WJPA morning disc jockey Pete Povich has always liked popular music, but the night the Beatles appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” was something special.
“Like every other kid, I was anxiously awaiting to see the show, but mom and dad didn’t have a television,” he said. “I had to go to my grandparents’ home to watch.
“I loved the Beatles’ performance, but my grandparents’ reaction was not so enthusiastic. They looked bewildered.”
That show – seen by more than 70 million Americans – changed many lives, including Povich’s.
“Sure, I picked up ‘Twist and Shout’ and ‘Please Please Me’ and shortly thereafter I found ‘She Loves You’ but it was lot more than the records. I was always listening to stuff that was popular ‘Duke of Earl’ and ‘Battle of New Orleans’ – because my mom always promoted music in the house. But once the Beatles were on the radio, the Beatles were everything. I wanted to buy a guitar instantly and a year later, I was practicing guitar to get in a band.
“Also, I was 8 years old, and like everyone else, I had a buzz haircut in the summer. But not after that. I let my hair grow long, and my dad and I would fight about that a good bit.”
But it wasn’t just adults who were wary of the Fab Four. Those who were in school during that first wave of Beatlemania may recall that the quartet was not universally accepted.
“Some of the cooler kids were lukewarm at first,” Povich recalls, “but those kids came around later with the release of ‘Revolver’ and the double ’White Album.’ But in the beginning, I think, the Beatles were just like New Kids or other boy bands – they had strong female appeal.
“Of course, even the music industry wasn’t really sold on the Beatles. Even though Capitol Records had them under contract, they were passing out some of the Beatles’ stuff to other labels and saying it was junk. I’m not sure even the record labels were ready for rock ’n’ roll.
“Before the Beatles came along, popular music was going exactly the way mom and pop and the government wanted it to go. For multiple reasons, rock ’n’ roll had just about faded away. Elvis was in the army, Little Richard was going to church, Chuck Berry was in jail over tax evasion and Jerry Lee Lewis was put on hold because of his infamous marriage. Then the Beatles came over and kicked open the door.
“I think what made the difference for the Beatles, at least initially, was the timing. Americans were devastated by the death of President John F. Kennedy and along comes this band that’s singing happy, uptempo songs. They more or less forced a rather depressed nation to get up and dance and sing or do something – do you know how many bands began because of the Beatles? It wasn’t too long after they hit the air that battle of the bands would be held in just about every high school. There’d be one band performing in every corner of the gym. You never saw anything like that before the Beatles.
“The group was also very smart about its music selection. They were marketing geniuses, actually. They included songs that the parents would know such as ‘Til There Was You,’ ‘Anna,’ and ‘A Taste of Honey.’ By using those songs, the parents at least wouldn’t hate them quite as much. Heck, I’ll bet ‘Anna’ even lulled some parents to sleep.”
Povich also noted the Beatles helped themselves tremendously by releasing a couple of good movies – “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help.” “The critics wanted to hate those movies, but they couldn’t,” Povich said. “They were well done.”
“I also think the Beatles were able to realize their full potential. They started to change music almost immediately. They grew up as I was growing up. They wrote terrific songs. Their work has stood the test of time.”