(Written January 23, 2004) I was in high school when the Beatles hit the US. On January first I was listening to the countdown of the hits of the previous year - on AM radio. I guess a few FM stations were broadcasting, but it was sort of like satellite radio is now - not many people had access to it. New cars only came with AM radios in them. In fact, it was not that long before (less than 10 years) that transistor radios had come out. Now this was a big deal - it didn’t have vacuum tubes, so you could actually carry it around with you and run it off of batteries! The really hot models had more than one actual transistor in them, but even those were not something you could fit into a shirt pocket. I begged and pleaded until my parents finally bought me one of those expensive things - and I went about everywhere carrying it next to my ear.
Anyhow, here it was the first day of the New Year (1964), and the DJ comes on and says that they predict the next song will be the number one hit for the year coming. I had never heard the song before, so I thought that was a pretty bold statement, but as it turned out I’m pretty sure they were right. It was “I want to hold your hand”.
About a month later the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan and “Beatlemania” hit the US. There was a lot of attention paid to their “long hair” back then - and indeed, at the time, it did seem very long. Standards for a haircut back then were if a single hair was even close to touching an ear - you were in bad need of a haircut. I bought a Beatles wig as a gag to wear to high school, and I don’t believe there was any hair on it more than 2 inches long…
There was a lot more of a common culture back then, which I’m not sure is a good thing or a bad thing - probably some of both. No internet, 3 TV broadcast channels (if you were lucky enough to live somewhere that you could pick up all 3 of them) and only AM radio, which only had a few choices for music: Top 40 or Country & Western. In the big cities you could probably find a station that played Classical music or maybe even jazz, but not many choices. But it meant nearly everyone was aware of the same things and had the same reference points. Like, if you were watching late night TV on Saturday night - well it was almost certainly “Saturday Night Live”. And most everyone knew the same music.
And if you saw a wild animal outside of the cave, it was almost surely a dinosaur…
(Image above from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Beatles,_Kennedy_Airport,_February_1964.jpg )