This is the very first blog I will write about a specific year in time in my own life, even though before this one I have done a lot of reminiscing about single events of specific years. The reason this year deserves an entire blog is because it was truly a pivotal year for so many of us of all ages.
My age was eight (8) years old when 1964 began in January. I was a young girl in the fourth grade at Carnell Elementary School in Philadelphia, and my teacher Miss Cohn was my all time favorite teacher who I also referenced in this past blog because she was that important. (linked here)
The USA was still reeling and mourning from the November assassination of President John Kennedy (that chilling announcement is also frozen in memory for many of us and also was the subject of a separate blog linked here.) The world seemed like a dark place in that late fall and early winter as a coming war was also beginning to take shape.
It was an important year too for a far greater cause and reason: it was the year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was finally passed. That meant the end of segregation and a national law that said that discrimination based on race was outlawed. We still have a long way to go even to this day as we all know, but imagine that before 1964, discrimination based on race or national origin was not against the law. Young people of every race and color stood side by side to help make this a reality.
Being such a small child, I did not know much about the above historic event though I watched Walter Cronkite with my dad at times. I learned all about it later in high school history and then I worked in the Civil Rights field as a federal investigator as my first job out of college. When I look back at my vivid memories of this important year, many things brought so much excitement because it was all about a changing world, and a changing society.
As baseball fans of the Phillies know, this was a famous year with one of the most exciting teams in a long time during the spring and summer of 1964. Unfortunately, the team had a spectacular collapse and went nowhere with an incredible losing streak after so much promise. For a while though, my father and I followed the excitement with great anticipation.
The winds of change were also about to bring a huge shift in the performing arts and in youth culture. I was very much aware of and very much a part of this shift that started in February of that year. It was in February 1964, that The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan and this event changed music, changed styles, and had elders taking notice that the youth culture was shifting to a more prominent role.
The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show two Sundays in a row. You can find these events on YouTube and relive it anytime you want. That is the wonder of the internet and what is available on it. I also wrote a blog on the importance of the Ed Sullivan show if you want to read about his phenomenon.
Getting back to the momentous event of the Beatles arriving on our shores, and with my eight year old self absolutely swooning and fawning over a singing idol: at the coming of this event, I was ready to grow up in a hurry.
From the moment my eyes first adored them on Ed Sullivan, I was hooked. When they sang She Loves You and shook their mop top heads, I felt such electricity in the air through my black and white TV screen and literal chills went up and down my spine. This was excitement of the likes I had never experienced. My father who was always big time into music watched with me and mocked them at first. “They are just screaming, not singing,” he said. “Long haired weirdos” he called them. I will never forget his first impression of them which was the very opposite of my own response.
Yet that year, the Beatles took over the airwaves, and even my dad’s middle of the road station WIP, and his favorite DJ, Joe Niagra played them. Dad began to come around and even bought me my Meet the Beatles album that I played until it wore out. To this day, part of his CD collection includes several by The Beatles.
With the Ed Sullivan appearance, our national obsession (called Beatlemania) began and suddenly, every little girl through teenage girl was collecting Beatles trading cards, (I still have some of mine in a memorabilia box) buying Beatles dolls, and boys began growing out their hair. Listening to the radio to hear them became a regular practice and it seemed I then had a transistor glued to my ear. The British invasion also began and I loved what I was hearing, including the Herman’s Hermits and The Rolling Stones. British accents were all the rage and we were all imitating their beautiful style of speech, some more successfully than others. The lifelong love of everything British personally began for me.
In our generation, in 1964, we had turned a corner and now the world was not looking as bleak thanks to The Beatles. I remember playing in the streets near my house that Spring of 1964, along with other friends my age, and we were all pretending to be Beatles girlfriends or wives – Maureen, Pattie, Jane Asher, and Cynthia. I loved Paul, my crush and my favorite with those soulful eyes and gorgeous singing voice, but I did not always get to be his girlfriend Jane Asher. He was in high demand and sometimes I was stuck being Maureen, Ringo’s wife, who no one wanted to be. We affected the accents and talked about our husbands and boyfriends, the members of the Beatles. We were 8 and 9 and 10 years old but that is what we fantasized about! It was a fever that all of us caught.
We also wanted to buy any and all Beatles products – a loose leaf binder with their image, a plastic wallet, and tiny Beatles dolls with lifelike hair that you could push inward and the hair flipped up as if they were singing “Woooo” and shaking their mop tops. Beatles buttons were all the rage too and we wore them with pride.
(I still have my original Paul doll but lost his guitar that it came with somewhere along the way. See below.) I had that white loose leaf binder with the Meet the Beatles photo in their suits until it literally fell apart.
However, this blog is called 1964 because It was more than just music that was changing in the world. At this moment in time we became aware of an entire culture catered to the taste of teenagers and what they wanted. Boys were getting together in their basements and forming fledgling bands. Everyone wanted to be part of this cultural shift. How many bands were formed as part of this cultural explosion? There were the ones that made it, and the many that never went anywhere.
The British influence started showing up more than music. The mini-skirt invented by Mary Quant in 1964 started that fashion trend along with many others to come from London. Cosmetics by Yardley, and even models like Twiggy who would come along a few years later would show us the ultimate in the “mod” look that everyone wanted to achieve. Teenage girls were using black eyeliner just like the Brits, along with white lipstick. We heard about cool places like Carnaby Street and just soaked up any news we could get on the British culture. We wanted makeup, clothes and hair (remember the Sassoon cut – yep 1964) just like the Brits.
It was a heady Spring, and the winds of change in society loomed large. My fourth grade school year ended, and I turned nine years old. A Hard Day’s Night, my second favorite movie of all time, and one that I have seen AND enjoyed dozens of times, came out the summer of 1964. Since I never had much to do in the summers, I spent a good part of it at the Benner movie theater, just three blocks from my home, watching that movie which smartly ran matinees daily of it. Since movies were just a quarter at the matinee, so many of us girls went to see the movie over and over and over again. We did not understand much of the dialog due to the accents, but it did not matter because our screams started at the beginning of the film and lasted throughout.
Although I had turned nine years old by that summer, I felt older than that and privileged to be part of the screaming girls squadron at the Benner movie theater. It was almost as good as getting to go to a concert and screaming my head off. Close, but not quite.
Of course, I was way too young when the Beatles came to town to go to their concert, (in the fall of 1964) so my self-imposed reputation as one of the cool pre-teens was blown and I was relegated back to being a little girl. My first cousin got to go and she was my teenage role model at all times through these years.
Eventually, two years later in 1966, the Beatles became more complex with their music, and being very young, I wanted more fizzy, jangly, “pop” rock and roll and switched my extreme devotion to the Monkees. I was a REAL pre-teen at 11 years old the year the Monkees came out. (And you can use the search feature on my blog to read my many blogs about that group.) Still later, as an older teen, I was absolutely obsessed with the more complicated Beatles music, and am a life long fan of ALL of their diverse catalog – every song and every album.
Fortunately, my brain works in a weird way and I have a photographic (called eidatic) long term memory, and I can revisit this very special year of 1964 as if it happened yesterday. I remember this year when so much of the world shifted and changed to a youth oriented culture and I am so glad I was part of it.
My husband recently told me that he works with young guys who have never even heard of The Beatles nor do they know a single tune, and we both believe that pop culture from the 1960’s should be a required high school or college course because that era was so important for so many reasons.
I did my own work in imparting the importance of 1964 and this band, and their music. My own children, (in their 30’s) raised on oldies from my era, are huge Beatles fans as are their spouses. They understand the importance of my era. My son chose “A Hard Day’s Night” theme for his Bar Mitzvah, because he and his partner Josh Brener (now famous as an actor) loved the Beatles that much. Here is a shot of the front side of their party invite. (The text inside included invitation language mixed with Beatles tunes such as “After a hard day of reading Torah, Josh and Brett deserve A Hard Day’s Night!)
But getting back to the year of 1964, it was a major year of societal transition for so many reasons. It was a cultural shift for me and my generation. It was the year of my own personal shift, and one in which I realized that I was my own person, with my own tastes. I learned that it was okay for me to have different taste in music than my parent’s generation – still stuck on the Rat Pack. (which I discovered the wonder of that music as an adult!) It was the year where I became absolutely passionate about pop music, and that paved the way for my continuing love of music and concerts as an adult. (My husband, also a music lover is always fascinated at the depth and breadth of my pop music knowledge as I just soaked it in all those years and as I said, I never forget anything.)
Finally, I learned that youth and their tastes and passions can lead the way to cultural change. There is great power in youth, and it remains that way to this day. Now, tell me your memories of 1964.