Confessions of a Beatlemaniac

Guide contributor
By Carol Viau | Feb 05, 2014
Photo by: Carol Singer Viau photos A PIECE OF ROCK HISTORY — Feb. 9 marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. The B&W photos were taken from the TV screen during the live performances by a young Carol Singer (now Viau), using her father’s Polaroid camera.

To paraphrase the lyrics from “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” it was “50 years ago today…” Baby Boomers will remember the wave of Beatlemania that swept through the U.S., marked by the band’s first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show Feb. 9, 1964. The four lads from Liverpool changed the face of rock and roll and left their mark on pop culture.

I was a Beatlemanic. Actually, I had advance indoctrination into Beatlemania from my pen pal, Jennifer Morgan (now Smith), who lived in Abergavenny, Wales. Jen sent me a Beatles album in fall 1963, just as the buzz about the Beatles was starting.

I was glued to the TV set Feb. 9, 1964, as were almost 74 million Americans to see The Beatles’ first live performance in the U.S. The television rating reported was a record-setting 45.3, with a 60 percent share — numbers unheard of today.

In my hand was my dad’s Polaroid camera, and once Ed Sullivan said, “Ladies and gentlemen — The Beatles,” I began snapping away. My dad came into the room to see what was going on, and said the pictures would never turn out. But, they did, and I captured remarkably clear images of the young Beatles, on the verge of stardom.

Teens had their favorite Beatle. Mine was George, the “quiet one.” Others liked “cute Paul,” John, the “rebellious one,” or Ringo, the character with rings on almost all of his fingers. Their mop-top hair was considered long — imagine that. And girls screamed through their concerts. I was one of those teenaged girls, crazy for the Beatles.

“What had happened to my intelligent daughter?,” lamented my dad.

For those who didn’t live through the tumultuous 1960s, it’s hard to describe the influence the Beatles had on pop culture.  They changed everything.

We lived in Hammond, Indiana, a suburb of Chicago, and when the Beatles toured in 1964 and 1965, I went to both concerts in Chicago. Yes, I saw the Beatles live, twice. The first time, my sister, Barbara Singer, and I had 10th row seats. I have a faded color picture I took from the 10th row with a Kodak Instamatic camera to prove it.

No one could hear much of the music at that concert — the girls’ screams were so loud. When John, Paul, George and Ringo came onto the stage, they were met by ear-splitting screams from the audience.

In high school, we passed notes to each other in classes, fantasizing about what it would be like to meet the Beatles. The bands’ influence continued through my college years, with the release of albums including “Rubber Soul” and the iconic “Sgt. Pepper.”  As the Beatles changed into the psychedelic phases of their music, so did the pop culture of the young.

Sadly, only two Beatles survive today, but Paul and Ringo performed together at this year’s Grammys. A tribute to the Beatles, "The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute To The Beatles," will air Feb. 9, 2014, on CBS, marking the 50th anniversary of the first appearance on The Ed Sullivan show.

I’ll be watching, hoping to hear “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “I Saw Her Standing There” and “She Loves You.”

To all Beatles fans, who know what I mean — “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”