On Feb. 9, four young men from Liverpool, England, landed on the shores of America — on the stage of the “Ed Sullivan Show” — and the United States and the world have never been the same.
They not only changed our music, but they changed our culture.
Some writers put the invasion by the Beatles and the assassination of J.F. Kennedy in the same paragraph, if not in the same sentence. That this nation lost its innocence in Dallas, and with the Beatles this country was rejuvenated.
(One writer stated that Baby Boomers (1946-64) could be separated into two groups — those who could remember where they were when Kennedy was killed and those who couldn’t.)
From 1960 until November 1963 was a time that was sometimes called the American Camelot. With the election of JFK the nation moved into an exciting time. We followed the Kennedys as they played touch football, went boating and entertained some of the best minds on the planet in the White House.
Nov. 22, 1963, ended this nation’s love affair with American Camelot.
Enter the Beatles.
Before the Fab Four, no British group could turn on the American teens’ love for their music. Cliff Richards, the British answer to Elvis, had moderate success with records and movies, but not many really noticed.
The Beatles were big in England and parts of Europe, but their manager, Brian Epstein, could not break into the American music scene. He was even told that drums and guitars were not what the teens wanted. (Duane Eddy and the Ventures were the biggest guitar and drum bands, but were instrumental groups only.)
Breaking into the music business in the United States meant the big time for any group.
Ed Sullivan was at a British airport when hundreds of screaming teenagers arrived and closed down the airport. He thought it must be royalty or some head of government that the crowds had come to see. When he found out it was the Beatles he insisted on having them on his show.
On Feb. 9, 1964, Ed introduced John, Paul, George and Ringo to the American public.
“I left school for home to watch the Beatles on TV wearing my hair combed back like Elvis, but I came to school the next morning wearing a Beatle cut,” stated one fan.
They say that the night the Beatles were on the “Ed Sullivan Show” the crime rate in the United States dropped. At school, the next day, everyone talked about the show.
American teens started wearing their hair to look like the Beatles. And when the Fab Four started wearing wild and colorful clothes, so did we. Record sales went off the charts.
The country could not get enough of the Beatles. They were in every newspaper and magazine. Wherever they went, whatever they did was photographed and written about and dispatched throughout the world.
Every record they put out became a No. 1 hit. In fact, at one time the top five records all belonged to the Beatles. “Can’t Buy Me Love” sold more than a million copies before it even was released.
The media suggested that their songs were not that good and were only hits because the Beatles performed them. Lennon and McCartney ended up writing hits for three other groups. “Bad To Me” was a hit for Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, “A World Without Love” made Peter and Gordon famous. And “I Wanna Be Your Man” got the Rolling Stones on their way to rock ‘n’ roll history.
Then they made a movie that is considered by many one of the best of its kind. “A Hard Day’s Night” showed the Beatles as they were. We heard their music and saw their comic side. We fell in love with Beatlemania.
As they put on concerts all around the world they realized they were too big to tour. When the president of the Philippines asked them to visit his wife after the concert, they declined. Marcos then took away their guards and the Beatles barely made it out of the country.
At the concerts the crowds were so noisy that the band members couldn’t even hear themselves. They then decided to just put out music from the studio on Abbey Road and not tour anymore. (Years later they were offered $50 million to put on one concert, but turned it down.)
They changed the course of rock and roll by changing its music with every song. At first they were playing others’ tunes, but had written many songs themselves. Once they convinced the record companies to record their music, the fans wanted nothing more.
For the last 40 years fans have been getting together to celebrate in a three-day fest. This year’s get-together will feature Peter Asher from Peter and Gordon, Donavan, Chad and Jeremy, and Billy J. Kramer. There is also a 40-page catalog featuring everything by the Beatles, from CDs to ties to Christmas ornaments. Not too many bands can claim a three-day fest and a catalog.
When Revolver (album) came out I wanted to return it — this wasn’t the music I wanted to hear. I didn’t think it was rock ‘n’ roll enough. (I later changed my mind.)
Today it is considered one of the greatest albums recorded because it changed the way music was recorded; everything about it was so different. R&R had moved into a different era, moved by the music of the Beatles.