Beatles Anniversary Remembered

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FORTY years ago this month, the Beatles began their second major tour of America with a performance at Shea Stadium in Queens. It's an event worth noting: more than 55,000 people attended that night, Aug. 15, 1965. It set a world record at that time for a pop concert, and it was the biggest public moment of the Beatles' remarkable career.

It's also worth noting that these days we seem to be reconstructing a shadow history of the band and its achievements. That is, almost every year now we observe some milestone of the Beatles. Last year it was the anniversary of the group's astonishing 1964 appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Two years from now, June 2007, the occasion will be a commemoration of 1967's "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" - an epochal work that still stands as popular music's most famous and form-breaking album. Commentators from all over the world will weigh in on that one.

Which raises a number of questions: Why do we continue to pore over the Beatles' high points? Why is it that those lifetime-ago moments still fascinate us? In part, of course, it's simply because there's such an undeniable epic arc in both the Beatles' story and in their music. Certainly, they possessed an extraordinarily intuitive skill for filling the needs of their times, and for realizing the potential of their own talents.

But there's another reason, just as important, that accounts for the lasting appeal of their history: The Beatles demonstrated that musical and social change could emanate from the shared spirit of the same body politic.

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