I am sure that every early adolescent kid thinks the world is revolving around them and the world is moving mighty fast. In 1964 I was 14 years old. It seemed to me that 1964 was setting the stage for changes for not only me, but the entire world. For me, 1964 set up 1965, which is when we opened the store. 1964 set up 1968 when the USA exploded and the wild 60’s with it’s good and bad came of age.
Living in our new house, we had easy access to the new McDonald’s on Stadium. Easy and fast food matched the times. It was a different day back then. The average price for a home in 1964 was $13,500. The medium income was $6,000. Gas was 30 cents a gallon. It cost $1.25 to go see a movie.
A brash young boxer captured everyone’s attention by being so bold and being able to back it up – Cassius Clay became the heavy weight champion of the world. For the first time, the medical world said, …’excuse me, but those things we have all been puffing on for so long cause lung cancer.’ It didn’t move very many folks to stop smoking but at least they began to understand there might be a risk.
Since gas was so cheap, the American Automobile industry was thinking in a different way. They knew the country was changing and they knew the average age was lowering, therefore, the auto buying public needed something exciting. So, in 1964, Ford introduced a car that the ‘Kids would go for’.
It was affordable, it was fast, it was sporty. We hadn’t seen anything quite like it before. It wasn’t overly reliable when it first came out. But it sure caught the eye of a changing nation.
There were complications in 1964. We started to hear about a place that the late President Kennedy was sending our military troops to. He called them advisors. Vietnam was showing up in our newspapers more and more. Our new President, Johnson, was able to shove through a law in Congress that improved the lives of our African American citizens.
A minister from the south, Martin Luther King, won the Nobel Peace Prize for this efforts to point out injustice in our systems. The Warren Commission, investigating the assignation of President Kennedy, concluded that Oswald acted on his own. No one liked how shoddy a job the commission did, but the matter was dropped in the name of national unity and peace of mind.
Mid year 1964, we were gearing up for another election. The first one since President Kennedy was killed. LBJ accomplished a lot of things after taking over from Kennedy, but we were still not crazy about him. He was coarse, he was homely, he bullied congressmen and senators to get his way. But, the Republicans nominated someone so far to the right, that the path to victory for LBJ became easier and easier. He won in a landslide.
As music was about to change the lives of the Flanders’, music was also taking over the world. Sure, we had new artists like the improbably named, Simon and Garfunkle. And Chuck Berry was in jail convicted on the Man Act, but was still able to write and record, “You Never can Tell.” And none of us could ever tell or image that the world would be taken over by ‘four lads from Liverpool’.
Jack Parr showed us a video clip of crowds of kids swamping four musicians in London in late 1963. Always the showman and business man, Ed Sullivan brought those boys to New York and to our TVs in early 1964.
Their music was not necessarily new. It had elements of Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and a few other American artists. But the way they put it together was something that was exciting and catchy. Soon everyone knew all of the lyrics because we played their 45’s over and over.
In April of 1964, The Beatles had the top five spots on the Billboard list. This meant absolutely everyone rushed out and bought everything they put out. Can’t buy me Love; Twist and Shout; She loves you; I want to hold your hand and Please please me, were in every kid’s hands and on the radio constantly.
They asked the newly self named Mohammad Ali if he would take a photo with The Beatles. He asked, ‘what is a Beatle?’ but posed anyway. It became one of the most famous photos of the decade.
These guys were everywhere you looked. Parents thought their hair was radically too long. Pop musicians were overly jealous of their success. No one could sell records like these guys. Stores could not keep Beatles records in stock. Newspapers, magazines, TV all were looking for pictures of John, Paul, George and Ringo.
Oh sure, there was other music happening. There was this folk guy from Minnesota by way of New York folk clubs.
Almost unnoticed was a concert in San Bernardino California in late 64′. It was a group of kids from England who were nothing like The Beatles, but what the heck, they were English.
Their hair was even longer than The Beatles. Their sound was very different than the boys from Liverpool. They sounded a lot like old blues singers. I liked them right away, but again, they couldn’t exactly compete with THE English Group. (And no one would have predicted that this other group would last five times longer than The Beatles.)
Traditional music sources such as Broadway continued to put out quality shows.
But, there was nothing like The Beatles. They were the big deal of 1964. The big deal of 64′ for me was that my Mom and Dad were seriously thinking about and then committing to the idea of opening a music store. Along with the Beatles this astounding news consumed my time and imagination. I was all in, heart and soul. Heck, I might even get to meet the lads from Liverpool.
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