Marking The Beatles
American Invasion

The following article was written by Randy Lewis and it appeared in the Bangor Daily News on February 6, 2004.

It was 40 years ago next week that the Beatles taught their fans to shriek - here in the United States, that is.
In a watershed moment in cultural history, 73 million viewers tuned in to CBS' "The Ed Sullivan Show" on Feb. 9, 1964, to meet John, Paul, George and Ringo.
Fans in England and much of Europe had been bonkers for the group for more than a year, but U.S. record executives were dubious that the new British bands would catch on here. An infamous Capitol Records memo from 1963 said the Beatles' music "wasn't suitable for the American market."
Now, of course, it's widely accepted that in the wake of John F. Kennedy's assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas, the Beatles brought a desperately needed infusion of optimism to a psychically wounded nation.
A raft of new books, DVDs and special events celebrates the group's arrival in the United States, but continuing interest in the Beatles goes beyond nostalgia. Capitol Records reports that buyers 30 and younger were responsible for 42.5 percent of sales of Beatles "1" hits compilation, which has sold 9.2 million copies since its release in 2000.
In honor of the 20 No. 1 Beatles singles that started that long-ago winter, here are seven facts about their arrival in the United States that, depending on you age, you've forgetten, never heard back then or can't possibly recall because you weren't born yet.

(1) CBS News had prepared a piece on the Beatles almost three months before the group's Sullivan show debut. It ran as scheduled on the network's morning newscast of Nov. 22, 1963, two hours before Kennedy was shot. Because of assassination coverage, the Beatles story was shelved and didn't air on the more widely viewed "CBS Evening News" until Dece. 10, when anchor Walter Cronkite felt a nation in mouring might be ready for something uplifting.

(2) One viewer that night was Maryland teenager Marsha Albert. She wrote to a DJ at her local radio station in Washington, D.C., asking that he play some Beatles music. The station, WWDC, got a copy of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" from England and played it exclusively for several days, igniting in fans the fire that would result in Capitol Records' rush-releasing it here. That led stations in other major cities to jump on the record, prompting thousands of screaming teens to greet the four musicians when they arrived in New York on Feb. 7. Beatles historian Bruce Spizer credits Albert for playing a pivotal role in the start of U.S. Beatlemania.

(3) The group needed that kick-start because three singles had flopped before "I Want to Hold Your Hand." Because Capitol had rejected the group, the early singles were released by small, independent labels. Until December 1963, the group still had no U.S. record contract.

(4) Vee-Jay Records, the Chicago-based gospel and R&B label, released two Beatles records in '63, also landing the right of first refusal on future Beatles singles in the United States. The label lost the inside track when it couldn't come up with $859 in royalty payments it owed EMI Records the Beatles' U.K. record company.

(5) Brian Epstein, the manager of a band that was a failure at that point in the United States, somehow persuaded Sullivan in early November '63 to commit to what became three consecutive appearances and to give the group headliner status. Originally Sullivan had considered the Beatles a novelty act and envisioned them performing one number on a couple of shows.

(6) With the Sullivan appearances booked, Epstein phoned Capitol President Alan Livingston directly and persuaded him to sign the band despite the label's four previous rejections.

(7) The day before the first Sullivan performace, George Harrison came down with strep throat and a 104-degree fever, causing him to miss the camera rehearsal as well as a group photo shoot in Central Park.

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