Another festival comes to a close, another stroll down memory lane wanders to a meandering halt. As we started the weekend, we began to think about what life was like in 1962 when the Beatles were just getting started. The Fab Four officially broke up in 1970, less than a decade later. But even in that short amount of time our lives and the world had begun to change.
By 1970 my world became a high school world, and the world was filled with freedoms, responsibilities and a changed environment. The growing student body had outgrown the facilities for the school cafeteria. Older high school students could leave the campus during the lunch time to go out and get a bite to eat. In Avon, Indiana at the time that basically meant two choices. If you had a car, you could drive down to the Dairy Queen and partake in their newest invention, the “Brazier Burger.” The other choice was to walk next door to the Rexall Drug Store. In the back of the store was a short-order grill, complete with a counter and spinning stool seats.
In 1970 the tenor of music was definitely shifting. Simon and Garfunkel held down the top spot on Billboard’s Top 100 Chart with their hit “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” They were followed by “Close to You” by the Carpenters. The number three spot was held down by an edgier “American Woman” by The Guess Who. The top five was rounded out by “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” by B. J. Thomas and “War” by Edwin Starr.
The Beatles only hit in the top 20 came in at number nine. The tune was “Let it Be,” an appropriate title for a song that would bring their reign to a close. The top 20 also housed three songs by a group from Gary, Indiana that was taking the music industry by storm. Their unique blend of pop, rhythm and blues, soul and disco would turn Motown around in the coming years. The Jackson 5 were already on their way toward owning the Billboard charts with “I’ll Be There,” “ABC,” and “The Love You Save.”
The movie that made the most money in 1970 was also the picture that took home the Oscar for best picture. “Patton” was an epic biographical movie about General George S. Patton during World War II. The movie starred George C. Scott in the title role along with Karl Malden, Michael Bates and Paul Frees.
“M*A*S*H” held down the second spot for money-making movies that year. Robert Duvall, Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould stared in the film directed by Robert Altman. The movie would spawn the now famous television series with Alan Alda two years later.
The top five movies also included “Five Easy Pieces” with Jack Nicholson, “Kelly’s Heroes” with Clint Eastwood and Donald Sutherland, and Disney’s contribution of “The Aristocats.” John Wayne had two movies in the top dozen, “Rio Lobo” and “Chisum.” The “Duke” would continue making westerns until 1976.
According to the Nielsen Media Research group, the top-rated television show for the 1970-1971 season was ABC’s “Marcus Welby, M.D.” The lead character was played by Robert Young, an actor who continued to be an iconic father-figure for the American audiences. We knew him first in “Father Knows Best,” five years on radio, then seven years on television. The Welby series would continue until 1976.
The second highest rated show that season was the first season for the explosive comedic talent of Clerow Wilson Jr., better known as Flip. The weekly variety series introduced viewers to his recurring characters, including Geraldine. The show would run until 1974 on NBC.
The top five positions also included “Here’s Lucy” with Lucille Ball, “Ironside” with Raymond Burr, and “Gunsmoke” with James Arness. These three shows alone were powerhouses with rock solid performers. Lucy had started in television in 1951 and would continue through the early '80s. "Gunsmoke" ran 20 seasons and Ironside another eight seasons. Burr had been the iconic Perry Mason for a decade.
Westerns like "Gunsmoke" ; "Bonanza" and "The Men from Shiloh" all held top 20 spots. Trendier shows like "Hawaii Five-O"; "Medical Center," and "The Mod Squad" balanced out programming like "Hee Haw" and Rowan and Martin’s "Laugh In."
But our tastes in television were changing. As the 1970-71 season came to a close, the CBS Network performed what has since been known as “The Rural Purge.” Rural shows like "Mayberry RFD"; "The Beverly Hillbillies," and "Green Acres" were cancelled. In addition, highly rated variety shows that had been on networks since the beginning of television broadcasting were eliminated. The actions were taken hoping to move audience away from rural themes to one that would appeal to urban and suburban audiences.
The world made huge strides starting in 1970 developing some of the most useful and impactful inventions, several of which set the stage for our world today. IBM reshaped the way people stored data in 1971 with the release of the floppy disk. Motorola produced an invention in 1975 that led to the smartphone that is in your hand right now. At the same time computer engineer Ray Tomlinson and a 14 year-old genius Shiva Ayyadurai crafted together what we call email.
Over 50 years ago, the Beatles made their first American television appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” The Beatles’ performance was recorded in black and white. CBS announced that the show would begin broadcasting in color the next weekend.
Here is a handful of other ways that the Beatles changed our lives. Maybe the biggest way was hair. The Beatle haircut, sometimes called the mop-top because of its similarity to a mop, was mid-length. The Beatles also changed fashion from the black and grey collarless suits to the bright colors of their psychedelic era.
The Beatles also changed concerts. When the Beatles played in New York at Shea Stadium, it was the first concert held at a major outdoor stadium. The 56,600 seat stadium took just 17 minutes to sell out. Before the Beatles, record albums were secondary to the mass-marketing of the single. The Beatles focused on the entire album, changing how music was marketed.
We owe a lot to Abbey Road. We can’t wait to walk the path again next year.