By Dom Cioffi
I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a musician say that watching the Beatles’ performance on the “Ed Sullivan Show” on Feb. 9, 1964, is what inspired them to start playing an instrument. I have watched countless documentaries on famous bands and musicians and a ridiculous number admit to that watershed moment being the catalyst to their whole career.
That singular event in music history would happen two years before I was born, but the band would still be the most important influence on my musical journey through life.
In fact, my “moment” occurred nearly 15 years after the “Ed Sullivan Show” appearance. I was at summer camp when one of the other campers pulled out an acoustic guitar and started singing and playing “Hey Jude.” Not only was I mesmerized that he was able to create those magical sounds, but I also witnessed how alluring singing and playing guitar could be to the opposite sex.
He probably played that same song 25 times over the week of camp, but the interest in his performance never waned. I’ve often wondered if he went on to become a serious musician since he had a decent voice and seemed like a natural performer.
From a very early age, the Beatles played a role in my musical development. I’m confident my older brothers first initiated me into their music, but they were also ubiquitous on the popular radio of the time, so it was hard not to hear them.
I cannot claim that a Beatles album was my first acquisition in music (that honor goes to the “Grease” soundtrack), but “Abbey Road” was most definitely one of my first 10 albums. In later years, I would eventually purchase every Beatles album released in the U.S. Those albums would live in my hallowed “Favorites” milkcrate where I only stored my most cherished selections.
When I began sniffing around an old guitar that was in our attic, it would be a Beatles song that would eventually become the first track I ever learned. Ironically, that song was “Hey Jude,” partly because the chords were easy to finger and partly because my memory of that kid at camp had me convinced that I could be as enthralling as he was.
I went on to learn other Beatles songs and even purchased an anthology chord book that included all their tracks. To this day, not a week goes by where I don’t grab my guitar and rip through a Beatles song.
Eventually, I would watch all their movies and tune in whenever there was a television or radio special featuring them. When YouTube arrived, endless interviews, performances and past programs featuring the Beatles surfaced and were available to stream for free. I happily devoured as much content as I could find.
I don’t remember a ton from my childhood, but I do know exactly where I was when the news arrived that John Lennon had been shot and killed. I was a teenager with few worries or concerns, but that revelation set me back. I don’t remember being emotionally upset, but I was tingling with the inner knowledge that his death was a seismic shift in pop culture.
Several years ago, the remaining members of the band put together “The Beatles Anthology,” which was the most comprehensive catalog of their history and music, with previously unreleased outtakes that whetted the appetites of Beatles aficionados around the world. The CD release also featured a television special and accompanying book.
I own a DVD of the TV special, the book, and all the music CDs. And since its original release in 1995, I have probably revisited the set a dozen or more times.
So, with this lifelong affection for the Beatles, it wouldn’t be surprising that the new six-part docuseries, “McCartney 3, 2, 1,” had me giddy with anticipation.
Featuring Paul McCartney and record producer Rick Rubin, each episode features the two music industry giants sitting at a recording studio control panel while they dissect and analyze master tapes from the Beatles, Wings, and McCartney archives. The back and forth between the two is not only insightful and instructive, but also mesmerizing for its musical depth.
Any fan of the Beatles (or solo Paul) will be enthralled by this deep-dive into their history. I was nervous that it would be a repetitive journey given my long association with the band, but it turned out to be both refreshing and enlightening.
Give this one a try if you have any interest in music, whether you’re a Beatles fan or not.
A rhythmic “B+” for “McCartney 3, 2, 1,” available for streaming on Hulu. Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected]