First, a confession: I turned 56 last month, which places me among the youngest slice of the '60s generation for whom the subject of today's TV column conjures up an actual first-person memory and made a legitimate, lifelong, lasting impression.
I was six. It was Sunday night, which meant bath time. And I recall my father grabbing my brother and me out of the tub and hurriedly drying us off with a damp towel before rushing us out to the living room so we wouldn't miss them.
The Beatles. On The Ed Sullivan Show.
I can't say I fully understood the cultural significance of what I was seeing and hearing, but I sure remember being mesmerized by it. And the next day, when I went to school, the quartet of bigger kids (Grade 5 or 6, probably) who set themselves up against the auditorium wall during recess and acted out the songs they'd seen the night before seemed -- to me, and to the gaggle of pre-pubescent girls who crowded around -- to be the coolest guys in the world.
Not long after, my mother -- a faithful devotee of the Dean Martin/Ray Conniff musical canon -- brought two Beatles records, the first 45 r.p.m. singles I'd ever seen, into the house: She Loves You, with I'll Get You on the flip side, and I Want To Hold Your Hand, backed by I Saw Her Standing There.
They were played over and over and over again. Music, in our household and in my life, would never be the same.
Which is why this weekend's much-anticipated CBS celebration, The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles, represents such a significant milestone for folks born between the post-Second World War baby boom and, well, around the time that I arrived in the world.
The Beatles' touch-down in New York City, and the subsequent British Invasion that included the Dave Clark Five, the Rolling Stones, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Herman's Hermits, the Animals, the Who, the Zombies and at least a dozen other acts, set in motion a full-scale redefinition of popular culture.
The Night That Changed America will look back at that first appearance by the Fab Four on Sullivan's show, marking the exact day, date and time that the Beatles were introduced, drawing upon archival footage of the group's performances that night as well as the tremendous fuss and bother their presence created in the greater New York City area.
The special will also feature recent performances by some of the music industry's most popular performers interpreting a variety of Beatles classics -- the concert was recorded in Los Angeles on Jan. 27, in order to capitalize on the large quotient of music superstardom in that city for the previous night's Grammy Awards telecast.
Heading the guest list, of course, were surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, along with John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, and son Sean, and George Harrison's widow, Olivia, and son Dhani. But the list of performers who took part in the taped-for-TV tribute is very impressive, as well.
According to reports from journalists who attended the event, the highlights include Eurythmics -- a.k.a. Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart -- reuniting to contribute a rendition of Fool on the Hill; Alicia Keys and John Legend offering a two-piano duet of Let It Be; Stevie Wonder performing a funked-up version of We Can Work It Out; and Joe Walsh and Jeff Lynne teaming with Dhani Harrison to perform Something.
The roster for A Grammy Salute to the Beatles also includes Dave Grohl, Peter Frampton, Pharrell Williams, Brad Paisley, Katy Perry, Keith Urban, Maroon 5, John Mayer, Ed Sheeran, Imagine Dragons and more.
And of course, the tribute concert wraps up with appearances by Starr and McCartney, including individual performances, an onstage reunion and a massive, super-group finale featuring pretty much all the assembled musical talent gathered together for Hey Jude.
It's unlikely that The Night That Changed America will draw the same kind of audience as the night that actually did change America -- in the U.S. alone, more than 74 million tuned in on Feb. 9, 1964 -- but it's safe to assume it'll be a pretty good show that will attract a pretty big crowd by 21st-century TV standards.
I'll be watching. And since Sunday is no longer bath night where I live, I'll be a lot more relaxed, dry, warm and comfortable when this "really big show" begins.
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