The Beatles in America, 1964

Photo from United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division, copyright free.

Today’s post transcends fashion.  It’s about the Beatles, the cultural touchstone of my childhood.  I’m exactly a month late with this post, as the Beatles first landed in America on February 7, 1964.  I was asked by Vegas.com to write a little about my early memories of the Fab Four, and I was happy to participate.

Warning:  Salty language ahead.

I was eight years old when the Beatles first came to the US in 1964.  I was in the third grade and was more concerned with playground politics than rock and roll.  But in January of that year, all the talk among the older kids on the school bus concerned the Beatles.  They were working themselves, and me along with them into a frenzy of anticipation for their big performance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

My older brother, Steve, and I knew that we had to arrange to be at our grandparents’ house the night of the show because their TV reception was much better than ours.  My grandmother, who was always agreeable said we were welcome to watch it there, but she didn’t say anything about it to my grandfather.  You might remember that he was the grandfather that chased me out of the house dressed only in his underwear.

As 8:00 approached, Steve and I got settled in with our Coke and popcorn.  The magical hour was here!  By this time  all the songs were playing on the radio, and Steve and I knew them and were singing along and dancing and generally having a great time.

All of a sudden, my grandfather yelled out from his big easy chair, “Glyde, what in Hell is this shit?”

Steve, who was ten, and a lot braver than me yelled back, “Papaw, that’s not shit, that’s the Beatles!”

My shocked grandfather then yelled, “Glyde, did you hear what that boy just said?”  to which Mamaw replied, “Well, you said it first so just sit there and listen to the music and call it even.”

This was just the beginning of Beatlemania in my house.  For my ninth birthday I got a Beatles tee shirt and their second US album, Meet the Beatles.  I collected all the bubblegum cards and Steve and the neighboring kids and I spent hours debating which Beatle was best.  I was team Paul.

It’s hard to believe this was 50 years ago.  I still feeling that first rush of excitement whenever I hear those early songs, and I still argue that “I Saw Her Standing There” is the best rock song ever. (Stones fans, feel free to disagree!)

Okay, now I want to hear your Beatles stories.

19 Comments

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19 responses to “The Beatles in America, 1964

  1. What a great story! With my real last name you can imagine that I’m quite the Beatles fan, and love that early era Beatles music to this day. I swear if it wasn’t for the Beatles and their brand of pop music I probably would not have met my musician husband! And to this day, since I didn’t take his last name when we got married, my last name (Lennon, and yes my dad’s name was John) is still a conversation item with any musicians we meet.

    Wish I was around when they first became popular, but I caught the next wave, in the 1970s :-)

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  2. John

    It seems women have the most vivid, amusing and heart warming recollections of the Beatles’ impact of people’s lives. Two recommendations: Alistair Talyor’s book “Yesterday, My Life with the Beatles’ is a tremendous insight. Second, the 1978 movie ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ may have been a box office flop, but it captures the ‘damn the torpedoes’ fan frenzy to meet ‘the boys’. Ah, puppy love! Thanks!

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  3. Yeah, I definitely was going to marry Paul, too. What happened to that concept?
    That hilarious scene you described is an authentic slice of Americana from that time. The Beatles seemed so radical with their long hair and rock and roll, but now in hindsight they look like nice young men in matching suits.
    And they got their musical licks from the American R&B artists who came before them, as did the Stones.
    PAULLLL!!! I’m still waiting for you!!!!

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  4. My friends and I loved the Beatles, loved their humor, loved Hard Day’s Night and Help! (both movies are still a joy to watch) — we even attended the final concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco (which wasn’t nearly long enough!) (And no, I don’t still have my ticket stub….) When John Lennon was murdered, a great deal of joy went out of the world for all of us. My friend Carolyn was teaching school in the “wine country” by then; she said that, at an outdoor restaurant in Calistoga, the tables were full, but everyone our age was just sitting, silently.
    I took the Beatles’ musical brilliance for granted — we were young and didn’t think much about it. It was only a few weeks ago, while watching a TV retrospective, that I realized only 3 years passed between the simplicity of their first U.S. album (“Yeah, yeah, yeah!”) and the complexity of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band!
    I rented my first apartment, in San Francisco, in 1967. There was a stain on the ceiling from an old leak, and I listened to “I’m fixing a hole where the rain gets in… I’m filling the cracks that ran through the door … I’m right where I belong I’m right where I belong…” and sang along while I was painting my first real home-of-my-own. A moment of complete happiness — Thanks, John, Paul, George, & Ringo!

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    • I’m really jealous that you got to see them. I mean REALLY jealous…

      I can tell you how many copies of Sgt. Pepper’s I’ve worn out through the years. Thank goodness for digital!

      One of my friends at the school where I worked was named Rita, and I always called her Lovely Rita Teacher’s Aide.

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  5. I never heard of the Beatles until my mother (who is just 20 years older than me) gathered us into the den, turned on the little black and white TV, and we watched the Ed Sullivan Show and the Beatles. My father stood in the corner with befuddled amusement on his face as he watched my mother’s smiling face enjoying the show. The next night he came home from his job in the city with a 45 of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and we played it on the small white portable record player while Mom made dinner. Dad was whistling the song in the background as he set the table.

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  6. I was fifteen when the Beatles came to America, my sister was twelve, and we were Beatlemaniacs. Our best friends were also sisters who lived behind us, and we watch the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show with them.

    The most exciting time for the four of us was when we got to go see them perform at the Hollywood Bowl. We took turns peering through the binoculars to get a closer look, and then screamed some more. It is a great memory that my sister and I still mention every now and then.

    George was my favorite Beatle.

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  7. I’m too young to have lived through the original craziness, but I was always aware of the Beatles because my parents had some albums and I grew up listening to them (especially since I liked the “oldies” radio stations best). My mom’s favorite was Ringo.

    I met my husband at the age of 19, I quickly learned he and his family are huge Beatles fans. He had every album memorized, books about them, and t-shirts. He even took me to Beatlefest in Chicago once. He loves Paul and still buys all his new albums.

    There will never be another group like them! If you haven’t heard the Beatles “LOVE” cd, you really need a copy – it has wonderful mash-ups and remixes that will make you appreciate their songs even more!

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  8. Irene

    How wonderful to read all these stories about the original “Beatlemania”!
    Both my parents are big Beatles fans, and I have really fond memories of my mother listening to The Red Album while cleaning and tidying up the house. I started listening to them myself as a teen in the early 2000s, and they’re still one of my favorite bands. I’m not as fond of their later records, though!

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  9. My mum’s favorite was John – I think she went for the brooding, moody types :). When I was a kid, I thought the only band was the Beatles because we heard them so much, so I know the words to so many songs. I loved your recollection – I love imagining what it was like hearing them for the first time and how groundbreaking a band they really were.

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  10. Love these stories! For me seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan that Sunday night was life changing because it brought the entire “English Invasion” into our lives, where we waited for each crumb of music and fashion to make its way over to the US. This also meant the end of anything that even resembled the 50’s because It was the start of a whole new era, a cultural tidal wave for the ‘baby boomers’ had begun.

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  11. Christina

    Your grandmother’s comment… I can just hear the tone and the delivery. Love it.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. LB

    Great story. I could almost hear Steve’s reply to Papaw. And wasn’t Mamaw reply perfectly typical?

    As you know, I never was that big of a Beatles fan – I left that to you and Susan, but I do have a Beatles story. It was spring quarter my junior year at UT and me and some buds were at a bar called The Tap Room. The Tap Room only served popcorn, Coca-Cola and Budweiser, but they had a big dance floor and a juke box with a bunch of oldies. Well, I dropped in a couple of dollars and selected the same song over and over: I Saw Her Standing There. It was hilarious. At first, all those preppies were tore up over the same song playing again and again and again; however after 30-40 minutes of I Saw her Standing There, they started to get into it. You should have been there.

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  13. My mum was more of a Stones fan than a Beatles on, but when I got together with my husband I heard more Beatles. This was the early 90s, so there was a bit of a Beatles revival going on in the UK back then, plus his mum did her nursing training in Liverpool in the 60s, so she’d seen most of the big bands at the Cavern Club. (She preferred Herman’s Hermits to the Beatles!)

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