On February 7, 1964, British rock and roll band, The Beatles, made their first trip to the United States on Pan Am Flight 101 from London to New York City. What ensued is what was soon dubbed as “Beatlemania.”
The Beatles, made up of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, began gaining commercial success in the United Kingdom in 1962 and successfully toured the country for a year. With the release of the single “I Want to Hold Your Hand” selling over 1.5 million copies in less than three weeks, The Beatles’ popularity in the United States began to skyrocket in early 1964 and there was a high demand for the band to finally make their way across the pond.
Worried that the initial impact of their single might have worn off and that their scheduled appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show would not do much to capture the hearts of American teenagers, the band members were apprehensive about the trip. Those feelings were put to rest in the few minutes before their landing when the pilots told the musicians that fans were swarming at the airport to catch a glimpse of them, knocking over barricades and scrambling over fences. Harrison noted, “Seeing thousands of kids there to meet us made us realize just how popular we were there.” The British Invasion had officially started.
Beatlemania came at a time when America was shrouded with grief and fear over the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Their upbeat music and personalities were a welcome distraction to a distraught nation. Their first visit, which had been advertised across the U.S. on 5 million posters, was well-received, with the band doing a series of television performances and concerts. Their success allowed them to return for another series of tours in the U.S. in August of that year and again in August of 1965. Their last tour came in 1966, and although their fan base and commercial success in the U.S. was still large, they also received severe backlash from religious protesters after a comment Lennon made in an interview stating, “We’re more popular than Jesus now.” This incident and their boredom over performing live caused this to be their last tour. The band then focused on recording new studio material.
The impact The Beatles made with their first U.S. visit is one that has gone mostly unparalleled by other musicians and they are still recognized as one of the most highly influential bands in rock and roll music.