For me, the moment occurs in a hallway, not a crowded one with students bustling to class, but a nearly deserted one. I am going about my student council duties – my period right after lunch is assigned for student council.  As I approach the American History class area, a classmate emerges from the offices and tells me the President has been shot.  Of course, my immediate reaction is some kind of clever retort because such things are often the province of high school humor – it would be detrimental to one’s image to appear too gullible.  But he insists.  So we go into the office area and I hear the words for myself.  My reaction, like all others that day, is shocked disbelief.  As the day wears on we don our adult demeanor, we exchange comments reflecting on the enormity of the tragedy.  Then our high school lives begin to intrude and the truly important issues come to the fore.  We are in our second week of basketball practice – will practice be cancelled? (It wouldn’t.)  Will school be cancelled? (It would.) 

Unlike other national events that somehow registered on our high school radar, this one seemed to have some endurance.  As the events of that weekend transpired, we were drawn into the national process of mourning.  The news coverage was constant.  From reports coming out of Dallas concerning the arrest of a Lee Harvey Oswald as the assassin to the activities and statements of the new president, we stayed engaged.  For some of us there was another jolt when we watched Oswald get shot by Jack Ruby.  For all of us there was profound sadness as we watched the Kennedy family walking behind the caisson and John Jr. giving his final salute.  True, all these images have been well preserved by the national media, and today are easily viewed via the internet; but for those of us in the Class of ’65, they are indelible, we need no reminding.  As the days ahead again became filled with the trappings of high school life, there would still be moments, maybe prompted by some news bulletin concerning the assassination, in which we would shake our heads and wonder where we would go from here.  And The Singing Nun would apply some salve to our melancholy … “Dominique, nique, nique.”

Then came February.  I’d heard the songs on the radio and I’d liked what I’d heard.  And everybody is talking about watching on Sunday night to see what they are really like.  It is rare that we are treated to some quality presentation of our kind of music – to date, The Beach Boys haven’t seen the Sullivan stage.  And there is all the hoopla – “The Beatles Are Coming!”  With all the build up, it would not have been surprising to have been disappointed.  I am anything but.  I ensconce myself in the basement in front of my black and white television set … don’t really want to share this moment with my parents upstairs (I think they are watching also).  “All My Loving” seems to have more of a punch when watching the quartet perform.  “Till There Was You” is obviously a gesture to all those crazy girls in the audience.  But by the time they blast out “She Loves You” in their second set, I am enthralled.  This is what a rock and roll band should sound like.  “Yes, she loves you and you know you should be glad …” And then George and Paul shake their hair and give a Little Richard “oooooooo.”  

 After over fifty years, my memory may be flawed, but looking back, it seems like after that performance, our teenage lives got an injection of excitement.  This new music gave new energy to teen dances, gave more volume to the songs from our car radios.  In retrospect, the lyrics of Lennon / McCartney at this time weren’t much to rave about – such a trivial thing as trying to patch up a feuding couple – “apologize to her.”  But the sound and the presentation was what had the impact.  It made singing along to “I Want to Hold Your Hand” seem like some kind of rebellious challenge.  It was great to be a teen in ’64.  We were starting to think about our future and we were starting to think we could rule the world ….. “yeah, yeah, yeah.”
President Kennedy's funeral received full coverage by all the networks. The nation shared the experience.


"I Want to Hold Your Hand" entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #43 on January 18th and would be the number one song a week before The Beatles performed on Ed Sullivan.