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Beatles' historic arrival in New York City 50 years ago gave Big Apple unforgettable lift
On Feb 7, 1964, just 77 days after the JFK assassination, the Fab Four stepped off of Pan Am Flight 101 at the newly-minted Kennedy Airport. The city and the Beatles would never be the same.
By Jim Farber / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Friday, January 24, 2014, 5:51 PM
Fans run to get a look at the Beatles following the Fab Four's arrival in NYC in 1964.
They say the world doesn't change in a day.
But one day, it did.
On Feb 7, 1964, events were set in motion that changed the culture so fundamentally, life for millions could be cleanly divided into before and after. When Pan Am Flight 101, carrying The Beatles, touched down at Kennedy Airport in Queens at 1:20 in the afternoon, they were met by 4,000 teenagers, 200 members of the press and more than 100 New York City police officers. “It felt as though there was a big octopus with tentacles that were grabbing the plane and dragging us down to New York,” Ringo commented in “The Beatles Anthology” documentary. “It was a dream.”
“They’re so cute,” 17-year-old June Clayton of Brooklyn told The News right after the band landed. “And Ringo’s the cutest. Look at them comb their hair!” Two days later, such swoons and screams would be magnified by a factor of 70 million as the band performed for the first time in America, on the stage of the Ed Sullivan Show at 52nd St. and Broadway.
Millions yelling themselves blue over pop stars wasn’t new. Frank Sinatra inspired that response decades earlier, as had Elvis ten years before the Fab Four ever arrived. But never in American history had so many young people screamed so hard at exactly the same moment, a reaction made possible, in part, by the escalating power of television. Nielsen measured The Beatles’ debut as the most-watched program in U.S. history, reaching a full 45% of the population.
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison arrive at New York's Kennedy Airport on Feb. 7, 1964 for their first U.S. appearance.
The spontaneous, coast-to-coast outpouring of ecstasy was the precise inverse of the national reaction to an event that took place just 77 days earlier. On Nov. 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, shaking the country to its core and spreading a kind of fear it hadn’t known in a century. A palpable depression enveloped the nation.
“There wasn’t alot to cheer about after Nov. 22nd,” recalls Larry Kane, the only reporter to travel with The Beatles on every date of both the ’64 and ’65 tours, and the author of “When They Were The Boys.”
“There was concern about the escalation of the Viet Nam war, the civil rights movement was escalating, inflation was high. There was a tension,” Kane said. “When the Beatles arrived in February they started to distract everyone from all that.”
By their talent, charm and energy, the boys made pleasure once again a part of the public conversation. If that was the effect they had on the mass consciousness, they had an even deeper, and more lasting, effect on an individual level. The maiden performance by the Fab Four captured the imagination of young people so profoundly, it helped them envision entirely different lives for themselves.
The Beatles join Ed Sullivan for 'The Ed Sullivan Show' during their historic visit.
Most of the girls may have screamed, but more of the boys (and some of the girls) decided in that moment that they could play and sing too. How many significant later bands — as well as routine amateur groups — have reported that, after Feb. 9th, they took to their garages to form groups of their own?
There’s barely an act from the classic-rock era that doesn’t date the inspiration of their forming from around that time. The Beatles debut excited an entire generation to seek their own voice, either in songs they played or through recognizing music as a key way to understand themselves.
As revolutionary as those days in early February may have been, they didn’t come out of nowhere. The Beatles’ phenomenon had been gaining steam in their native U.K. for over a year, and had already made major inroads in the U.S. before their plane set down.
Admittedly, their earliest efforts in the States weren’t promising. When “She Loves You” came out on Sept. 16th, 1963, it didn’t even make the Billboard chart. Yet Time Magazine made note of the rise of “Beatlemania” in England by November. That same month Ed Sullivan saw for himself the power the boys had at home on a trip over there. It inspired him to book the band for no fewer than three performances the next year.
By late November, Beatles manager Brian Epstein persuaded Capitol Records to risk $40,000 ($250,000 in current dollars) to promote the single “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” based on the boost sure to come from the Sullivan events.
A teenager fainted outside the Plaza Hotel while she was waiting to greet the Beatles.
Two weeks after Capitol issued that single, it had sold 1 million copies. By January 17th, it was the No. 1 record in America, followed three days later by the release of their U.S. album debut, “Meet The Beatles.”
Even so, when the group boarded that Pan Am jet bound for JFK they were dubious about their American prospects.
“They’ve got everything over there,” George Harrison said, according to Philip Norman's classic Beatles biography “Shout.”
“What do they want us for?”
John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are overwhelmed by the view of the New York skyline as seen from Central Park.
The reaction at the airport offered only a hint of just how wrong George was. The crowd that jostled and crammed their way to the terminal flooded more people into the airport than any time before. Famed author Tom Wolf, who was covering the event for the New York Herald Tribune, observed that “some of the girls tried to throw themselves over a retaining wall.”
An animated and playful press conference followed. A typical exchange:
Q: “What do you think of Beethoven?”
RINGO: “Great. Especially his poems.”
The Beatles' arrival brings their fans to tears.
The boys were herded into individual limos (one for each Beatle) and ushered to the Plaza Hotel at 5th Ave. and Central Park South. All along the route, DJ Murray the K offered a running commentary on their whereabouts over the radio, like he was reporting live from D Day.
Two days later, on Sunday the 9th, The Beatles performed five songs live on TV, including “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You,” and the show-tune standard “ ’Til There Was You.” On the 11th, the band gave its first U.S. concert, at the Washington Coliseum, before returning to New York to play Carnegie Hall on the 12th and 13th.
A second Beatles appearance on Sullivan’s show — on Feb. 16th, live from the Deauville Hotel in Miami — attracted some 70 million viewers.
Kane, who attended that show, was struck by how well they played. “In person they were astounding,” he says. “They could sound just like the records.”
By Feb. 22nd, the band was back in the U.K., not to return to the U.S. until August. No matter. They had already insured their legend. During the week of April 4, 1964, the Beatles held the first five slots on the Billboard Singles chart. Their impact created such a demand for music from their homeland, that, by the summer of ’64, the British Invasion was in full bloom. One third of all U.S. Top Ten hits of the year were by British acts, from The Dave Clark Five to Billy J. Kramer to Gerry & The Pacemakers. Later came The Animals, The Rolling Stones, Petula Clark, The Troggs, Freddie and the Dreamers and more. For the next six years, The Beatles dominated pop culture, dictating new styles and sounds, innovating until the end. Even their break-up with the new decade, in 1970, hardly diminished their impact. Their approach to melody, production, and to style kept influencing and inspiring new generations to come. It still does.
Never was that more clear than this past October 9th, during a Beatles-related encounter in another part of Queens, mere miles from their initial JFK touchdown. To promote his latest album, Paul McCartney made an appearance at the Frank Sinatra High School of Music. He performed before several hundred teenagers, five decades removed from the ones that gaped and swooned for those Sullivan shows. Their reaction mirrored their forebears exactly, screaming with abandon as McCartney played songs from “Eight Days A Week” to “Hey Jude,” with amazing verisimilitude.
15-year-old Alexus Getzelman of College Point told the News she first knew The Beatles’ music from her parents. She has since downloaded much of it herself from iTunes. “We all know the songs,” Getzelman said of her generation. “And we all love them just as much.”email@example.com http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/bea ... -1.1590651
The Beatles' most memorable moments in NYC include 'Ed Sullivan' Show, landing at JFK
The Fab Four also performed at Carnegie Hall, Shea Stadium and in Forest Hills during their historic visit to the Big Apple.
By Jim Farber / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Friday, January 24, 2014, 6:05 PM
Ed Sullivan stands with The Beatles during a rehearsal for the Fab Four's first American appearance, on the 'Ed Sullivan Show,' in New York on Feb. 9, 1964.
The Beatles' most memorable moments in New York City:
1. JFK Airport Friday, Feb. 7, 1964: It may be the most pivotal arrival this side of man landing on the moon (which happened five years later). When The Fab Four set foot on the tarmac of the just-named JFK Airport, they set off a wave of screaming that echoes to this day.
2. The Ed Sullivan Show Sunday, Feb. 9, 1964: Two days after their arrival, The Beatles performed at Ed Sullivan Theater at 1697 Broadway, current home for “The Late Show with David Letterman.” It was the first of three appearances, held on consecutive Sunday nights. After Ed’s introduction, the guys performed “All My Loving,” and “’Til There Was You.” During the latter, the names of the group members were super-imposed over them in close-ups. When they performed “She Loves You,” a line loomed over the image of John Lennon which read “Sorry girls, he’s married.” The acts that also appeared on the first show had been pre-recorded, to spare them from being shouted down by the Beatles-mad crowd. Towards the end of the night, the guys offered “I Saw Her Standing There,” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” — to a response that can only be described as orgasmic.
Dan Farrell/New York Daily News
The Beatles perform at Shea Stadium during their memorable visit to New York City.
3. Carnegie Hall Wednesday, Feb. 12, 1964: After playing their first full American concert in Washington D.C., the band hopped the train back to New York. They were greeted by 10,000 fans at Penn Station. After making it the Plaza Hotel on 59th St. for a quick shower, they were smuggled out to Carnegie Hall on 57th St. There, they played two 34-minute sets before 2,900 people per show. The Beatles were the first rock band ever to play the vaunted hall. Producer George Martin had wanted to record the events but the American Federation of Musicians wouldn’t give him permission. “Carnegie Hall was terrible,” John Lennon later told author Keith Badman for the book “The Beatles Off The Record.” “The acoustics were terrible and they had all these people sitting on the stage with us. It wasn’t a rock show. It was just a sort of circus where we were in cages ... We were just like animals.”
4. Forest Hills Stadium in Queens Friday, Aug. 28 and Saturday, Aug. 29, 1964: For each of these two performances, the Beatles played before 16,000 fans at the tony tennis stadium in Queens. The band arrived at Kennedy Airport at 3:02 a.m. Despite the ungodly hour, they were greeted by 3,000 fans. More awaited them at the Delmonico Hotel on Park Ave. and 59th. The Beatles were taken to the site by helicopter, and took the stage at 9:50 p.m. Tickets went for the then-sky-high price of $6.50. An eight-foot fence, crowned by barbed wire, kept fans from the stage. “I was 10 years old,” recalled Teri Lynn on the web site beatlesbible.com. “Girls were rushing the stage only to be plucked up by New York policemen. When the show was over, the Beatles left by helicopter and girls were screaming, crying and fainting. I loved it!”
5. Shea Stadium Sunday, Aug. 15, 1965: The Fab Four became the first band ever to play a stadium, appearing before 55,600 fans. The then-new Shea set a world record for attendence and gross revenue, netting the band $160,000. It was the first date of the group’s second U.S. tour. The guys, who had been staying at the Warwick Hotel on 6th Ave. in Midtown, were taken by limo to a heliport, where they were flown to the roof of the World’s Fair building in Queens. From there, a Wells Fargo van drove them to the stadium. Taking the stage at 9:16 p.m., they slammed through 12 songs, from “Twist and Shout” to “I’m Down.” The event was filmed for a television special, first seen on March 1st of ’66. The Beatles played Shea again on Aug. 23, 1966. Mary Bregman, who attended, recalled on a Beatles tribute blog that she “really wanted to hear them sing, but due to the loud screams I could not. I recall Paul trying to quiet the crowd but it was a losing battle. Even so, I’m glad I was there — to be part of the experience.” http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainmen ... -1.1590681
Fascination with Beatles continues to grow long after Fab Four's infamous breakup
Some 210 million Americans weren’t alive when the Fab Four landed in New York City. More than 165 million Americans hadn’t been born when the Beatles took their final walk together across Abbey Road six world-shaking years later. But they have never stopped picking up new fans.
By Jere Hester / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Friday, January 24, 2014, 6:36 PM
The Beatles wave to fans assembled below their Plaza Hotel window after they arrived in New York City on Feb. 7, 1964.
Foo Fighters leader Dave Grohl penned virtual liner notes for a Beatles iTunes collection in 2012. But the ode to his favorite group focused less on the Fab Four than on his then-6-year-old daughter.
Violet Grohl, it turns out, found her own musical nirvana when her dad played for her the classic animated film, “Yellow Submarine.”
“It was her introduction to the Beatles, and she instantly shared the same fascination I felt when I was her age discovering the Beatles for the first time,” Grohl wrote.
It's a fascination that’s grown, not only in Violet’s home, but around the world as new legions of Beatle Babies are raised on the manna of a musical catalogue produced by a band who played their last note when Dave Grohl was in diapers.
The hoopla surrounding the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ U.S. arrival doesn’t represent a new wave of Beatlemania as much as resounding proof that for most of us, John, Paul, George and Ringo always have been here, there and everywhere.
Some 210 million Americans — about two-thirds of the U.S. population — weren’t alive on Feb. 7, 1964, when the four Liverpudlians landed at Kennedy Airport to the siren song of screaming teenagers. More than 165 million Americans hadn’t been born when the quartet took their final walk together across Abbey Road six world-shaking years later.
The group’s breakup may be old news, but they’ve never stopped gaining new fans.
The Beatles ended the first decade of this millennium with the century’s biggest-selling U.S. album (“1”), and 30 million album sales overall, just behind Eminem for tops. Their iTunes debut in late 2010 has spurred a reported 3.5 million album and singles sales, and November’s release of “On Air — Live at the BBC Volume 2” marked the 31st Beatles set to hit Billboard’s top 10. Signs of their enduring youth appeal also stretch from kids in Beatles T-shirts to viral videos of the guitar-slinging, “Hey Jude”-singing Korean toddler and the Brazilian “Don’t Let Me Down” boy to The Beatles: Rock Band game. Ken Dashow, host of Q104.3 FM’s popular Sunday “Breakfast with the Beatles,” reports half the show's audience is under 25.
Paul McCartney signs one of his books for Ella Hester, 8, during a book signing in NYC in 2005.
A 2009 Pew Research Center survey placed the Beatles in the top four favorite music acts of Americans ages 16 to 64 — suggesting the band that helped create the 1960s Generation Gap ultimately helped us come together. Perhaps that’s the Beatles’ greatest gift: music that can be shared not only across the universe, but across generational lines.
“With the Beatles, everybody becomes one family and you forget age exists,” said Michelle Lapidos, 29, of Brooklyn.
Lapidos should know. She was named after the Beatles song by her mother, Carol, and father, Mark, who started The Fest for Beatles Fans in 1974. The Lapidoses are busily preparing for the latest fan convention, set for the Grand Hyatt New York from Feb. 7 — the British Invasion anniversary — through Feb. 9, the anniversary of the Beatles’ debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
Mark Lapidos expects 8,000 fans to pack the Fest — among them, many teenagers.
“The music has successfully been passed to the next generation and the generation after that,” the 66-year-old Bronx native said. “Young people hear the music and that’s it — they’re hooked.”
The anniversary is spurring music around town — including NYC Fab 50 concerts at the Hudson Theater, Town Hall and the Apollo Theater, with a multigenerational lineup from School of Rock to Gary U.S. Bonds. Meanwhile, Alicia Keys, John Legend and Maroon 5 are among those set for a Feb. 9 Beatles tribute on CBS.
While the songs are the heart of the Beatles’ allure, the group’s mantra of peace and love pulse with a youth-friendly message. “‘All you need is love’ — when will that never not be cool?” Dashow asked.
The Beatles’ rise from hardscrabble Liverpool, their timeless wit and their revolution-speed evolution — from the mop-top-era joy of “She Loves You” to “Sgt. Pepper” psychedelia to their “Get Back” finale atop a London roof 44 years ago this week — are inspiration to anyone who ever dared to dream of changing the world.
'Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as Family,' written by Jere Hester.
As Dashow noted, a key lesson of the Beatles’ story is “Work hard at whatever it is you love.”
McCartney and Starr, set to play at the Grammys Sunday, work hard at keeping the music and memories of Lennon and Harrison alive. McCartney, at 71, released a Top 10-charting album (“New”) in October and ended 2013 as one of the year’s highest-grossing concert act. Starr, 73, recently wrapped a tour in Las Vegas, where he reunited with five fans whose picture he snapped after the Beatles landed in New York all those years ago.
The Beatles keep giving youngsters new ways to discover them, like Vegas’ long-running Cirque du Soleil “Love” show and Starr’s “Octopus’s Garden” children’s book. McCartney’s “High in the Clouds” kids’ book is being made into a movie.
It was at a 2005 Manhattan signing for “High in the Clouds” that my daughter, Ella, then 8, unexpectedly met McCartney — a story that spread around the world.
She was raised a Beatle Baby: I serenaded Ella with “Love Me Do” prenatal. Her mother and I later took her to Liverpool and Hamburg, following in Beatle footsteps.
McCartney lived up to expectations during that from-me-to-you encounter, making Ella feel like she was the only other person in the crowded bookstore — the same way many fans feel like the Beatles are singing directly to them. Ella, a vocalist from birth, asked for bass lessons after meeting McCartney. While her teenage musical exploits have expanded to progressive rock, classical music and jazz, she regularly gets back to the Beatles.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, Ella sat at the piano in our Brooklyn home and floated through the Beatles songbook, from “Across the Universe” to “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.” She even let her dad play along.
Imagine the sing-alongs in Beatle households everywhere — including in the Grohl home, where dad Dave can boast he’s jammed with his pal, Paul. Grohl is headed into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But he knows there’s only one band whose music is guaranteed to last — and span — the ages. “From one generation to the next, the Beatles will remain the most important rock band of all time,” Grohl wrote. “Just ask Violet.”
Or ask Michelle, Ella or any other Beatle Baby, who would agree with a resounding, “Yeah, yeah, yeah!”
Jere Hester, director of the NYCity News Service at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, is the author of “Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as Family” (www.BeatleBaby.com