NEW YORK – In February 1964, the Beatles took America by storm, and rock ‘n’ roll was never the same.
AP reporters covering the band’s Feb. 7 arrival at New York’s Kennedy Airport and their appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” two days later never failed to mention John, Paul, George and Ringo’s long hair, or the screaming teenage girls who followed them wherever they went.
In covering the airport arrival, AP reporter Arthur Everett goes to great lengths to use contemporary slang like “way out” and “fab.” And he quotes female fans as shouting “We want beatniks!” Might it have been “We want Beatles!”? The story on the Sullivan show appearance focuses on the scene, making scant mention of the band’s music. In a separate review, AP television-radio writer Cynthia Lowry allows that the boys “sing close harmony.” But she is put off by their hairdos, and declares that the appeal of the Liverpudlians remains a mystery to an “elderly viewer.” (Lowry was in her early 50s at the time.)
Fifty years after their original publication, the AP is making these reports available to subscribers:
Beatles land in New York
Britain’s way out Beatles, equipped with rag mop hairdos and guitars, invaded the colonies today. Thousands of delirious teen-aged native girls paid them wild tribal homage when they landed at Kennedy airport.
“I love them, I love them,” shrieked one junior miss, teetering on the verge of emotional collapse. A singing quartet of British youth, the Beatles are all the rage — or rather “fab” for fabulous — on the tight little isle, and their fame has spread to America via best-selling recordings. Now they are here in person for a series of sold-out public appearances.
The Beatles collectively are sort of a sheep dog version of Elvis Presley — the adulation they arouse in reminiscent of the grip the American star once held on the juvenile population.
However, when a newsman described them to their faces — or the visible portions thereof — as “four Elvis Presleys,” they replied in unison: “Not True.”
As the Beatles left their transatlantic airliner shortly after noon, 5,000 school-skipping American fans stormed police barricades, pelted the quartet with jelly beans and candy kisses, and screamed: “We want beatniks! We want beatniks!”
Behind them, with their departure from London, the Beatles left a pack of British teen-age girls, awash in tears, keening forlornly and twisting sodden hankies in anguished farewell.
But accustomed as they are to the weird worship rites attending their every appearance, the Beatles were shocked into momentary immobility as they left their plane to face the American horde. They recovered enough to wave, mug and dance a small jig for their panting audience.
“It’s marvelous,” Beatle Paul McCartney, 21, later told a news conference. “It’s fantastic! We’ve never seen or had anything like this before. It’s the best ever.”
There was some small measure of mild dissent amid the joyous welcoming uproar that kept 100 policemen on edge at the airport. One sign on display read: “Beatles go home!” and another proclaimed: “We love Beethoven.”
At the news conference the Beatles were informed that a “stamp out the Beatles” movement is under way in Detroit.
“We’re going to start a campaign to stamp out Detroit,” was their rejoinder.
As for Beethoven, Beatle Ringo Starr, 23, conceded that “he’s beat — especially his poems.”
Ed Sullivan appearance
The Beatles — four British Lads who sing when they are not busy running away from barbers — made their American Television debut tonight — and some things may never be the same.
The seats in the Columbia Broadcasting System studio where they appeared live on the Ed Sullivan variety show were given more of a workout by jumping and squirming teenaged girls than were the singers in their fast-moving routine.
The four mop-topped entertainers, who came here Friday from London, provided their own musical background with string and percussion instruments.
Throughout their two appearances during the show, the 721 members of the audience — mostly young girls — kept up a steady stream of squeals, sighs and yells.
The four British imports, appearing for a total of about 20 minutes on the hourlong show, may well have ended up with second billing.
Camera crews were lavish in their shots of the audience, showing young girls leaping from their seats, throwing their arms into the air and staring bug-eyed. Some appeared as if on the verge of coma, staring open-mouthed.
At one point before the program, there was some doubt that the four singers would be able to make their way into the studio through the masses of teenage fans trying for a glimpse of their idols.
But hundreds of Manhattan Police, including mounted officers, shoved back the eager fans and cleared a path for the four entertainers.
Fans also gathered outside the Plaza Hotel in sunny, freezing weather as the performers went back and forth earlier in the day to rehearse at the studio.
Following the afternoon rehearsal, the Beatles recorded three numbers for an Ed Sullivan show to be aired Feb. 23. They will be on the show next Sunday, live from Miami Beach, Fla. The Beatles will also give concerts in Washington, D.C., and in New York.
On Saturday, George Harrison, lead guitarist of the Beatles, was confined to the hotel with a sore throat while drummer Ringo Starr and guitarists John Lennon and Paul McCartney rehearsed and toured New York by car.
The Beatles wear mushroomed shape hairdos down to their eyebrows and tight black suits. In America they currently have the top selling album and the number one and three top selling single records, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You.”
For teenage girls only
Anyone who is not a teen-age girl obviously is unqualified to comment on the sight of the Beatles in action.
Heaven knows we’ve heard them enough. It has been impossible to get a radio weather bulletin or time signal without running into “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
And now, having seen the four performers on Ed Sullivan’s CBS show last night, Beatlemania is even more of a mystery to an elderly viewer.
They sing close harmony, stomp their feet and play electric guitars, but so do a lot of crew-cut American boys in slacks and sweaters, and they cause no riots.
Beatle clothes look about two sizes too small, and I’ve seen Hungarian sheep dogs with more attractive hairdos.
But thousands of squealing young girls get their message. Camera shots of panting youngsters in Sullivan’s audience were disquieting, in fact.
Maybe after two more exposures to the Beatles on television, all of us elderly people will become Beatlenuts, yeah, yeah, yeah, but I doubt it.