My parents didn’t know what to make of the Beatles. Not atypical of their generation, they found it hard to hear the music through the long hair. For my Dad, it was more than that though. He was a jazz musician. He played trumpet in his own band. They played small clubs, army bases and VFW’s. This was his passion and it had been the center of my parents social life since they met as teenagers. In my Father’s mind it was the Beatles who single handedly put the kibosh on the long post war peace in which their generation had come to prominence. He might begrudgingly admit that “Yesterday” or “Eleanor Rigby” was a nice tune, but he was emphatic that they were not good musicians, they couldn’t play and they couldn’t sing.
Anyway, being just a kid at the time, I was not provoked by this as much as I would have been as a teenager. Frankly, I really couldn’t understand it. My Mother was marginally more open minded, at least that’s what my older brother said. But somehow, in their minds, the social unrest, the drugs and chaos of the 60′s could be traced back to that very first night they appeared on Ed Sullivan. I don’t fault them for this.
The first record my Dad played around the house that actually had words was “Swingin’ Miss D” by Dinah Washington. I loved (still do) this Quincy Jones produced masterpiece. Dinah’s voice had this incredible edge, a kind of tear or rasp in it that was just captivating. The only other person that had a voice like that was John Lennon – Dad didn’t agree. Up until the Beatles, I loved the jazz he played, and as I got older I returned to that music in a big way. Oddly, I credit this early exposure to jazz with my growing interest in a wide range of genres. It was a nice way to make this connection with him as we both got older. But even then, in the eighties, he refused to concede that the Beatles had talent.
It’s interesting to note that my Dad would have been the same age as Don Draper on Mad Men – 40 in 1966. You can see, in that show, how anyone over thirty suddenly felt displaced when the Beatles first appeared. Their generation grew up in the depression, and had survived the Second World War. The long hair, electric guitars and radical politics threatened to destabilize the world they built. I understand why my Dad, like Don, might not have liked “Tomorrow Never Knows” but I thought he would have loved the horns and jazzy swing of “Got to Get You Into my Life”.
Of course Don did take Sally to see the Beatles in 1964.
My older sister claims my Dad could have gotten tickets for Shea Stadium in '65, but my brother didn’t want to go.
Was this another crisis of faith for my brother or fantasy of my sister’s?
Either way, I can’t imagine my Dad or Don in the middle of all those screaming fans.
The Beatles recorded a version of Dinah Washington’s 1961 version of “September in the Rain” for their audition for Decca Records in January 1962.