The Night when Everything Changed

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Paul McCartney shows his guitar to host Ed Sullivan before the Beatles’ live television appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in New York, Feb. 9, 1964. *

Sometimes out of the clear blue, something unexpected happens. You didn’t see it coming. You didn’t fully understand it at the time.

Yet in retrospect you realize you have experienced a watershed moment, an event when everything changed.

Fifty years ago tonight I saw something that had historic significance, though as a young boy I had no idea what was happening.

I was only half watching the TV when Ed Sullivan announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles!” Suddenly, the black and white tube became a magnetic force that drew me closer.

I remember two things about that night.

First, I loved the music. I’d never heard anything like it. At that moment, I became a life-long Beatles fan.

Second, my parents and their friends hated the music. In retrospect, I think they reacted negatively because they were merely unable to comprehend what was happening. After all, the culture at that time looked and sounded nothing like those iconic lads from Liverpool. (Years later, my mom admitted that the Beatles made some pretty good music.)

On that cold February night, I had no idea that I had just witnessed the beginning of the British invasion. That night, Beatlemania opened the floodgates for other British bands, and in coming months and years we would be introduced to the Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Who, Peter and Gordon, The Animals, Manfred Mann, Petula Clark, Freddie and the Dreamers, Herman’s Hermits, The Dave Clark Five and… The list could go on and on.

Little could I know that night how much our culture was about to shift. In the coming years, I observed (but did not participate in—honest, I didn’t) the drug culture, the sexual revolution and the hippie movement. I was, however, caught up in much of the idealism. The anti-establishment culture created in me a healthy distrust of those in authority who are overly impressed with their power, their status or their wealth. My values have never been founded on these ephemeral items.

Yes, the winds of change began to blow on that otherwise ordinary Sunday night. The changes were imperceptible at first, but in subsequent years I became part of the culture that constantly questions the status quo. I actually like change, and that has helped me to thrive in today’s ever-changing world where the status quo is only a memory.

Fifty years ago tonight, history was made. At the time, however, no one had any idea how momentous those events really were.

Now, fifty years later, today looks like it will be another ordinary day. Yet I wonder what might happen that, at first glance will seem very pedestrian, but in retrospect I’ll realize that I’ve experienced another watershed moment when everything changed after that point in time.

* Photo from The Huffington Post

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