Between the Lines

Between the Lines by David Lias I was reminded, while watching Late Night with David Letterman Monday, where I was 40 years ago on Feb. 9.

I was lounging in the living room of our farm house, in front of our black and white Zenith TV that could only pick up KELO.

We had no choice but to watch The Ed Sullivan Show.

I�ve become painfully aware, by watching re-runs of Ed Sullivan on South Dakota Public Television, that it was a program we more or less endured rather than enjoyed.

We complain about popular culture today, with raunchy lyrics and exposed breasts and the like. But while everything from the Super Bowl to beer commercials seem to be at a ridiculous extreme today, 40 years ago, pop culture also was in an unrefined state.

On any given night, Ed Sullivan, the man we counted on to set the nation�s entertainment standards, would unleash a strange barrage of performers. Europe�s leading ballet dancer would take the stage, to be followed by a guy trying to keep a dozen plates spinning at once.

Sullivan�s idea of television programming was highbrow one minute, and vaudeville the next.

It was a world filled with Joan Rivers and puppets, Frank Gorshin and dancing bears, Phyllis Diller and parlor magicians and singers who had lost their edge.

It was, in essence, a �garden variety� show. And the people who watched it � a good chunk of the television viewing audience in the early 1960s � tuned in because they actually liked the program.

Sullivan kept offering us the tired acrobatic acts and monkeys riding on bicycles because at the time we really didn�t think television could bring us anything better.

I�m glad Sullivan had the vision to try something very different 40 years ago.

Letterman reminded his viewers of what took place on the stage of the Ed Sullivan Theatre. He played a clip Monday of the Feb. 9, 1964 Sullivan show. There was Paul, John, George and Ringo. And all of those screaming girls.

Sullivan introduced the world to The Beatles. And the rest, as they say, is history.

I was too young at the time to have really developed much of a musical taste. And who could blame kids of the early 1960s?

The No. 1 hits on the pop charts before the Beatles took over the slot and stayed there for years to come included Bobby Vinton�s There! I�ve Said It Again, the Singing Nun�s Dominique, and Dale & Grace�s I�m Leaving It Up to You.

My brothers and I really had no interest in listening to music on the radio. Until that night. We couldn�t quite put our fingers on it, but something about The Beatles was incredibly appealing.

We all painfully saved our allowances and bought tinny transistor radios with earplugs that looked like old hearing aids so we could tune in KISD Radio in Sioux Falls and listen to She Loves You, I Want to Hold Your Hand, It�s Been a Hard Day�s Night, and Ticket to Ride.

The Beatles changed the charts forever. You can draw a line in the historical sands of popular culture at 1964. A lot of pop music that came after that point still sounds modern today. Almost all the pop music that came before that point sounds ancient.

The Beatles were the young and the new; almost all the other acts were the old and the stale.

Our world was transformed on Feb. 9, 1964. We began to listen to �our� music. We slowly realized that, yes, we could take ownership of some positive things in our lives.

You may contact Plain Talk editor David Lias at

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