Chris Johnson: The Beatles really came in like a wrecking ball

February 16, 2014 

I hadn't planned to comment on all the hype surrounding the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' unofficial launching of the British Invasion by arriving in America for their appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in February of 1964.

After all, this was not a memorable event in my life -- especially since I was negative-6 years old at the time. I didn't even start keeping a diary until I was negative-2.

Of course, as a child of Baby Boomers, I grew up hearing a lot of Beatles music. My parents had plenty of early Beatles music. They preferred those short, catchy songs like "Eight Days a Week" and "Love Me Do" over the later, more abstract stuff like "I Am the Walrus" and "Strawberry Fields Forever."

I loved it all -- even songs like "I Am the Walrus," which John Lennon wrote just to drive crazy the people who tried to decipher his lyrics and twist their meaning. Sounds like something I'd do if I could sing and play guitar. Of course, people have been trying to decipher my writing for years to no avail.

But something in the way I scrolled through the channels last Sunday night led me to come across "The Beatles: The Night That Changed America -- A Grammy Salute," an overly wordy title for a salute to a band who stormed onto the American music scene with short, catchy songs.

I've become jaded by the bland, boring musical performances I've seen on all these awards shows through the years, and the excruciatingly dull Grammy Awards were held just a day before this show was taped on Jan. 27. But this was nothing like those shows.

Mostly, it was just some of the most talented stars out there focusing on the music. They didn't lip-sync. They played their instruments. They didn't make over-the-top political statements or bare a lot of skin or otherwise draw attention to themselves. They simply did their best to cover and interpret some of the greatest songs ever written.

Granted, not all were great successes (see Perry, Katy), but it was interesting, and each performer seemed to give it their all to not just make a song worth hearing, but to make it worth hearing for Paul McCartney and Ringo Star, along with the families of John Lennon and George Harrison, my favorite Beatle.

No one swung in on a wrecking ball. I failed to see any twerking (although it's entirely possible Yoko Ono may have tried it when the camera wasn't on her). There were no wardrobe malfunctions (although Pharrell Williams' hat can be considered a malfunction in itself). No one forgot that they were supposed to be mouthing the words to a pre-recorded track. I was surprised.

And I hope every Disney- and Nick-produced lip-syncher, every popish country act that mails it in, every rocker that screams unintelligibles into a mic and every rap star that regales us with tales of how rich and misogynistic they are was paying attention. Although I seriously doubt it.

The Beatles' music is timeless and translates through decades. They didn't come to America naked on a wrecking ball. They came in three-piece suits, like bankers. And changed the world.


And we-eee are never ever ever gonna be marking 50 years of a single person on the charts right now the way we did last Sunday night.

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