Yesterday

Soon the nation will be filled with stories recalling the 50th anniversary of the Beatles in America and "Beatlemania." They arrived Feb. 7, 1964, and debuted two nights later on the "Ed Sullivan Show."

Growing up in the 1960s, the opportunity to listen to new music was limited.

There were no iPhones, YouTube, MTV or satellite radio. And FM radio was just starting to evolve, especially for rock music.

That left AM radio and programs like the “Ed Sullivan Show” and “American Bandstand,” which featured Top 40 songs.

History was made Feb. 7, 1964, when the Beatles landed in New York. About 3,000 screaming girls met them at the airport, signaling the start of “Beatlemania.”

Two days later on the Ed Sullivan Show, the country was introduced to the four young men from England — who revolutionized music by playing electric guitar and singing tight harmonies.

Jim Curry, director of public relations at Northeast Community College, said he was too young to remember the night the Beatles debuted, but the Beatles are his favorite group.

“When you think of what they did in seven years, it is unparalleled,” Curry said. “There is not a pop culture reference out there that doesn’t include the Beatles.”

Curry, who previously worked at WJAG and KEXL radio for 32 years, has visited England several times, including Abbey Road. A recording studio still exists, and Curry and his daughter walked across Abbey Road single file like the Beatles did for the 1969 album cover.

 “It’s an actual working street,” he said. “For tourists to take photos is a risk.”

Curry said his favorite Beatles song is “Something.”

“For sheer enjoyment, it is probably ‘Day Tripper,’ ” he said. “It is hard to pick one.”

Todd Heller, who is completing management training at Hastings Entertainment, agrees that picking a favorite Beatles’ song is difficult.

Heller spent 27 years in radio as both an on-air personality and programmer, most recently serving as music director at KEXL.

Heller said he prefers to divide the Beatles into categories. From the early years, his favorite songs are “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

During the middle years, his favorites are “Nowhere Man,” and “Eight Days a Week.” And in the final years, his favorites include “Something,” “Come Together,” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

Heller said the Beatles remain his favorite group.

“Without a doubt,” he said. “I remember hearing them on the radio as a kid and they just grabbed me and held me ever since.”

Heller said the Beatles had a profound impact on America that still exists.

“They came to America during a time of great change — social, political and cultural. They were here at the right place at the right time. They captured not only my ear, but America’s ear.”

Heller said one of his most powerful memories of the Beatles was the night that John Lennon was murdered — Dec. 8, 1980.

Heller was working at a Scottsbluff radio station. It had an old teletype machine that featured a bell that would ring whenever a bulletin came across.

Heller said he still remembers walking up to the machine and reading the bulletin that Lennon had been shot.

“I was just stunned,” he said. “I just stood in my tracks.”

Heller said about the same time he was ripping the bulletin off the machine, he heard from Lee Scott, who was the program director.

“He was the biggest Lennon fan,” Heller said. “He had long hair and the glasses. He looked like Lennon.”

Heller said he immediately began playing Lennon songs and Beatles music. Then Scott arrived with all his Beatles’ music. They played it on the air as a tribute to Lennon until 6 a.m. the next day.

Then at 6 a.m., they went to the local record store and bought all the “Double Fantasy” albums, which Lennon had just released. The albums were given to callers.

All through the previous night and the next day, callers shared their memories of the Beatles and Lennon.

“I remember, I cried that night,” Heller said. “And Lee was inconsolable.”

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