Screaming. Shouting. Crying. Sobbing. Hair pulling. Ah, what ecstasy!
This Feb. 9 marks 50 years since The Beatles stormed America and appeared on The Ed Sullivan show. The mop-top foursome changed the way we listened to, watched and experienced rock ‘n roll music (with Elvis Presley warming us up, of course) — not to mention how their music changed some of our lives forever. We saw how music became not just part of the cultural landscape, but shaped it — while speaking for an entire generation.
The Beatles weren’t the first ones to make young women swoon: there was Rudy Valle in the 20s, Clark Gable and Frank Sinatra in the 30s, 40s and 50s. Girls wanted to marry them and young men wanted to look like them, cutting their hair in their long, bowl-like style and taking guitar and drum lessons so they could be cool and emulate their musical heroes.
A record setting 73 million people tuned that night on Feb. 9, 1964. Before their appearance, The Beatles released ““I Want to Hold Your Hand” in America, and it played on radio stations around the country. The record sold 250,000 copies in the first three days. By January 10, 1964, it had sold over one million copies and became the number one song on the Billboard charts by the end of the month. So, when they arrived in America, their fan base was already set in place.
On Feb. 7, The Beatles arrived at the newly renamed John F. Kennedy airport here in New York (President Kennedy had just been assassinated 77 days before they arrived, and the country was ready for some diversion). They were met with 3,000 screaming fans and a mass of reporters. In a press conference held shortly after, Ringo Starr got “cheeky” with a reporter who asked, “How do you find America?” Starr jokingly replied, “Turn left at Greenland.”
Two nights later, at 8 p.m., more than 43 percent of American households watched as John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr took the stage, opening with “All My Loving.” Girls screamed, cheered, cried and swooned in the audience — and at home.
Threatening to “call for a barber,” host Ed Sullivan tried to quiet the audience for the others acts who appeared that night, including Broadway star Georgia Brown and the cast of “Oliver!”