The Beatles arrived in the U.S. on February 7, 1964, starting a pop-culture explosion 50 years and counting. Landing at the JFK airport in New York City, the Fab Four comprising of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, exploded into the American scene bringing with them the exuberance of youth expressed through music and style that spawned Beatlemania in Britain and Europe.
Although many Americans have already heard of their works by way of disc jockeys’ playing their songs over the radio, this visit by the Fab Four was the first time the Americans would ever experience what Beatlemania truly is.
The Beatles first American TV appearance in The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9 solidified their position as one of the most popular acts that visited the U.S. Reports estimated that there were 73 million viewers in North America who saw them play their brand of music.
Harrison in a later interview echoed the initial apprehension of the group just after they landed at the JFK airport. They know they have made a dent in the American music scene but are also at a loss on how they would be received by the general public and after “Seeing thousands of kids there to meet us made us realize just how popular we were there.” Harrison added.
This weekend, The Beatles 50th anniversary arrival in the U.S. and their historic performance on The Ed Sullivan Show will be celebrated by CBS with a live symposium, interviews, tribute concerts as well as performances by the surviving Beatles McCartney and Starr.
Entertainment columnist David Hinckley of the NY Daily News admitted that they viewed the Beatles back then as nothing more than a fad, “…destined to last precisely as long as it took for the next fad to supplant them.” His fellow critics even said that The Beatles has a shelf life of just about 6 to 12 weeks on the top-40 radio.
But Hinckley’s views and many others were disproven when even to this day or precisely 50 years after they have formally introduced themselves to the American public, their music continues to be heard, played and appreciated.
According to Montreal’s Concordia University ethnomusicologist Craig Morrison, there are many factors that can be said to contribute to The Beatles success not only in the U.S. but in other parts of the world as well. However, one factor stands out why The Beatles did not vanish quickly as critics predicted and this was the group’s “ability to reinvent themselves with each new record.” added Morrison.
Canadian composer Tim Brady who watched The Beatles perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show” together with his parents and brother said the Fab Four created music that were a mix of American rock and roll, British skiffle, R & B and some music hall or Broadway. These mixtures make their music unique, Brady added.
Lennon during their first American press interview at the JFK airport when asked by the reporters why they would not sing for them said that “We need money first.” is an indication of their irreverent, witty and down to earth style which endeared them more to the public.
The Beatles arrived in the U.S. on February 7, 1964 and 50 years later the pop-culture explosion they have started never really left the American and the world’s consciousness since then.
By Roberto I. Belda