Last night Sir Paul McCartney, the cute one, performed an energetic version of I Saw Her Standing There – the opening track from the The Beatles’ debut album released more than 45 years ago – during the 51st annual Grammy Awards.
At first this seemed like an odd choice seeing as Sir Paul had received three Grammy nominations for his critically acclaimed Memory Almost Full album. I figured we’d at least get a sampling of one of the two nominated tracks; Dance Tonight (Best Male Pop Vocal Performance) or Only Mamma Knows (Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance).
But with Foo Fighter Dave Grohl channeling his best Ringo grin behind the kit, McCartney and his two touring guitar players ripped through a stripped-down version of the B-side from The Beatles first number one single in the U.S.
…and this morning it all makes sense.
Today marks the 45th anniversary since Paul McCartney and his Beatles band mates made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. With more than 73 million viewers tuning in, the four unassuming lads from Liverpool forever changed pop music with their historic performances of All My Loving, Till There Was You, She Loves You, the aforementioned I Saw Her Standing There, and I Want To Hold Your Hand.
The cultural impact of this event has been well documented over the years. With the strum of their guitars, a solid backbeat, and a few well-timed “wooos” and head bobbles, The Beatles singlehandedly put the baby-boomers on the map and established rock ‘n’ roll music as a force to be reckoned with.
But after watching last night’s Grammy telecast, and thinking about the onslaught of Beatlemania, I had to wonder if we would ever see anything quite like it again. Sure, there have been dozens of pop bands and teen idols over the years, but none have had the staying power or impact of The Beatles.
Last night alone it seemed like many of the Grammy attendees were as psyched to see Sir Paul as they were to be on the show themselves. Maybe it’s because most of them realize that without The Beatles trailblazing the way, they’d be lost – what would Coldplay be wearing if not for the recycled Sgt. Pepper’s Nero jackets?
Truth of the matter is, there will never be another cultural phenomenon like The Beatles. Talent aside, today’s music industry and technology just wont allow for it. In the mid-1960’s American kids anxiously waited for the boys to make their historic trip across the Atlantic so that they could see and hear them for the first time. Sure those in the know had seen pictures, heard a few tracks on the radio and read the headlines – The Beatles Are Coming! – but it wasn’t until February 9, 1964 that it all came together and made sense.
Today, the anticipation just isn’t there. With the advent of camera phones, YouTube, MySpace and blogs artists don’t get the chance to build their own hype and momentum. If a fan wants to know about a band all they need is a computer and a little time.
Recently I came across what I thought was a new artist who I wanted to learn about. After spending 15 minutes searching the web, I came across more than 200 fan-shot videos on YouTube of that artist’s live performances. I also stumbled across two fan message boards, an unofficial website and the realization that this “new” find had in fact been in numerous bands and had a rich career that was well documented online.
While I’m still excited to see the upcoming gig, I pretty much know what to expect after watching the live clips online. And with bloggers consistently breaking new artists by posting new tracks and leaking complete albums online before the marketing and promotions even start, the ability for future pop idols to take off like The Beatles did all those years ago is limited.
Even established acts have their troubles with the web. Whether we’re checking out compromising pics of Britney, rehearsal footage of Van Halen prior to their reunion tour, unreleased versions of the new U2 video or demo versions of the much anticipated Guns n Roses album, the internet has made it impossible for the music industry to stay one step ahead of the fans. Some might argue that this is a good thing; but for those of us that harken back to life before the MP3, we can still remember what it was like to go to a concert without having any idea what the stage would look like, what the artist would be wearing, or what the set-list might include.
So while video may have in fact killed the radio star, the breadth and depth of the inter-web has undoubtedly taken its toll on future ‘manias by over exposing artists and taking much of the excitement out of the live music experience.