It was 60 years ago this week that The Beatles landed in New York City. As a prelude to their U.S. visit, The Beatles released their first album in the U.S. on January 10, 1964 (Introducing … The Beatles), followed by the release of their first single (I Want To Hold Your Hand) on January 18. Their second album (Meet the Beatles) was released on January 20, 1964. On January 25, the I Want To Hold Your Hand single was number one on the Cash Box Magazine music chart.
Landing at JFK airport on a Friday afternoon, February 7, 1964, a crowd of thousands of teenagers skipped school just to get a glimpse of the Fab Four walking down the staircase of their Pan Am Boeing 707. Two days later, the group performed live on The Ed Sullivan Show. A record-breaking 73 million people tuned in that night, including Mister Boomer’s family.
While brilliant marketing may have made their debut one of the biggest publicity splashes of any decade, the band’s popularity only grew from there. It was Murray the K, then a DJ on the WINS radio station in New York, who mentioned on air that The Beatles would be arriving on Pan Am Flight 101 from London. Other radio stations picked up on the story and the word was out. Meanwhile, Capitol Records had bumper stickers stating, “The Beatles are coming,” ready for distribution. A U.S. firm that had contracted to make and sell merchandise for the band had promised a t-shirt and a dollar bill for every teen who showed up at the airport. Mister Boomer didn’t see any evidence that the t-shirts received their t-shirts and dollars.
Mister Boomer’s introduction to The Beatles arrived with their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. His family tuned in that night, as was the usual for their Sunday night TV viewing. Mister B recalls thinking I Want To Hold Your Hand was a catchy tune, but had no idea why the girls in the audience screamed and shouted so loudly that the band could hardly be heard.
When The Beatles landed in the U.S., Mister Boomer’s family did not own a record player. Sometime within that same year, Mister B’s cousin got a new record player and she gave the family her old one. It was a portable box phonograph that had a lid with a latch, and a handle that made it look like a piece of luggage. Though basic, it could play both 33 1/3 RPM albums and 45 RPM singles. At that point, Mister B didn’t pay any attention to it. The family had no records, and it sat, lid closed, in a closet in his sister’s room.
However, soon after receiving the record player, the family was shopping at a local discount store. There, Mister Boomer’s sister and brother asked their parents if they could buy a package of records. The package held ten or twelve 45s, for the price of one dollar. A clear cellophane center revealed one record in the pack, and it was a Beatles tune: She’s A Woman. Once the family got home, Mister B’s sister dragged the phonograph from her closet and set it up on the floor. She put on the first record the family owned, and the sound of The Beatles emanated from the monophonic speaker. As might be expected, the rest of the package was filled with novelty records and others from unknown bands. When Mister B got custody of most of the family records years later, those original 45s remained in the collection.
What memories of The Beatles’ first appearances in the U.S. do you have, boomers?