On November 4, 1963, a still-emerging quartet from Liverpool played a key engagement: The Beatles gave a concert for the Royal Family in London. In fact, the event was a Royal Command Performance at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London, in the presence of both the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. The “Beatles Bible” includes the following narration:
“By this point 'Beatlemania' was an established phenomenon, with the group drawing huge and frenzied audiences across the country and beyond. Although they were seventh on the 19-act bill on this night, they were by far the most anticipated performers to appear.”
It was a long time ago but it was just yesterday
At the same time as Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr were catapulting to immortal fame that evening, President John F. Kennedy was arm-twisting his Vice President, Lyndon B. Johnson, to settle a dispute between leading politicians in Johnson’s home state of Texas. This would clear the way for the president’s pending trip to Texas in later November—an effort to secure the Lone Star State’s crucial electoral votes in the 1964 election.
This was the November that sealed the two most seminal—and contrasting events—of the Boomer era. The assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas, under brilliant sunshine at 12:30 PM on Friday, November 22, remains, without a doubt, the definitive tragic turning point of our collective history.
It spawned the spiraling, gruesome era of Vietnam, the subsequent years of civil rights struggles and annual summer urban riots, the epoch of deep disenchantment and disconnection defiantly inscribed by Woodstock, and, of course, the successive assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.
Nobody who was alive and over ten years old on November 22, 1963 fails to recall where he or she was at the moment the shocking news came from Dallas. None of us still living, fifty years later, doesn’t draw a line of anguish from that moment till now—a sense of disentanglement and violent dissolution that bleeds into the years of Indochina, Watergate, Kent State, the Iranian jihadist revolution and all the way to unwelcome and trembling bad order of the post 9/11 world.
We put footprints on the moon in 1969 but had lost our footing on the earth by 1968.
On the other hand, 1963 brought us, via Liverpool, the greatest and most creative libretto of musical achievement, of wondrous lyrical breakthrough, that we have all known in the history of our crazy/bloody/cyber journey. The Beatles broke through the post-JFK assassination trauma and invaded these shores, via the port of Ed Sullivan, by early 1964. “She Loves You;” “I Want To Hold Your Hand;” and “Twist and Shout!” finally drowned out the muffled drums that echoed in our ears from President Kennedy’s funeral cadence across the Potomac and into Arlington on November 25, 1963.
It was a long time ago but it was just yesterday. The worst sound we can remember happened and we were never the same. The best music we’ve ever heard began playing and we have never stopped being different.