Monday, September 27, 2010

Psychobabble recommends 'The 4 Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring The Beatles'

The Beatles' ubiquitous presence in pop culture makes it difficult to fully appreciate what a fresh gust they were in the early '60s. Nothing puts this in perspective better than the recently released double-DVD set The 4 Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring The Beatles, which includes all the Borscht-belt comedians, acrobats, magicians, show-tune singers, and novelty acts teens had to endure while waiting for the Fabs to return to the stage and blow the cobwebs back out of 1697 Broadway.



Some of these acts are charming in their good-natured corniness, like card-trick magician Fred Kaps and the Nerveless Knocks, who do some terrifying-looking shit atop really tall poles. Some sequences are significant for capturing future TV stars a couple of years before breaking through, such as Monkee Davy Jones, who makes an uncredited appearance with the cast of Oliver! and Frank "The Riddler" Gorshin, who performs some pretty good celebrity impersonations. A couple performers--jazz great Cab Calloway, Liverpudlian belter Cilla Black--are strong enough to hold their own on the same floorboards as the lads. At their worst--acrobats Wells & the Four Fays; stink-o-la comedians Myron Cohen, Dave Berry, Morty Gunty; fur-clad singer Tessie O'Shea; a puppet show--they emphasize how necessary The Beatles were in the evolution of entertainment. These acts are Neanderthal next to those four, skinny aliens, with their funny, matching suits and hairdos and their surreal wisecracks and their infectious energy. What a leap forward The Beatles were! Early, relatively primitive songs like "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Please Please Me" sound positively futuristic in this context. And to think they were just a year away from creating Rubber Soul, just two years from "Rain" and Revolver and "Strawberry Fields Forever"! As entertainment, The 4 Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring The Beatles is a gas (even the period commercials included in each episode are fun, and I usually can't stomach ads). As a history lesson, the DVD is nothing short of revelatory. In one of its bonus clips, Sullivan, himself, says The Beatles are "the greatest shot in the arm show business has received in the past ten or fifteen years." Every moment of this collection backs up Ed's statement.

Get The 4 Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring The Beatles on Amazon.com.
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