1964 Beatlemania Reaches the U.S.

It’s hard to believe there was ever a point in time in which the Beatles were not revered as one of the greatest musical groups of all time, well… believe it.  Pre-1964 the Beatles had already been topping music charts across the UK for two years but such was not the case within the US. They were considered by many in the US music industry to be a ridiculous fad and not worth the investment. Several times managers for the Beatles reached out to large US record companies in an attempt to get Beatles songs on US airwaves but they were quickly laughed out of the building.

A case could be made that the Beatles burgeoning success within America can be predominately attributed to news anchor Walter Cronkite. Cronkite, disenchanted with the hordes of depressing news stories surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, re-ran a story documenting Beatlemania in December 1963. Although no direct correlation has been made, soon after the program was aired "She Loves You" became a radio regular.

Kennedy Airport: The Beatles wave to the thousands of screaming   teenagers after their arrival”
By January 1964 the release of their single "I Want to Hold Your Hand," had sold 1.5 million copies in the US within a few weeks of its release. The Beatles sound, which consisted of beat, rock and roll and skiffle, was something entirely new to the music industry, which up until that point had been dominated by the Elvis-driven musical style rockabilly which fused country-western, rhythm and blues and pop music.
Beatlemania had finally consumed the US and in February, 1964 John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr headed off to New York City for their first televised concert in the U.S. on the Ed Sullivan Show. Over 73 million viewers (34% of the population) tuned in making if the largest TV audience thus recorded for an American television program.

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“Introducing the Beatles”
Two days later they played their first US concert at Washington Coliseum in front of 8,000 fans. The Beatles played two more concerts in the US before heading back to Britain, one in Carnegie Hall and another in Miami, which was again broadcast live on the Ed Sullivan Show to the delight of over 70 million viewers. The Beatles went on to become what many to consider the greatest and most influential rock band in history with 21 #1 hits and 600 million albums sold worldwide.

The Beatles visit to the US marked a turning point in their careers and lead the way for other British bands, so many in fact that it was dubbed “The British Invasion.” Throughout the next year the Beatles came back to the US for a month long tour and were quickly followed by other British bands such as The Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits and The Dave Clark Five to name a few.

Fun Facts:

  • After their Ed Sullivan Show performance, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” sold another 2 million copies.
  • There were 0 crimes reported in New York City on February 9, 1964 when the Beatles performed.
  • The famous song “Yesterday,” originally had the working title “Scrambled Eggs.”
Lindsay Dwyer,
Reference & Instruction Librarian

Sources Consulted:

Cloud2013. (2014, June 29). Introducing the Beatles. Retri
eved from: https://flic.kr/p/o9w5EQ

Library of Congress. (1664). Kennedy Airport: The Beatles wave to the thousands of screaming   teenagers after their arrival. Web. 5 Feb. 2015.

Loder, Kurt. "The Beatles. (Cover Story)." Time. 151.22 (1998): 144. Military & Government Collection. Web. 5 Feb. 2015.

Perone, James E. Mods, Rockers, and the Music of the British Invasion. Westport, Conn: Praeger Publishers, 2009. Internet resource.

Sexton, Paul. "British Invasion.." Billboard. 120.38 (2008): 26. Academic Search Premier. Web. 5 Feb. 2015.

“The Beatles: 50 Facts for the 50th Anniversary.” Edsullivan. SOFA Entertainment, n.d. Web. 5 Feb. 2015.

This blog post is the 10th in a series produced in coordination
with Albertsons Library’s 50th Anniversary. #BoiseStLibraryat50

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