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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

Interview With Martin Lewis

Aired February 8, 2004 - 09:45   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN ANCHOR: The song "Hey Jude" was at the top of the Billboard charts longer than any other Beatles single. It was number one for nine weeks after its August 1968 release. "Hey Jude" was written by Paul McCartney for John Lennon's son, Julian, who was having trouble dealing with his father's divorce. The song was never performed live in concert by the Beatles. The group broke up shortly after its release.
Of course, before the group's end, there was the amazing beginning. Beatle-mania officially began in the U.S. when the four lads from Liverpool showed up for an appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Tomorrow marks the 40th anniversary of that event. Here to talk about it is Beatles historian and political commentator Martin Lewis. He joins us live from New York. Thanks, Martin, for being here.

MARTIN LEWIS, BEATLES HISTORIAN: My pleasure.

BUCKLEY: It's amazing, you know, we've been getting e-mails throughout the morning from fans who still talk about how they were touched by the Beatles.

LEWIS: The impact they had was quite considerable especially here in America. I think it was partly to do with the fact that they happened just after the terrible tragedy of JFK's assassination, and rather like after 9/11, we needed something to lift our spirits up. And the Beatles, who would have been big anyway, but they arrived just at the right time. They gave us a smile. They gave us their optimism and positive look at life, and that really helped things.

BUCKLEY: We often see that appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show." What was so special about that? Why did 73 million people tune in to watch that?

LEWIS: Well, the secret was that the Beatles had actually become successful in America. About three weeks before, radio discovered the Beatles, and they were already number one. There was hysteria building that there was something fresh and new coming. So everyone was curious.

The parents wanted to make fun of them because of their weird haircuts, and the young people realized a new breath of fresh air had come into America. The fresh air was watched by 73 million, but they did four appearances on "Ed Sullivan" in total, and the four shows got no less than a quarter of a billion people viewed them. They just put it out on DVD. And when you see the four shows, it's astonishing to see how young and fresh they are, and it explains to us very clearly why they made that impact.

BUCKLEY: Now let me take a turn, here. You are also a political commentator, we're calling you. And the reason is, you say that you can tell the type of person you are by the Beatle that you like the most. So we'll go through some of the democratic nominees here. Let's start with John Kerry. Who does he like or who is he like?

LEWIS: John Kerry is clearly a John Lennon character, although he had a more privileged background than John Lennon did. John Lennon used to get in the trenches as well in the fight against war, and John Kerry did that when he came back from Vietnam and took a stand against the Vietnam War. So John Kerry sees himself as a John Lennon, a natural leader.

BUCKLEY: OK. How about Howard Dean?

LEWIS: Howard Dean is rather like George Harrison. George Harrison never wanted to be a star. He wanted to be a musician. I think Howard Dean has the same problem. It's uncomfortable in the spotlight. He gets a little bit grumpy when there's too much attention on him. And the good news for Howard Dean is I think he's going to have his wish fulfilled. He's not going to be in the spotlight anymore.

BUCKLEY: OK. John Edwards, the senator from North Carolina?

LEWIS: John Edwards is clearly a Paul McCartney. He's got the cute look, he's got the baby face. He's got that cheerful, exuberant optimism. Is it a veneer, or it the real thing? We don't know yet. But he certainly has that thumbs up to life attitude.

BUCKLEY: What about one of the guys getting a few votes, Dennis Kucinich?

LEWIS: Dennis Kucinich is clearly the Ringo of the lot, because first of all, he's back behind the others. He's also about three foot shorter than the others, but the women love him. They want to mother him. They don't want to make him president. They want to surround him with love. It's like a Dudley Moore character or Ringo Starr. That's what they think about Dennis.

BUCKLEY: What about the general, Wesley Clark?

LEWIS: I put Wesley Clark into my computer and what happened was it said, cannot compute a person who doesn't blink. So we were unable to come up with a clear reading on him at all.

BUCKLEY: OK. Well, we'll have to take your word for it.

LEWIS: But George Bush, I've got to tell you this, George Bush is not like a Beatle. He's more like a swaggering Elvis. So I think the presidential election this year in November will be between an Elvis and a Beatle.

BUCKLEY: All right. Well, how appropriate. Thank you very much, Martin Lewis. We enjoyed that interesting and different political analysis.

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