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Remembering the Beatles invasion

Forty-five years ago, America was getting its first taste of a four-member band from England. The day after Christmas 1963, The Beatles launched its American invasion with the release of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." Within three weeks it was on the Billboard charts. In five weeks it was No. 1. Beatles fan George Joy says the music couldn't have come at a better time because of what was going on in the world. "We'd been through Cuba (Cuban Missile Crisis), Vietnam was there hanging around waiting for us, and then the assassination (of President Kennedy. We were just all in the valley of a pit," Joy says. "Then this music, I won't say it turned the world around, but it did for our generation give us a new hope," Joy has organized two sold out tribute shows tonight and tomorrow in Statesville. A band will cover Beatles songs and fans will share their favorite memories. The event marks the 45th anniversary of another big moment in Beatles' history- the band's first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Another person who remembers those days well is Jim Diederich. He was a boy growing up in Pennsylvania at the time. In this WFAE commentary, Diederich recalls his first Beatles experience and how it's changed him ever since: January 22nd, 1964 was a damp, cold day in Pittsburgh. I had taken a streetcar to go see my orthodontist. The city seemed to groan in despair. Tires on the wet streets spit and hissed. Horns echoed off the buildings. Only two months had passed since President Kennedy was assassinated. People still walked in a fog, stunned and unfocused. But off in the distance I heard something melodic. I followed this sound down the block to a music store; The National Record Mart. Across its spacious store window hung a large banner that proclaimed "MEET THE BEATLES". There I stood, captivated and gazing at the faces on the photo, hearing a sound that was new and happy. I heard the chorus of "I want to hold your hand" for the first time. Up to that moment, my musical education had been molded by my parents' preference for Mitch Miller, Percy Faith and Ray Coniff. But this new music activated something deep inside me, and it seemed to entrance others. They, like me, were hypnotized by the sound. I spent the last of my monthly school lunch money and bought my copy. As I rode the streetcar home, I took the LP out of its bag and studied the faces on the cover. They seemed ominous and stoic - like a pop culture Mount Rushmore. I couldn't wait to share my new discovery with my parents. Surely, they would be as excited as I was. After all, I'd always appreciated their music. My mother was setting the table for dinner when I burst in the house and proclaimed that I had found some music that she had to hear right away. I quickly ripped off the plastic wrapper off the record and slowly slid the black disc out of the cover. I positioned it on the turntable of my parent's stereo console. The robot-like tone arm lifted and moved to the edge of the record. It rested with a crackle from the speakers as it found the groove. As the needle reached the first collection of grooves, the opening guitar riffs of "I want to hold your hand" poured from the speakers. I turned to see my mother's response. Her face was frozen in an expression that could only be described as the look of someone who was being electrocuted! "What kind of noise is that!!!!" she bellowed. I recoiled like a scolded puppy. "Turn that racket off" she commanded. I knew immediately that my new discovery was not going to be embraced. From that point on, I pestered my parents for a portable phonograph so I could listen to my music. Happy with the thought of peace and quiet, they had no problem accommodating my request. After I got my tiny record player, I spent hours in my room, listening to not only the Beatles, but other new music that I found infected me so. I was a goner then..and still am today. Jim Diederich is a high school teacher in Caldwell County.