02/11/2014 07:01 am ET Updated Apr 13, 2014

Re-heat The Beatles


I wasn't going to watch the tribute Sunday night to the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. I wound up seeing the first hour, which was plenty. I suppose if I wanted to see the rest, it would be easy enough to track down but, hey -- I lived through it.

And, frankly, I'd rather remember it than watch the sanctioned pieces of memory that CBS manufactured -- complete with new Beatles' covers by such irrelevancies as Maroon 5, Katy Perry and Ed Sheeran, hosted by noted Beatles-ologist LL Cool J.

Unfortunately, we -- and by we, I speak now of my cohort, the Baby Boom generation -- seem to be the ones who have turned nostalgia into an industry. Which takes most of the fun out of it.

At this moment in time, there are people whose sole job is to comb the history books (OK, pop-history websites) in search of significant anniversaries to remind people of, so the media can find something trivial with which to distract us. Ten-year markers are good, 20 or 25 are better. By the time you get to 75, the stories are strictly clip-and-paste jobs, with the occasional leathery survivor rolled out to share his or her fading memories. With centennials, it's all strictly ceremonial. History? Hell, let's party.

But 50? Well, there's the mother lode, because a 50th-anniversary celebration offers the distance of history and yet has a much better chance of still involving people who experienced the original event.

We are awash in 50th anniversaries these days because so much of significance happened within a few years in the late 1950s and early 1960s to mark the explosion of the modern post-war era: civil rights, Vietnam, the Beatles, the various assassinations, and on and on.

This commentary continues on my website.