All posts by Old Rocker

Themed Albums

Themed albums, sometimes called concept albums, have a special place in rock history. Most albums are simply a collection of songs by an artist or group. A themed album has an additional story to tell and is based around a central concept or story.

Albums with a theme weren’t new with rock music, but rock brought them to a new level. Maybe it was the advanced capabilities of the recording equipment that made it possible or maybe it was that music production had progressed. It was probably a combination of both, coupled with a few extremely talented musical geniuses, that made themed albums some of the tops of the 60s.

A few of the musical greats recorded successful concept albums before the rock era. Woody Guthrie was probably first with his Dust Bowl Ballads about life in the 30s. Frank Sinatra recorded several, most notably In the Wee Small Hours about loneliness and heartache, and Come Fly with Me about world travel. Going off subject a bit, but I can’t help thinking what a fantastic rock star Frank Sinatra would be if he was at his prime during the golden age of rock.

Jazz great Nat King Cole recorded a few notable themed albums with After Midnight and Penthouse Serenade. And Country legend Johnny Cash built his reputation with Songs of Our Soil, a gospel inspired theme about death and mortality.

Then came rock and themed albums ruled

The Ventures, an instrumental group of highly skilled but low visibility studio musicians launched a series of themed albums in the early 60s. Their albums themed with surf music, country, outer space, television themes, and psychedelic music sold by the ton.

The Beach Boys Pet Sounds themed album
The Beach Boys Pet Sounds Album

Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds album with The Beach Boys highlighted his musical genius. Even now, 50 years later, the musical world still talks about the Pet Sounds album as a single composition. Many of the individual songs were hits but the genius is in the assembled package. Paul McCartney credits Pet Sounds as being a major inspiration.

And they just got bigger from here…

Inspired by some of their predecessors, The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band raised the bar. Many will say that the Sgt. Pepper bar is so high that it won’t be topped but there are many that come close.

The Moody Blues Days of Future Past put a psychedelic spin on everyday life. The psychedelic spin came from the London Festival Orchestra twisted to the band’s R&B rock style.

We’ve mentioned some of the finest examples, but space doesn’t allow, and I’m not enough of an expert, to list all of the golden age of rock theme albums. There’s two more that we need to mention though.

Cover from Tommy, a themed album from The Who.
Tommy Album Cover

All of the examples so far have been musical themes, where the song or emotion style tied the album together. In 1969, just a few months before Woodstock, The Who released their rock opera Tommy. In addition to the musical theme, Who guitarist Pete Townshend wrote a storyline into Tommy that turned it into a rock opera. It tells the story of a deaf mute boy and how he gets along with family and his life and the relationship with his family.

I hate to mention this last one. Musical purists hate it, but we’re all guilty of listening to them. It’s the themed compilation. Titles like The Greatest Love Songs or The World’s 20 best Cha Chas. I’ll admit, that I own quite a few of them (I’m not a music purist), and they’re the only way to go for holiday songs.


The Day The Music Died

The phrase “the day the music died” is often used to refer to February 3, 1959, the date of the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. The three musicians were on tour at the time and had just finished performing at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa as part of the Winter Dance Party Tour. They boarded a small plane to travel to the next stop on the tour, but the plane crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all three musicians on board.

The Winter Dance Party was a rock and roll tour that took place in the Midwest United States in early 1959. The tour was organized by Buddy Holly’s manager, and it was intended to be a showcase of some of the biggest names in rock and roll at the time. However, the tour would go down in history as one of the most tragic events in the history of rock and roll.

Tragic Plane Ride

The tour reached its tragic climax on February 3, 1959, when Holly, Valens, and Richardson were killed in a plane crash. The crash, which occurred just outside Clear Lake, Iowa, was a devastating blow to the rock and roll community, and it marked the end of an era. The loss of these three talented musicians at such a young age had a profound impact on popular culture and the music industry, and it is still remembered as one of the most tragic events in the history of rock and roll.

Despite the tragedy, the music of the artists who were lost in the crash continues to be celebrated and revered to this day. Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson are remembered as some of the most influential musicians of the early rock and roll era, and their music continues to inspire generations of musicians and fans.

The Winter Dance Party was a seminal moment in the history of rock and roll. The tour was intended to be a celebration of the genre, but it would ultimately go down in history as one of the most tragic events in the history of rock and roll. The loss of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson was a devastating blow to the music community, but their music continues to inspire and be celebrated to this day. The Winter Dance Party remains a poignant reminder of the fragility of life and the power of music to bring people together.

The Song

The song “American Pie” which includes the lyrics “the day the music died” was written by Don McLean. The song was released in 1971 and became a massive hit, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. “American Pie” is a nostalgic look back at the 1950s and 1960s, and the lyrics reference several significant events and cultural touchstones of the time, including the loss of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson in a plane crash in 1959. The song helped to popularize the phrase “the day the music died” as a reference to this tragic event, and it remains one of McLean’s best-known and most beloved songs.


There have been several movies about the plane crash and the the day the music died. Some of the most notable movies include:

  1. “La Bamba” (1987) – This biographical drama tells the story of Ritchie Valens, one of the musicians who died in the plane crash. The movie stars Lou Diamond Phillips as Valens and was well-received by audiences and critics.
  2. “The Buddy Holly Story” (1978) – This biographical musical drama tells the story of Buddy Holly’s rise to fame and his untimely death. The movie stars Gary Busey in the title role and was a critical and commercial success.
  3. “Clear Lake, Iowa” (2004) – This independent film tells the story of the events surrounding the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper”. The movie was shot on location in Clear Lake, Iowa, and features performances by several musicians paying tribute to the fallen rock and roll legends.

Dick Clark’s American Bandstand

American Bandstand was the most popular of the live music shows. It started as a local program in Philadelphia where it was formerly called Bob Horn’s Bandstand from 1952 until July 1956.  Bob Horn was the host until he was fired after a drunk driving conviction and Dick Clark took over.

The ABC network picked up the show in August 1957, changed the name to American Bandstand, and broadcast it nationally. At first, it was broadcast daily.  Then, starting in 1963, it was aired weekly until 1989. During its 32-year run, American Bandstand was Rock music’s showcase of good behavior. The dancers were always clean and well dressed, there was no profanity, and performers were on their best behavior.

Dancing on Dick Clark's American Bandstand
Dancing on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand

Shows typically featured the latest hit music, a performance by a popular musician or group, and ratings of songs from the audience.  The biggest attraction was usually the dancers. Each program featured a studio full of teens doing the latest dances. These were all local kids and were unpaid, but they knew all of the latest dances and may have even invented a few on their own. American Bandstand is also noted as being probably the first of it’s kind to show blacks and whites on the same stage, and have mixed seating in the audience.

American Bandstand Introduces New Dances

Dance style was changing quickly during the early days of Bandstand.  Chubby Checker’s hit “The Twist” introduced the concept of “dancing apart to the beat”, which led to scores of new dances.  American Bandstand is where the teen world learned how to do the new steps.

Depending on time zone, the show aired late afternoon and before the prime time news and family shows began.  The audience was mostly teen girls. Some watched for the fashions, gossip, or hairstyles, but it was the dances that made the next day’s gossip.  Of course, it wasn’t all girls watching.  Despite the semi-formal clothing, the  program was as sexy as TV allowed at the time.

American Bandstand made Dick Clark a national star, but his ties to the music publishing business almost got him in trouble with the US Senate subcommittee investigating payola. A play on American Bandstand could give a new song an immediate boost, and it was noticed that songs from local companies which Clark had investments in were played more often than others. In the end, the Senate didn’t find any illegal activity from Dick Clark, but ABC forced him to sell his outside investments in music publishing.



It was about five months ago when I was sitting in a small basement somewhere. I was surrounded by people of all ages and up on stage was an Elvis Presley impersonator. The crazy thing was, every single person in that cramped little basement, even the five and ten-year-old people, were singing along with the great man on stage. This is despite the fact that the real Elvis Presley passed away up to twenty years before these people were even a twinkle in their parent’s eye. This in my opinion of a great example of how a single musician has been able to completely change the landscape of the rock music industry.

As we all know, Elvis Presley is one of the best-selling solo musicians, even today. Perhaps the reason for this is the man had an ability to cover almost every single genre with relative ease. One hit may have been a rock and roll song, another may have been gospel and another may have had blues elements thrown into the mix. As a result of the versatility of his music and voice he was able to pull people in with relative ease, in fact, I am willing to bet that there are very few people out there in the Western World who do not have a favourite ‘Elvis Presley’ song.

Perhaps one of the greatest contributions Elvis Presley made at the time was being credited with the invention of ‘rockabilly’ music, although to be fair he was only a major player in its development. This was a genre that had been around for a while but had yet to hit the mainstream. However, it was in 1954 that he launched a song which really helped to define the genre, and things really exploded from there. Over the next few years, certainly up until he began his movie career and paused a little for a military service, he started to blend various genres into one song. A practice which still exists today but started with Elvis. Perhaps one of the more notable of his songs in this regarded is ‘That’s All Right’ which was a careful blend of boogie, country and blues. Take a listen sometime, you will be surprised.

Sometime after he launched his successful ‘comeback special’, he started to head down a much harder rock approach. Sure, this isn’t anything like what we know has hard rock at this time, but it was certainly something crazy back them. Although later on he started to tone it down to a more ‘pop music’ approach, although to be fair it was nothing like the pop music that we know and love today. Instead back then it was all about the ballads. Take a list to ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’ for an excellent example of this.

Now, it is worth noting that despite being credited with the invention of the ‘Rock N’ Roll’ genre, Elvis didn’t. He merely brought it to the public’s attention. Perhaps the man reason for this was the fact he starred in a number of movies around that time, although they were for the most part critically panned. What people need to realize is that the music in the 1950s was completely different from the 1960s. Children around the globe sought to differentiate themselves from their parents, and this came in the form of listening to different music and dressing in different ways. Elvis Presley was who they looked to for influence as they could both see him and hear his music. In my opinion, this was one of the first times in which musical tastes and dress sense actually crossed in such a way. This is obviously a practice which continues to this very day.

Of course, this is just a brief mention of how Elvis Presley contributed to the music of the 1960s and beyond. There are so many more things that you can look into, for example, the fact that he was constantly able to craft his sound to keep up with changing interests in his target audience. It doesn’t matter how you look at it though, this was a gentleman which is still listened to nowadays, still influencing major artists, and still selling a lot of records. The 60’s truly was a fantastic time for music.

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

4 Seasons album
4 Seasons album

It’s late December 2012 as I update this page, and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons are still performing to sold-out shows around the world. Their unique Italian influenced doo-wop sound with Franki’s strong falsetto have a big part in rock history.

Their many honors include induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999, and a hit musical “Jersey Boys” based on their careers. As a group, they are amongst the best-selling music groups of all time having sold over 175 million records worldwide.

The powerhouse combination of Franki Valli singing and Bob Gaudio’s writing produced hit after hit and 27 Top 40 singles. Their music was strong enough that they not only survived survive the British Invasion in 1964, but they also had their strongest year ever, matching The Beach Boys as the only white American bands that didn’t get crushed.

The musical “Jersey Boys” musical opened on Broadway in 2005, documenting the rise and eventual break up of the original members of the Four Seasons. It was a hit, won a bunch of awards, and is still touring worldwide.

Their top hits (with year and position) include:

1962: “Sherry”, peaked at #1 on Billboard Hot 100
1962: “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, #1
1963: “Walk Like a Man, #1
1963: “Ain’t That a Shame”, #22
1963: “Candy Girl”, #3/”Marlena”, #36
1964: “Dawn (Go Away)”, #3
1964: “Stay”, #16
1964: “Ronnie”, #6
1964: “Alone”, #28
1964: “Rag Doll”, #1
1964: “Save It for Me”, #10
1964: “Big Man in Town”, #20
1965: “Bye, Bye, Baby (Baby Goodbye)”, #12 (“Bye Bye Baby” on initial release)
1965: “Girl Come Running”, #30
1965: “Let’s Hang On!”, #3
1965: “Don’t Think Twice”, #12
1966: “Working My Way Back to You”, #9
1966: “Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry ’bout Me)”, #13
1966: “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, #9
1966: “Tell It to the Rain”, #10
1967: “Beggin'”, #16
1967: “C’mon Marianne”, #9
1967: “Watch the Flowers Grow”, #30
1968: “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”, #24
1975: “Who Loves You”, #3
1975: “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)”, #1
1994: “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)”, #14 (remixed dance version)


4 Seasons album Big Girls Don't Cry
4 Seasons album Big Girls Don’t Cry

Franki Valli’s name (born Francesco Stephen Castelluccio) is permafixed to the Four Seasons, but also had a strong solo career with hits like “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” and “Grease”. He also made several appearances in the HBO series The Sopranos as mobster Rusty Millio.

Bob Gaudio was Franki’s partner in The Four Seasons and wrote many of the band’s songs and went on to writing and producing hit songs and soundtracks for many other big names. He’s a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Four Season’s producer Bob Crewe has also written or produced a host of hit tunes for other artists and is also a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Rock’s Influences

Rock family influences
Rock family influences

Chuck Berry, one of the founding fathers of Rock and Roll, had a great quote about Rock’s influences:
“The Blues had a baby.  They call it Rock and Roll”. Fats Domino said just about the same “”What they call Rock and Roll I’ve been playing in New Orleans for years.”

It’s clear that Rhythm and Blues is Rock’s closest relative, but as it grew, influences from many different genres found their way in.  Here’s a few of rock’s early influences:

Country Music

Some of Rock’s most influential ancestors fall in the space somewhere in between Country Music and Rhythm and Blues. Music historians list several sub-genre in here, including Western Swing, Hillbilly Blues, Honky Tonk, and Bluegrass.


Early in the history of Rock, the country / blues combination was combined with early Rock. The result was Rockabilly, and it brought the first major wave of popularity to the Rock craze. Elvis’ 1954 recording of “That’s Alright Mama” started it off, and Bill Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock” spread Rock’s musical influence around the world.

Folk Music

Folk music had a significant influence on the development of rock and roll. Many early rock and roll musicians, such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, began their careers in the folk music scene of the 1950s and 60s. The protest songs and socially conscious lyrics of folk music inspired many rock and roll artists to tackle similar themes in their own work. Additionally, the acoustic guitar-based sound of folk music provided a template for early rock and roll musicians to build upon, influencing the sound and style of early rock and roll. Folk music also helped to bridge the gap between different musical genres, paving the way for the fusion of various styles that would eventually come to define rock and roll.


Over the years, Rock has borrowed heavily from Gospel, most notable in the harmonies. Many of the early stars credit their church and Gospel music for their musical training.

Teen Idols

“Sex sells” is the old advertising slogan and it proved itself in the early history of Rock. Elvis, of course, started it off with his “Elvis the Pelvis” stage appearance, but after Rock’s initial burst of popularity, the buzz faded. All of a sudden, there were no stars. Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) were killed in a plane crash, Elvis was in the army, Chuck Berry was in jail, Jerry Lee Lewis had shocked even the liberal rockers by marrying his underaged cousin, and Alan Freed had been convicted in the Payola scandal.

When the Winter Dance Party Tour (Buddy Holly’s tour with Richie Valens and The Big Bopper) resumed, it included three clean cut, all american teenage heartthrobs. Jimmy Clanton, Frankie Avalon, and Robert Velline (Bobby Vee) sang soft rock love songs and rocketed to stardom. They were followed by Neil Sedaka, Bobby Vinton, and the California beach singers like the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean.


The Altamont Festival

The Rolling Stones Altamont Festival CD
The Rolling Stones Altamont Festival CD

If the Woodstock Concert in August of 69 was the height of the concert scene, then the Altamont Festival in December of 69 was the bottom.

The Altamont Festival was planned as the final stop of the Rolling Stones Tour of America, although only Santana, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, and the Flying Buritto Brothers were advertised. The Stones appearance was supposed to be kept secret to prevent unmanageable crowds. Originally scheduled for Golden Gate Park, they were unable to obtain the necessary permits, and the event was moved to Sears Point Raceway. Then, after a breakdown in contract negotiations and just a day before it’s start, the festival was moved to the Altamont Raceway.

Rolling Stones Gimme Shelter poster with scenes from the Altamont Festival.
Stones Gimme Shelter poster with scenes from the Altamont Festival.

In the meantime, Mick Jagger announced at a press conference that the Rolling Stones would make a surprise appearance. It is speculated that this was done to increase attendance for the filming of a documentary, and it did just that. An estimated 300,000 attended the free concert and a bunch of problems arose. There weren’t enough bathrooms or medical help, the sound system wasn’t sufficient, and the stage wasn’t high enough for security or for anyone to see.

Hell’s Angels Security

On top of all, the Rolling Stones manager had hired the Hell’s Angels for security. The result was predictable, fights broke out right from the start. The Angels became more violent as the day went on, probably because they were consuming as much beer and drugs as the rest of the crowd. One of the Angels motorcycles was knocked over, and they became even more belligerent,

The fighting resulted in Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane being knocked unconscious (reportedly by one of the security guard Angels), and The Grateful Dead refused to play and left the area. This resulted in a span of several hours without entertainment until the Rolling Stones could start, which didn’t make the crowd any friendlier.

As the Stones were playing, a concert goer, Meredith Hunter scuffled with the security Hells Angels and reportedly drew a gun. His death was recorded by several film crews as he was stabbed and kicked to death. One person was arrested but was eventually acquitted when a court ruled that it was in self-defense. The Stones, unaware that Hunter’s beating was fatal, and maybe also in fear of what would happen if they left early, kept on playing. Three others also died at the Altamont concert. Two people were run over in their sleeping bags, and one person drowned.

The Altamont Festival turned out to be one of the most violent times in Rock History, The Grateful Dead went on to write half a dozen songs about it, and several documentaries were released.

-[Jeanne Rose] Altamont was a very very– it was very exciting to go to the beginning of, it was very interesting, it was in– at Altamont, it was cold. [sighs] When we drove there, we had this funny car and people recognized me at the time, which is interesting, and we drove to the top of this hill and to get to the stage, we had to drive down through thousands of people to get to where we were parked.

And people, the motorcycle guys, once they knew who I was they moved the crowd aside. To– and we drove this vehicle down this hill through this entire crowd. I had my hand out the window because it was hot, it was afternoon ish, and [laughs] People would drop drugs into my hand. Well, I was not gonna take strange drugs, you know that’s the rule, don’t do that.

And I’d leave the hand out there and the next person would take that and put something else in there, so it was– that was interesting and the concert started out very well. And we were in a flatbed truck sort of behind the stage so we had a high view of what was going on from sort of a high part behind the stage.

So we saw all of the things that happened and I personally know, I personally feel that there would have been no violence or less violence if the Rolling Stones had started their concert on time. But they, but by the time they decided to you know, walk on the stage, people were crazy. They’d been waiting and waiting.

The Jefferson Airplane had played and there was some sort of violence with them. And– Then another hour, a long time, passed very, very long time before the Rolling Stones came on stage. And by the time they came on stage, people were mad with being high and stupid and crazy and cold and– [coughs] excuse me– and crowded [coughs] and– that was it.

So the concert started out on a really nice high note and ended out– ended on a really low note and that was kind of the end of rock and roll, really. The kind of rock and roll where we had access to the musicians and could talk to them and then they became just too fearful and famous or maybe they weren’t fearful, just too famous.

I don’t know, but to me that was the end of it, the end of- end of 1969.

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The Lava Lamp

Lava Lamp
Lava Lamp

The Lava Lamp is an outstanding icon of the 60s and 70s! Stoned or straight, one could sit for hours watching the slow motion bubbles from the bottom of the Lava Lamp. They rise slowly, sometimes breaking into pieces, sometimes merging with others. Once at the top, they sit for a while and then slowly sink to the bottom to start again.

Edward Walker invented the Lava Lamp based on a lamp that he spotted in a pub. He brought his new invention, called the “Astro Lamp” or Astro Light” to a Hamburg trade show in 1965 where Adolph Wertheimer noticed it and bought the American rights to the product and began to produce it as the “Lava Lite”.

The construction is fairly simple, a glass bottle filled with a clear liquid and a colored wax, sitting on a base with a light bulb. As the bulb heats the wax on the bottom, it expands, becomes lighter than the liquid, and rises. As it cools, it contracts, becomes heavier, and sinks. Once it warms up, there’s a continual flow of wax “blobs” rising and falling.

Lava Lamp and Psychedelia

Watching the slow bubbles of a Lava Lamp is relaxing, some may call it addicting. It’s easy to see how it would have extra appeal to someone a bit high.  Walker said of his lamp, “If you buy my lamp, you won’t need drugs… I think it will always be popular. It’s like the cycle of life. It grows, breaks up, falls down and then starts all over again.”

Lava Lamps have gone mainstream and are still made and available in department stores, and there is usually one on the shelf at the Goodwill Store. Their construction has changed some over the years as some of the original materials have been replaced with safer ones, but they still work the same and I still love to watch them.

Ed Sullivan and The Beatles

Ed Sullivan and The Beatles all started in October 1963 when Ed Sullivan and his wife were in London where they were delayed at Heathrow Airport by the crowds greeting them on their return from Sweden. As the story goes, Sullivan took note of the interest that they drew, and later, met with Brian Epstein, their manager. The Ed Sullivan show was the top-rated variety show on US television and was known for presenting first looks at up-and-coming acts.

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Stage
The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Stage

The rest is television history. Fifty thousand ticket requests came in for the 728 available seats, and on February 9, 1964 Nielsen estimated the audience at 73+ million viewers, something like 45% of the country. Everything stood still while America watched the Ed Sullivan and The Beatles.

The impact of the performance on American audiences was immediate and profound. The Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show marked the beginning of the British Invasion, a period of time when British rock bands dominated the American music charts. The performance also served as a cultural touchstone for the baby boomer generation, who were coming of age during a time of great social and political change.

The Music Scene

The state of popular music in the early 1960s was largely dominated by the music of Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, and other crooners of the time. However, The Beatles and their unique brand of rock and roll quickly began to take the world by storm. The impact of Beatlemania on American culture was significant, with young people all over the country dressing like the band members and imitating their music. The cultural significance of The Ed Sullivan Show cannot be understated, as it was a hugely popular variety show that showcased some of the biggest names in entertainment at the time.

The Beatles’ Rise to Fame

The Beatles’ early years in Liverpool are well-documented, with the band playing countless gigs in local clubs and venues. They released their first single, “Love Me Do,” in 1962 and quickly followed it up with a string of hits, including “Please Please Me” and “She Loves You.” The band’s growing popularity in the UK and Europe eventually caught the attention of American audiences, leading to their eventual arrival in the United States.

The Beatles Arrive in America

The story of The Beatles’ arrival in America is the stuff of legend, with fans lining the streets and screaming at the sight of the band members. Their reception by American fans and the media was equally frenzied, with news outlets reporting on the band’s every move. The cultural significance of The Beatles’ American debut cannot be overstated, as it marked the beginning of their domination of the American music scene.

Booking The Beatles for The Ed Sullivan Show was a monumental task, with the band’s management negotiating a deal that would see them appear on three separate episodes of the show. The logistics of planning the performance were also significant, with the band rehearsing for weeks to ensure that their performance would be flawless. The anticipation and excitement surrounding the event were palpable, with fans and the media eagerly awaiting their appearance.

February 9, 1964

The Beatles’ performance on The Ed Sullivan Show was a historic moment in television and music history. The band played a set of five songs, including “All My Loving,” “Till There Was You,” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” The impact of the performance on American audiences was immense, with millions tuning in to watch the show. The significance of The Beatles’ appearance in the context of the civil rights movement and other social issues of the time cannot be ignored, as their music and message resonated with young people all over the country.

Ed Sullivan and The Beatles Song List

Ed Sullivan and The Beatles
Ed Sullivan with The Beatles

The Beatles sang 5 songs: All My Loving, Till There Was You, She Loves You, I Saw Her Standing There, and I Want To Hold Your Hand. From the very first note, girls in the audience were screaming while a closeup of John Lennon had carried a message “sorry girls, he’s married”.

Although the Beatles appeared on the show 8 more times, this was the only performance that was live in the studio.

The Beatles were on again for the next 2 weeks. For February 16, 1964, they broadcast a live performance from their hotel in Miami Beach, Florida. The Beatles played to a live audience during the afternoon at the hotel, then at 8 p.m., broadcast a live performance on The Ed Sullivan Show by satellite. The Beatles sang six songs; She Loves You, This Boy, All My Loving, I Saw Her Standing There, From Me To You, and I Want To Hold Your Hand. On the following week, the performance was by a tape that was recorded when they were in the studio on the 9th. They played three songs, Twist and Shout, Please Please Me, and I Want To Hold Your Hand. During the performance, Ed Sullivan thanked The Beatles for “being four of the nicest youngsters”.

Summer of Love

Mural from Haight Ashbury
Mural from Haight Ashbury

The Summer of Love was the summer of 1967 and was centered in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. Thousands traveled there from all over the world as the hippie counterculture movement grew in popularity. Some were hippies, many were wanna-bees, and like many other rock culture events, a lot more claim to have been there than actually were.

The beginning of the Summer of Love was actually the Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park on January 14th. It was billed as “A Gathering of Tribes” and set the stage for the year. The Be-In was where Timothy Leary declared “turn on, tune in, drop out” and that pretty much described the underlying attitude. It was the first mass hippie gathering. Two young producers named James Rado and Gerome Ragni were there, let their hair grow with the rest, and captured some of the excitement in their musical “Hair” that is still being performed today.
John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas wrote the song “San Francisco” that was originally supposed to be a promotion for The Monterey Pop Festival in June, but is remembered as The Summer of Love theme. It was recorded by Scott McKenzie and became a worldwide hit:

Scott McKenzie's album that included San Francisco, the unofficial theme song of the Summer of Love.
Scott McKenzie’s album that included San Francisco, the unofficial theme song of the Summer of Love.

If you’re going to San Francisco,
be sure to wear some flowers in your hair…
If you come to San Francisco,
Summertime will be a love-in there.
The Summer of Love crowd peaked during the summer vacation season. Altogether, an estimated 100,000 hippies and others from around the world flocked to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, Berkeley and other San Francisco Bay Area cities to see what it was like to be a hippie.

Flower Power became one of the Summer of Love themes. Originating with some Haight-Ashbury children who wore flowers in their hair while selling paper flowers, the flower became a sign of peace and love, and Flower Power became the name of a political movement.

As the Summer ended, many of the attendees headed back to school. There they were seeds for the growing hippie movement. Some went the Leary way of turning on and tuning out, others went the Flower Power way of promoting love and peace through political movements.

Want to read more?  Here’s an excellent video.