In 1964, madness took over America’s youth. The four people to blame? John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.
This week, the country celebrates the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” an iconic moment that sparked the British cultural invasion and changed the world.
On the birthday of Beatlemania, 73 million people tuned in to watch that band from Liverpool on Feb. 9, 1964. From then on, the Beatles’ popularity rose to unprecedented levels. At one point, the band held all top five spots on the Billboard charts.
It seemed that while the older generation was critical and dismissive, the youth emphatically embraced The Beatles.
The band’s unbelievable success in the U.S. allowed other British groups to make it here. This British Invasion — this time, the Brits armed with music rather than muskets — changed the music landscape and left American artists scrambling to catch up.
In fact, most musical acts spent the mid- to late-1960s playing catch-up to The Beatles because of the band’s innovation of countless music techniques: the way songs were recorded, the intentional use of feedback and the inclusion of instruments like the sitar or organ in rock music and backwards recording. Because of them, the world of rock totally changed, and so did pop culture. In the ‘60s, young men would grow out their hair into “moptops” and wear Beatle boots in the hopes of looking like John, Paul, George and Ringo.
Even today, The Beatles’ inspiration affects bands in all genres, from One Direction to Green Day. In this Beatles-crazed culture, a band has officially made it when they make their own “Abbey Road” parody. What other band is so popular that its album cover is one of the most iconic images of the 20th century?
T-shirts with the band’s pictures on it are big sellers at every mall, the band’s songs are still featured in movies, TV shows and commercials, and the band even has its own board games. With the unique, remarkable and lasting appeal of The Beatles, no one — especially not the members themselves — would have expected this back in 1964.
The celebration of the band’s introduction to America will last for a whole week on the “Late Show with David Letterman.” Filmed in the same studio as that iconic 1964 performance, the show will feature a different performer each night singing a Beatles song Monday through Friday. Guests include Sting, Lenny Kravitz and Sean Lennon.
The anniversary culminates on Feb. 9 when CBS will show a special titled, “The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles” at 7 p.m., the exact time “The Ed Sullivan Show” aired 50 years ago.
This celebration proves that The Beatles’ popularity has not diminished in the past 50 years, and it shows no signs of doing so in the decades to come. Hopefully, the networks have something very big in store for the 100th anniversary.
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