ECA celebrates 50th anniversary of Beatlemania
It may be over 40 years since they broke up, but the enduring appeal of The Beatles will be underscored again on Feb. 9 as the country gears up to commemorate the Fab Four’s historic American debut on The Ed Sullivan Show a half century ago.
The Edmonds Center for the Arts will celebrate the golden anniversary with a nationally touring musical retelling of the Beatles story at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 4.
An astounding 73 million Americans tuned in to watch the lads from Liverpool that Sunday evening.
Before you could say “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!” Beatlemania had swept the country.
One week later, News In Brief put it this way: “There are rumors abound that the [Beatles] are Britain’s revenge for the Boston Tea Party.”
This seismic, coast-to-coast outpouring of ecstasy in 1964 was the perfect release for the country mourning a presidential assassination, which shook the country to its core.
"The Beatles represented something the country desperately needed – a diversion, just 77 days after the assassination of Kennedy," said Marvin Scott, a news reporter who covered their arrival on U.S. soil.
“There was concern about the escalation of the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement was escalating, inflation was high. There was a tension,” said Larry Kane, a reporter who traveled with The Beatles on both their ’64 and ’65 tours.
“When the Beatles arrived in February they started to distract everyone from all that.”
This wasn’t the first time American teenagers were whipped into a collective frenzy over pop stars.
Decades earlier, Frank Sinatra inspired a similar response, and the hip-shaking antics of Elvis Presley created pandemonium on the same Sunday night program eight years earlier.
But never in American history had so many young people screamed so hard at exactly the same moment, a reaction made possible by television. Nielsen measured the foursome’s performance as the most-watched program in U.S. history, reaching 45 percent of the population.
By early April 1965, the Beatles occupied the top five places in the Billboard charts – a feat never achieved before or since.
“They’ve got everything over there,” George Harrison said, according to Philip Norman's classic Beatles biography “Shout.”
“What do they want us for?”