Harley Hay: ‘It was fifty years ago today’

To paraphrase the famous lyrics of the iconic Beatles album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – “It was fifty years ago today …!”

I for one almost refuse to believe that it’s really been FIVE DECADES since those paraphrased lyrics first landed on my large ears. And even five years earlier than that when the world changed …

“Ladies and Gentlemen: …THE BEATLES!!”

Even though Ed Sullivan had been saying for weeks that the “Fab Four” would be arriving in North America soon, and the “Mop Tops” would be appearing live exclusively on his show, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw and heard and felt that night.

I’ve had several of those profoundly meaningful moments in my life, although some of them may have actually been minor seizures brought on by fast-food poisoning or staring at strobe lights coming from the stage at Varsity Hall, but I’ll forever be indebted to Ed Sullivan for changing my life.

Almost everyone on the planet, and many of those on several of the closest planets has heard of the Ed Sullivan Show, a television “variety show” in the ’60s’, that came on at eight o’clock Sunday nights, and was singularly responsible for every young school kid in North America being allowed to stay up late to watch the show with the rest of the family.

Ed Sullivan brought the most magical things imaginable into our living rooms every week. In the dusty dorky days of one-channel black and white television, Ed brought famous singers and comedians, Chinese acrobats, Russian dancers, guys spinning a dozen plates on sticks. From the Muppets to Mick Jagger, Liberace to the Singing Nun. An impossibly adorable Italian mouse puppet called Topo Gigo who was always trying to get Ed to give him a kiss on the cheek – “Kees me Eddie!”

Psychology guru Abraham Maslow from the 1960s called it a “peak experience” whereupon you feel some sort of cosmic connection in a profound moment of inspiration, understanding and joy that has nothing to do with illicit 1960s chemical substances. This is exactly what I felt when I was appointed Shauna Frizzell’s Crossing Guard partner at Central School. Also, when The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.

And when John, Paul, George and Ringo launched into All My Lovin,’ I immediately started growing my hair.

I can’t begin to underestimate just how peak that experience was when the universe brought together Ed Sullivan, The Beatles, and all of us lucky enough to have been swept up in the swirling delicious chaos of a changing world. One of those defining moments that changes who you are and where you’re going. A rare metaphysical event where the forces of the universe somehow conspire to resonate with your personal unrealized hopes and dreams to bring meaning and purpose and clarity to a short kid with big ears and 12 fluid ounces of Sauve styling cream in his hair.

It unfolded that there are two kinds of people in this world. Beatles fans versus Rolling Stones fans. Those who are fans of Paul, those who are fans of John. Chev guys and Ford guys. Honda versus Harley (Davidson). You know who you are.

But now, a life time down the long and winding road, looking back, I’m happy to be, like millions of others, a self-proclaimed charter member of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Even though, I’m absolutely positive 1969 was just a few years ago. (Wasn’t it??)

The Beatles must have discovered a time warp. But then again, I’ve always said they were magic.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker.

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