1963: Annus Mirabilis, Beatles!

I saw a video of a concert given by the Beatles in 1963 which made me think, oh my God, 50 years have gone by since then, some of the young fans singing along with their idols at the concert may no longer even be around any more, but gone like John and George.

They looked so young and beautiful, having the time of their life, being entertained by their idols at the concert. The Beatles sang I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Money, Twist and Shout, and the fans screamed and sang along, barely able to contain themselves in their seats. They looked so young, so innocent.

The year 1963, of course, was not all youthful innocence as Philip Larkin reminded us in his famous poem, Annus Mirabilis.

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) –
Between the end of the “Chatterley” ban
And the Beatles’ first LP.

That’s how he began the poem. More about it later.

There was fun and laughter. But the year that began with the Beatles reaching the top of the pop charts for the first time ended with the assassination of President John Kennedy in Dallas in November 1963 after only two years and 11 months in the White House.

It was the era of civil rights and the Cold War, Elvis Presley movies and 007. Dr No, the first James Bond movie, was released in 1962. Stephen King recaptured the era in his novel, 11/22/63, whose title recalls the date of President Kennedy’s assassination.

There is a young disc jockey in Stephen King’s novel. I can’t recall the songs he plays.

But here are some of the songs that were No 1 in the UK or the USA in 1963. Elvis Presley’s Devil in Disguise topped the charts in the UK that year, but it’s not included here because the only clips I could find show him singing that song much later, either in the late Sixties or early Seventies.

So here instead are others like Cliff Richard and the Shadows, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, and The Searchers, who had UK No 1 hits, and Paul and Paula, Bobby Vinton, The Angels, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and Jan and Dean, who topped the pop charts in America.

Since this is about 1963, we must recall Philip Larkin’s famous poem. Here it is in full.

Annus Mirabilis

By Philip Larkin

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) –
Between the end of the “Chatterley” ban
And the Beatles’ first LP.

Up to then there’d only been
A sort of bargaining,
A wrangle for the ring,
A shame that started at sixteen
And spread to everything.

Then all at once the quarrel sank:
Everyone felt the same,
And every life became
A brilliant breaking of the bank,
A quite unlosable game.

So life was never better than
In nineteen sixty-three
(Though just too late for me) –
Between the end of the “Chatterley” ban
And the Beatles’ first LP.

Now listen to the poem.