“Beatlemania” transformed the United States when The Beatles first arrived in America exactly 50-years-ago today, February 7, 1964.
Following the British band’s success with hit singles like “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You” the lads from Liverpool went on to make a historic appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show that would take the nation by storm.
Even though Beatlemania as we know it had already begun in England and other parts of Europe, the The Beatles had yet to truly break into the American market following flops of their first two US singles, “Please Please Me” and “From Me To You.”
The band got their break when Ed Sullivan was passing through Heathrow airport in October of 1963 as The Beatles were returning from a tour in Sweden.
The American host had never heard of the Fab Four before, but after seeing the hundreds of screaming fans, he thought the number could be successful in the US and booked them to come to America a couple of weeks later.
The Beatles label, Capitol Records was not keen on promoting them in the US at the time, but after the boys landed the gig with Ed Sullivan, Capitol agreed to promote their upcoming record.
John Lennon would later recall that he said, “Oh no we won’t make it”, while Ringo Starr was feeling “a bit sick” with anticipation. All that vanished when The Beatles landed in New York as 3,000 screaming fans awaited their arrival, many of them skipped school to be there.
The reaction was unexpected for band members.
“Seeing thousands of kids there to meet us made us realize just how popular we were there,” George Harrison later said.
“We have a message,” Paul McCartney stated between questions about the band’s name and the guys’ hairstyles, “buy more Beatles records!”
On February 9, 1964 John, Paul, George, and Ringo arrived at CBS to film The Ed Sullivan Show. The host famously introduced them by name, later saying, “Ladies and Gentleman…The Beatles!”
And the rest is history as they say. The band performed the singles “All My Loving” and “Till There Was You” to start and finished by driving the crowd wild with “She Loves You.”
The Beatles later returned to the stage for two more songs, “I Saw Her Standing There” plus their number one hit, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” as fans screamed so loud it made it almost impossible to hear the singing.
According to Nielsen, a record breaking 73 million viewers tuned in to watch The Beatles perform on their first live appearance on American television. Beatlemania had arrived in the United States.