Beatles First U.S. Visit 50th Anniversary Events Guide and Retrospective

It was 50 years ago today…

February 7th . . . America met The Beatles. The group’s Pan Am flight 101 touched down at JFK Airport at 1:20pm on February 7, 1964…
…with five thousand fans crowded on the airport’s upper balcony welcoming the group with banners and signs, in addition to the hundreds of journalists that surrounded them.  Below is a sample from a 15 minute clip made for newsreels around the country:

February 8th . . . The Beatles held a morning press conference at New York’s Plaza Hotel.  Afterwards John, Paul and Ringo were followed around Central Park by 400 fans as they had their pictures taken (George was ill).  At 1:30pm the three travelled to CBS studios to rehearse for their début appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show and to be interviewed by The Ronettes.

February 9th – In the afternoon The Beatles pre-recorded three songs to broadcast on February 23rd as their third Ed Sullivan appearance: “Twist And Shout,” “Please Please Me” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” A different studio audience watched The Beatles’ first appearance live that night.  They played “All My Loving,” “Till There Was You” and “She Loves You” in the first half of the 8-9 pm broadcast, and “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” in the second half.  The 728 in-person audience members (chosen from 50,000 ticket applicants) were joined by an estimated 73,700,000 TV viewers from 23,240,000 homes (60% of American televisions) – a new record for US viewership. Radio DJ Murray The K took John, Paul and Ringo to the Playboy Club’s Penthouse lounge for dinner after the show.  The Beatles danced away the rest of the night at the Peppermint Lounge, twisting until 4am.

February 10th – The Beatles followed their record-breaking Ed Sullivan debut with a series of interviews, including a frequently quoted Q&A with the Associated Press:
Q: Your program was reviewed by a music critic…
Ringo: Oh no! Not again!
Q: …and he said that you had ‘unresolved leading tones, a false modal frame ending up as a plain diatonic.’ What would you say to that?
John: He ought to see a doctor about that.
Paul: No, he’s just copying the fella in the London Times who did a review like that. The only difference is, I don’t know if that’s favourable or not. The London one was, you see.
Ringo: Why doesn’t he just say if it’s good or bad?

Q: There have been huge crowds of teenage girls outside complaining that they don’t want to mob you, they just want to speak to you. What do you think about this? Do you want to talk to them?
Ringo: Well, have you ever tried talking to about 200 people at once?
John: We’d love to, you know. If we wave, somebody always says ‘Stop that waving! You’re inciting them!’

Q: How do you feel about your appearance at Carnegie Hall this week, the center of musical culture?
Ringo: Um, well, a bit nervous, but not too much, you know. We just hope we go down, ’cause we’re on with a lot of Americans. So we hope they like us.

Q: Who is your favorite American artist?
John: There’s a lot, you know. Marvin Gaye, Miracles, Mary Wells. Those people.

Q: What do you think of the police protection you’ve been receiving here in this city?
Ringo: It’s marvelous. They’re doing a great job, you know, looking after us.

Q: Are the crowds as large as you expected?
John: No. We didn’t expect anything like this, you know.

Q: Have you heard any reviews of your appearance last night?
Paul: The papers this morning just sort of… we only read two of them, and they weren’t very favorable. I think one of the microphones was off, so that may…
John: The kids still liked it, you know.
Paul: Yeah. The audience was fantastic. Great reception.

February 11 – The Beatles’ played 12 songs at their first US concert for 8,092 fans at Washington Coliseum, taking the stage at 8:31pm.  CBS filmed the concert for a National General Corporation telecast at US cinemas on March 14 and 15, 1964.  After their concert The Beatles attended a reception at the British Embassy.

February 12 – The Beatles performed their next two US concerts, both at Carnegie Hall (at 7.45pm and 11.15pm), running slightly over one half hour each.

February 15 – The Beatles privately practised for their second Ed Sullivan Show appearance in their Miami hotel, followed by a dress rehearsal for an audience of 2,500 fans hanging around the hotel at 2pm.  The group was interviewed over the phone by Dick Clark for American Bandstand‘s 12:30pm broadcast.  Much of their time in Miami was filmed on 16mm for Albert and David Maysles’ documentary What’s Happening! The Beatles In The U.S.A. (re-issued in 1991 as The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit).

February 16 – The Beatles filmed an unaired rehearsal for their second Ed Sullivan appearance at 2pm, followed by their 8pm live broadcast from their Miami hotel (in front of an audience of 2,600 – and an estimated 70 million people in 22,445,000 homes).  They repeated four songs from their first Sullivan appearance a week earlier (“She Loves You,” “All My Loving,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand”) but added in “This Boy” and “From Me To You.”

February 18 –  The Beatles visited Cassius Clay as he trained to fight heavyweight champion Sonny Liston the following week.

The Beatles with Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), 18 February 1964

February 21 – The Beatles flew back to New York from Miami and transfered to their flight back to England

2014 Events Commemorating The Beatles’ First U.S. Visit

  • The TWA Flight Center in JFK’s Central Terminal Area will unveil their Beatles historical airport maker with a live band playing the band’s hits at 11:30 on February 7th.
  • The Morrison Hotel Gallery in SoHo will have a photo exhibit curated by Julian Lennon opening February 7th.
  • New York Public Library’s “Ladies and Gentlemen … The Beatles” exhibit runs February 6 – May 10 displaying pop culture artifacts from the band’s 1964-66 period (instruments, posters, photographs, interviews, etc).
  • NYPL will also host an interview with (top Beatle expert and author) Mark Lewisohn on February 10 at 6 PM.
  • Additionally NYPL screens “What’s Happening! The Beatles in the USA” on February 13 at 6 PM.
  • “The Fest” (the self-proclaimed “premier Beatles convention in the world”) is February 8 – 9 at NYC’s The Grand Hyatt. Peter Asher of Peter & Gordon, Chad & Jeremy, Donovan and others will perform.
  • Bambi Kino (a tribute to The Beatles formative Hamburg, Germany period featuring Doug Gillard of Guided By Voices, Mark Rozzo of Maplewood, Ira Elliot of Nada Surf, and Erik Paparazzi from Cat Power’s band) are playing a series of shows the weekend of February 7th, including an appearance at “The Fest” (note – they don’t play Beatles tunes, rather they cover the songs The Beatles covered in their early years).
  • There’s also a series of New York tribute concerts called “NYC Fab 50” (Mary Wilson of The Supremes, Bettye LaVette, Lloyd Price, Melvin Van Peebles and Gary U.S. Bonds at The Apollo on February 6; Spin Doctors, Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra and School of Rock, and international Beatles tribute bands at Hudson Theatreon February 7; Tommy James, Melanie, Marshall Crenshaw, Fred Schneider of the B-52s, Al Jardine of The Beach Boys, Gene Cornish of The Rascals, Greg Hawkes of The Cars and others at Town Hall on February 8; and a final party at The Bitter End on February 9).
  • Finally a memorial concert for Sid Bernstein (the concert promoter who presented the Beatles’ first NYC shows at Carnegie Hall, and their groundbreaking 1965 and 1966 Shea Stadium shows) will be presented at The Cutting Room on February 12, the 50th anniversary of the Carnegie Hall shows.

Late Show with David Letterman “Beatles Week”

Watch a series of Fab Four tributes all this week on Letterman – taped in the same studio The Beatles appeared on their February 9, 1964 debut:
Broken Bells – “And I Love Her” on Feb. 3
Sting – “Drive My Car” on Feb. 4
Lenny Kravitz – TBA on Feb. 5
Sean Lennon and The Flaming Lips – “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” on Feb. 6

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