Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you
Tomorrow I’ll miss you
Remember I’ll always be true …
– “All My Loving”
On Feb. 9, 1964, the Beatles made their highly anticipated first U.S. appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and 73 million Americans watched history being made. With those opening lyrics to “All My Loving,” John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr from Liverpool, England, became the advance wave of a cultural tsunami in America known as the British Invasion.
Ten weeks earlier, America had endured the assassination of young President John F. Kennedy, whose optimism and vision had inspired American youth. As Bob Dylan sang, the times were a’changing in the early ’60s and boomers were ready for it, just not sure of its direction after the tragedy. Then the Beatles’ first American single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” was released on Dec. 26, followed by their album, “Meet the Beatles.” The songs transfixed us with their joyful energy, unusual beats and gorgeous harmonies, unlike anything we’d heard. By the time they sang on Ed Sullivan, the Beatles topped the charts.
The three Ed Sullivan performances were a sensation and Beatlemania swept the nation. Our hearts swelled with a love for the Beatles that still endures.
I’ve got everything that you want
Like a heart that’s oh so true
– “From Me to You”
We couldn’t get enough of them. Unlike many singers and groups, the Beatles wrote their own music, and were stellar and prolific songwriters – in 1964 there were six American Beatles album releases. On April 4, they made history by dominating the Billboard Hot 100 chart’s top five positions, had 12 songs in the top 100 and 14 the following week, and the top two albums. Simply recorded live in the studio, those early songs still burst with joyous vibrancy, as if the Beatles are right next to you.
I think of you
The things you do
Go round my head
The things you said
– “There’s A Place”
Unlike most American pop/rock groups, the Beatles had distinct personalities that enchanted the media, as well. They were charming, witty and a bit subversive, with remarkable sangfroid. We fans had our favorites, devoured everything we could learn about them, wore Beatle pins and plastered our bedroom walls with photos from teen magazines. It was all incredibly fun, happy and innocent. During a horrible year that brought family chaos and divorce, the Beatles were a pocket of transporting happiness.
Bright are the stars that shine
Dark is the sky
I know this love of mine
Will never die
– “And I Love Her”
When their first film, “A Hard Day’s Night,” came out to critical acclaim, it too was a sensation. It was the first movie I saw over and over, and it’s still delightful today. That summer was the Beatles’ first American tour, and they did some unprecedented concerts in baseball stadiums, inaugurating arena rock. My lucky older sister, got to see them at the Hollywood Bowl, while I watched the Ed Sullivan rerun of their first appearance, and drenched some tissues in jealous longing.
And that tsunami the Beatles unleased? America may have kicked the British out, but British musicians, designers and styles enthusiastically hopped back “across the pond” in 1964. American teens dropped English slang like “fab,” “gear” and “grotty,” debated Mods and Rockers and followed Carnaby Street fashions. Girls coveted Mary Quant cosmetics, grew their hair into long sheets and sported Yardley Slicker lipstick necklaces over poor boy sweaters tucked into hip-hugger miniskirts. To the consternation of parents everywhere, hemlines were shrinking and boys’ hair was lengthening.
If you weren’t there for it, it’s impossible to capture or understand the magic of the early Beatles, and how the British Invasion changed everything – not only for the boomers, but succeeding generations – forever.
Love, love me do
You know I love you
I’ll always be true …
– “Love Me Do”
Sunday is the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first appearance on Ed Sullivan. Hard to believe, but my mirror confirms it. New generations may hear the Beatles differently than we did, but they love the Beatles, too. Because their talent and joy shine through those old records and TV clips.
All the screaming fans had it right.
Oh, you Beatles. We love, love you do.
Yeah, yeah, yeah … yeah!
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