1.29.2005

Forty Years of Beatles

The Herald Journal - 2.07.04

Yesterday.
A local band called Deja Vu practiced away.
One member's Logan home is where they play.
Oh, Craig Mortensen and Spencer Parkinson, believe in yesterday.

Except this weekend, when today is the day that's really special.

Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of the day the Beatles first set foot in the United States. It was the first hard day's night in the states for the lads, and followed three days later by a television introduction on the Ed Sullivan show that led to concerts, international fame and innovative music that gave the Fab Four a ticket to ride all the way to being considered by many the greatest band in history.

While the landing at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York on Feb. 7, 1964 may have been just another good day sunshine for the boys from Liverpool, many local residents like Mortensen and Parkinson remember the events that ushered in years and years of success as just too important to let it be — even four decades later.

———

"This is what we're talking about, yesterday, so it's an appropriate song," Mortensen said Friday night, and sat down on a stool in a spare bedroom of his Island neighborhood home, where he and Parkinson's guitars do much more than just gently weep. The due perform the hit song after a rendition of "Here Comes the Sun," both of which that have been perfected over the seven years Deja Vu has been practicing 1960s-era tunes in a room plastered with Beatles posters and memorabilia, and then performing them around Cache Valley.

The two men didn't know each other when that first Ed Sullivan appearance aired — Mortensen watched with his parents in Logan, Parkinson in Carlsbad, Calif. — but the shaggy quartet meant a lot to the formation of Deja Vu, even back in 1964.

"They were singing coming of age songs," said Parkinson, comparing them to the sugary pop that had dominated mainstream radio at the time. "And they were kind of raw, working class guys."

"Like us," Mortensen interjects.

Mortensen was just a teenager when he heard "I want to hold your hand," on the radio.

"I immediately told my parents I wanted a guitar," he said before the private concert Friday night. "And you know the lyrics 'Played it 'till my fingers bled?' That was me."

While it may be a long and winding road to get the two musicians to pick a favorite Beatles tune - "I couldn't name one, it's impossible to answer," said Parkinson — the influence of the British Invasion reached others in Cache Valley that have no trouble rattling off favorite memories.

Long before Mark Meaker started working the equivalent of eight days a week as the Logan Fire Department's chief, he was a little boy looking up to the older sister he called a "huge, huge, huge Beatles fan." It's easy to see how her Beatle-themed birthday parties, weddings and parties where she and her friends would lipsync Beatle songs, and one particular night in front of the television watching the Ed Sullivan show influenced Meaker — he's seen Paul McCartney in concert four times, keeps a portrait of the band in his den, and even "raised my kids on the Beatles."

But in 1964, it was just beginning. Everyone his California neighborhood would come together at the Meaker household to see the Beatles perform on Sullivan's program, and that where Meaker's most vivid memory of the band impact occured. His father - a "refined man," said Meaker, more interested in tennis and fine art than a teenage pop group — sat with his children and neighbors to get a taste of the latest craze.

"Great, here they come," Meaker remembered his father sarcastically saying as the group launched their first number. But by the second tune, "Yesterday," the eldest Meaker saw how they could work it out.

"My father turned to my mother and said, 'My goodness, these young boys really do have talent,'" said Meaker. "That was the moment adults accepted them."

For Elizabeth York, she didn't need anybody's help in any way to convince her parents she got to get them into her life.

"My mother encouraged me to watch them on the Ed Sullivan Show," said the director of the music therapy program at Utah State University. "So she deserves some credit."

Although the television performances and newscasts of the first American appearance of Paul, John, Ringo and George were entertaining to the 14-year old girl in Spartanburg, S.C., it was the words they used that filled her sky with diamonds.

"It was a breath of fresh air compared to the boring top-40 on my transistor radio," said York, who said she was inspired by the innovative songwriting that still influences the writing she does today. "The Beatles brought a different kind of questioning to their lyrics."

Of course, there was also the concert in Atlanta in 1965.

"That was the high point of my teenage years," she said.

York still listens to the catalouge today, and probably will when she's 64. Especially thanks to a something she learned four years ago that proves how lasting the sound has been — her 14-year old niece was in love with Beatles tunes.

So they bought a ticket to ride to Britain, and spent a vacation at the museums and sites where the musicians came up with the music that York still teaches to piano students she teaches. They saw Abbey Road, Strawberry Fields, Apple Studios and the Cavern Club. And she realized that what she heard as a teenager is what allows her, 40 years later, to still think like dreamers do.

"[The Beatles music] changed me, gave me hope, was healing, and accompanied me in personal growth. It pointed out to me how music can have a deeper meaning."

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