Moon Remembers the Beatles’ Debut
FEBRUARY 9, 1964
It’s the 50th anniversary of The Beatles arriving in America. And, tonight marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. At that time it was the most-watched TV broadcast ever. 700 screaming fans in the studio drowned out the last part of Ed’s introduction. 73 million viewed it on TV Here’s actual audio from the broadcast of Ed Sullivan introducing The Beatles for the very first time, followed by their performance of “All My Loving”.
The British Invasion began in earnest in February, 1963.
But, in the year before word started to trickle into the U.S. about a phenomenon that was happening in Europe.
I was working in Top 40 radio in October, 1962, at KECK in Odessa, Texas. Our music director, Norm Perry, was a big country music fan so we played a lot of country tunes on this Top 40 station. Because Norm stepped out of the box from time to time and chose music from the edges of Top 40, he also began airing tunes by The Beatles. Not on RCA, Capitol or Columbia — these releases were on VeeJay Records and Swan Records.
AIRING THE BEATLES FOR THE FIRST TIME
Energetic, melodic, pretty songs that stayed with you after the first hearing. “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You” and “She Loves You”. KECK played those songs in a light rotation. I worked the night shift and I have no recollection of there being any overwhelming response from the kids that listened to those Beatles songs I played.
In February, 1963, I moved into country radio at KLLL, Lubbock, Texas and left the world of Top 40 behind. But, shortly after, the British invaded America.
On November 22, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. There was racial unrest in all regions of the U.S. Political divisiveness was getting into full swing as President Lyndon Johnson prepared to run against Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater in the ’64 election.
Many young Americans were depressed. In the 50’s they lived under the threat of the atom bomb. The victories of WWII – only 15 years previously — were virtually unknown to America’s teenage population. War was in the movies, not in real life.
This unrest caused young people to want something of their own. Yes, the teens born in the 40’s had Elvis. The older generation grew up on Frank Sinatra but it seemed they yearned for something more as well.
And, in November of 1963 they got it. The Beatles exploded in the U.S.
Their easy listening love songs with the catchy, peppy beat was just what America needed. The more introspective lyrics and almost classical musical designs came later. In 1963, it was four crazy guys with long hair, funny accents, cute smiles and guitars and drums — that was it.
JANUARY AND APRIL, 1964
“I Wanna Hold You Hand” came out in the U.S. in November, 1963 and by January was #1 in the Top 40 charts. A few weeks later, in April, The Beatles would have all five songs in Billboard’s Top Ten.
1. “Can’t Buy Me Love”
2 “Twist and Shout”
3 “She Loves You”
4. “I Want to Hold Your Hand”
5. “Please Please Me”
Around that time, I sat drinking coffee with my boss/mentor, “Sky” Corbin in a restaurant atop the Great Plains Life Building in Lubbock. We were discussing this remarkable group the Beatles. “They won’t last six months”, he told me. I never forgot him saying that. Funny to hear isn’t it? But,at the time I believed him.
50 years later their legacy is their influence on the entire world population. No artist — not Frank, not Elvis, not Michael – has ever affected the world like the Beatles did.