of the British Invasion.

“For me it was exciting, I was never a fan of Elvis Presley,” he admitted. “It changed music forever as far as I’m concerned.”

Beatles fan Brain Von Richter with the Blue Album on Vinyl. Adriana Christianson/CJME

Beatles fan Brain Von Richter with the Blue Album on Vinyl. Adriana Christianson/CJME

Timeless, classic and revolutionary at the same time, it's hard to put into words exactly what the Beatles did for music and pop culture. The rock band marked a shift towards artists actually writing their own music and playing their own instruments. In seven years together, they played the first stadium shows, challenged cultural norms by refusing the plan for a segregated audience when they played in Georgia. The Concert for Bangladesh was the first charity rock concert and Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was the very first concept album.

While he admits the Beatles early music does sound pretty hokey and poppy looking back but by 1967 Von Richter thinks the Beatles hit their stride. His favourite will always be Abbey Road because he loves every single song and he even named his first business after Abbey Road.

“Incredible, nobody writes music like that anymore,” he commented, when asked why he thinks their popularity endures today.

He is not surprised at all that so many artists and bands of today list the Beatles as an influence.

Robinson agrees that it’s the variety of music that makes the Beatles so popular, because they seem to have something for everyone’s taste.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the Beatles phenomenon is that it has jumped across generations. Chelsi Gobeil was born decades after the Beatles broke up.  But she fell in love with their music as a little girl, first listening to their albums with her parents and then watching a re-broadcast of the famous Sullivan Show performance with her mom.

Chelsi Gobeil with Beatles collection. submitted

Chelsi Gobeil with Beatles collection. submitted

“After that I was pretty much hooked I loved their music and I was really intrigued by their appearance and who they were and it’s stuck since then,” she said.

The music of the Fab Four became the soundtrack to Gobeil's life. She remembers Listening to records with her best friend growing up and she even found her husband through a shared love of the Beatles. They went so far as to take their honeymoon in Liverpool and London to visit the famous sites like Strawberry Field, the Cavern Club and Abbey Road studios.

The crowning moment for Gobeil came this summer at Mosaic Stadium when Sir Paul McCartney called her on stage and signed her arm. That night she had his autograph tattooed on. Posting pictures from that night on Twitter elicited thousands of responses. It proves that Beatlemania still has a place in the age of social media too.

“There’s still this teenage crowd that loves the Beatles, this huge fan-base. It is amazing that it’s like half a century later and they still have this huge, huge fan base,” Gobeil said.

Across the Universe and spanning generations, all of these fans agree the Beatles changed the way we think about music and more.

“They were just so creative and innovative and just a lot of the musical norms that we have now like the music video and concert tours and different ways of recording – they invented it,” Gobeil said.

“Their music is timeless, it really is,” Von Richter added. “They are just great songs and people remember them.”

“It wasn’t just their music that changed things, it was their actions too,” Robinson said. “Maybe some of them weren’t so great but they gave people something to think about that’s for sure.”

This weekend, CJME will rebroadcast the Beatles first performance on the Ed Sullivan Show from February 9th, 1964, tune in this Saturday and Sunday evening at 7:00 p.m.