The legendary Fab Four: How the Beatles changed music forever in the 1960s

The Beatles in the sixties

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In the early 1960s, a revolution in the world of music began to take shape on the streets of Liverpool, England. Four young men named John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr came together to form a band that would become one of the most influential in history — the Beatles.

From their early performances in clubs like the Cavern Club, the Beatles’ unmistakable sound began to attract attention. Harmonies that resonated, melodies that lingered, and lyrics that inspired reflection were all part of the magic that set them apart.

The release of their first album, Please Please Me, in 1963, marked the beginning of Beatlemania. Fans across the world couldn’t get enough of the Fab Four’s captivating performances and groundbreaking recordings. Soon, they were leading the British Invasion of the American music scene, an influence that would extend across genres and generations.

The Beatles songs: Full appearance on The Ed Sullivan show, February 16, 1964

Collaboration with producer George Martin led to an array of innovations. From the use of orchestral instruments to pioneering studio techniques, the Beatles redefined what it meant to create an album. Albums like Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band are considered masterpieces, pushing the boundaries of popular music.

The Beatles fashion & cultural impact

Of course, it wasn’t just the music that made the Beatles stand out. They also had a strong impact on fashion and youth culture, from their iconic mop-top hairstyles to their experimental forays into Eastern spirituality. Through the Beatles, young people found new ways to express themselves and challenge the status quo.

As with many bright flames, the time of the Beatles as a unified entity was not destined to last forever. Internal tensions, differing artistic visions, and the pressures of fame led to their breakup in 1970. Each member went on to pursue a solo career, but the legacy they left as a group never stopped thriving.

The impact of the Beatles is felt to this day, in the music that is made, the ways in which it is produced, and the emotions it stirs. The sound of the Beatles is both timeless and timely, a fusion of innovation and heart that continues to inspire musicians and delight listeners.

In their short time together, the Beatles achieved a remarkable transformation from a local Liverpool band to global icons. The music they created, the barriers they broke, and the cultural waves they set in motion form a narrative that transcends mere entertainment. They were, and remain, a phenomenon that helped shape the very fabric of contemporary music.

We’re taking a look back at the Beatles’ life & times. Revisit some vintage videos of Beatles songs and performances — and reminisce with us about that chaotic worldwide fan mania the Fab 4 inspired.

Beatlemania’s busting out all over — U.S.A., England (1964)

The San Bernardino County Sun (California) February 8, 1964

Phenomenologists will have a ball in 1964 and beyond with Beatlemania, a generally harmless form of madness which deluged Great Britain in 1963.

As Frederick Lewis reported in the New York Times, “Beatlemania… affects all social classes and all levels of intelligence.”

Sole cause of Beatlemania is a quartet of young Englishmen known as the Beatles, of whom Lewis said: “Their impact on Britain has been greater than that of any other exponent of pop music. There has been adulation before… but no one has taken the national fancy as have the Beatles.”

 

Beatles arriving at John F Kennedy Airport NYC February 7 1964
The Beatles arriving at John F Kennedy Airport in NYC on February 7, 1964

In less than one year, the Beatles have:

1. Achieved popularity and following that is unprecedented in the history of show business in England.

2. Become the first recording artists anywhere in the world to have a record become a million-seller before its release.

(Their disk, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” was issued in England Nov. 29, 1963. By Nov. 26, advance orders had passed the million mark. The same record was released in the United States by Capitol on Dec. 26, and sold over 200,000 the first week.)

3. Become the target of such adoration by their fans that they were forced to cancel all one-night bookings because of riots. Their bookings are now for three or four days, which has succeeded in making their appearances cause for a relatively minor skirmish between Beatles fans and the constabulary.

4. Sold over 3,000,000 records in England, shattering the previous sales mark held by the now-vanquished champ, Elvis Presley.

Beatles - LIFE Aug 28, 1964

Beatlemania has reached unbelievable proportions in England, it has become a form of reverse lend-lease and is spreading to the United States.

The Beatles’ arrival in the United States this weekend has been presaged by a deluge of advance publicity.

Newsweek, Time, and Life have chronicled Beatlemania, UPI and the AP have done their part for the cause (including an AP wirephoto of J. Paul Getty sporting a Beatles wig), and even Vogue shoved high fashion aside momentarily in its January issue and carried a full-page photo of the group.

ALSO SEE: How Bill Haley & His Comets rocked around the clock when rock ‘n’ roll was brand new

Beatles with Ed Sullivan 1964
Beatles with Ed Sullivan – 1964

ALSO SEE: Elvis Presley: A different kind of rock idol (1956)

Baltimore’s Evening Sun took notice of the coming of the Beatles on its editorial.

Said the Sun: “The Beatles are coming. Those four words are said to be enough to jelly the spine of the most courageous police captain in Britain…

“Since, in this case, the Beatles are coming to America, America had better take thought as to how it will deal with the invasion… Indeed, a restrained ‘Beatles, go home,’ might be just the thing.”


The Beatles songs: “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, February 9, 1964

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Precisely how, when, and where Beatlemania got started nobody — not even the Beatles or their manager Brian Epstein — can say for sure. (It should be noted, too, that many in Britain, including psychologists and sociologists, are devoting considerable brainpower to the problem of why Beatlemania got started at all.)

The Beatles’ are a product of Liverpool, which has a population of some 300 rock-and-roll bands (or ”beat groups,” as Liverpudlians are wont to call them.)

The beat groups hawk their musical wares in countless small cellar clubs, old stores and movie houses, even in a converted church, nearly all of which are in proximity to the Mersey River.

1964 Parade 07

Out of all these groups came somehow, the Beatles. And they had to go to Germany to do it. In order to better their Liverpool take-home pay of around $15 per week apiece, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo (so called because of his penchant for wearing at least four rings) Starr took a tramp steamer to Hamburg and a job which moved them up a bit financially, if not in class.

There, in a raucous and rowdy joint, the Indra Club, the Beatles became the first entertainers ever to play louder than the audience. There, too, they were ‘discovered’ by English promoter and talent agent, Brian Epstein, who has since become deservedly known as ”the fifth Beatle.”

Under Epstein’s shrewd guidance, the Beatles soon found themselves signing a contract with Britain’s giant Electric & Musical Industries, Ltd., the largest recording organization in the world and major stockholder in Capitol Records, Inc.; headlining concerts throughout Britain; and appearing on television.


The Beatles songs: Twist & Shout performed live on The Ed Sullivan Show, February 23, 1964

Their first recording, ”Love Me Do,”‘ was issued in October 1962. It sold a respectable 100,000 copies, and it was the last time a Beatles single sold less than a half-million.

Their first million-seller, ”She Loves You,” came out in the spring of 1963. It was followed by two albums, ”Please, Please Me” and “With the Beatles.” Both LPs sold over 300,000 copies.

Then, finally, came the unprecedented success of the newest single record, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” In between, there have been three extended-play recordings, which also racked up sales of several hundred thousand apiece.

All this has resulted in what is universally known in Britain as Beatlemania, and, as Newsweek said of the young Liverpudlians, ”the sound of their music is one of the most persistent noises heard over England since the air-raid sirens were dismantled.”‘

Vintage Beatles punch-out portrait novelty magazine

Their popularity reached a pinnacle of sorts when, in November, at the request of the Royal family, The Beatles headlined the annual command performance at the Prince of Wales theatre.

It was a glittering affair and, probably out of deference to attending royalty (including the Queen Mother — she found them “young, fresh, and vital” — and Princess Margaret), notable for the absence of even a small riot.

Despite their apparent appointment as Purveyors of Rock and Roll to the Crown, the Beatles have taken the whole thing in stride.

Said Head Beatle John Lennon to the lords and ladies at the command performance: “People in the cheaper seats clap, the rest of you just rattle your jewels.”


Teenage girl describes what a Beatles’ concert was like (1964)

Lancaster New Era (Lancaster, PA) September 2, 1964

By Pat Holder (age sixteen, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. G. C. Holder, 583 N. School Lane, writes her impressions of the Beatles’ concert at Convention Hall in Atlantic City, which she attended Sunday as a representative of the New Era.)

The Beatles with instruments

Personally, I found the Beatles were polite and seemed very intelligent, but I was sort of scared by the audience. I had never seen people that hysterical before.

Some ten and twelve year-olds started the screaming laughter, and it was hard for the others to keep from joining. Many of the kids had camped out all night on the boardwalk to make sure of their places.

They screamed so much they couldn’t hear the concert they had waited so long to hear. I was in the press box, so I could hear the singing and the music.

Even if a grown-up doesn’t like their singing, he would like the Beatles personally. I’ll admit I’m prejudiced. I love them. You should have seen Daddy. He was a nervous wreck.

Two buses brought two loads of girls from Albany, N. Y., which is at least a six-hour drive. Scattered all over the restaurants and bars near Convention Hall were the nervous parents, who chatted with one another like those who face common disaster.

Fear for their children

They were afraid their children wouldn’t get out safely. One girl fainted while waiting in line, but everybody got out all right. They were told that if they got out of their seats, the concert was over. So they screamed, but they stayed in their seats.

Screaming girls at Beatles concert in 1964

Girls by far outnumbered the boys, anywhere from ten or twelve years old to twenty and twenty-five.

John Lennon had once said that he liked blonde girls with a touch of leather. They overdid the ‘touch of leather.’ Girls had it on their hats, and belts and boots.

The natives of Atlantic City were angry at the mutilation of. St. James’ churchyard, which was next to the Lafayette Hotel; where the Beatles were staying. The kids waiting for the Beatles before the concert would not leave, so finally the riot squad was called in to disperse the mob.

At four o’clock in the afternoon, the line in front of Convention Hall was about a block long, but by six o‘clock, the line was stretched seven blocks in both directions.

Meanwhile on the Pacific Ave. entrance to Convention Hall, entered reporters, photographers and guests who were attending the press conference. The press conference was mostly filled with guests, and 90 percent of the guests were girls who were giving various awards to the Beatles.

The Beatles arrived at 6:45, after being caught in the mob for half an hour. Shortly after things were all settled, the question and answer period began.

Screaming girls at Beatles concert 1964

Questions and answers with the band

Question, directed to Paul McCartney: ‘Do you have any marital plans?”

Answer: ‘No, and I’m not married.”’

Question, directed to all four: ‘What do you miss most, now that you are famous?

Answers — Paul: ‘‘Buses.” George: ‘‘Nothing to do.” John: “School, because we didn’t have anything to do there.” Ringo: “Movies.”

Question, directed to all four: “What impresses you most about the United States?”

Answers — Ringo: ‘‘The size.” John: ‘The bread you eat with everything.” George: ‘‘The dollar is worth one third of a pound.” Paul: ‘‘Buses.”’

After ten minutes, the press conference, which was to last 40 minutes, was called off by Derrick Taylor, the Beatles’ press manager, due to the hysterical reaction of the girls present.

At 8:30 the concert began. The Beatles were the fifth and last group on. Even Ed McMahon, of the ‘‘Tonight’’ show, and Dick Clark found the beat irresistible. They sang eleven songs, most of which the screaming fans couldn’t hear.

The Beatles left hurriedly in two chauffeured limousines, but not without some trouble.

Ran after cars

Although they were on the floor of the limousines, many of the kids guessed it was the Beatles and ran after the cars.

One blonde girl jumped on the trunk of the car and screamed hysterically for the Beatles, but when the car started with a jolt, she fell to the ground and the contents of her pocketbook spewed all over the street.

Thus ended a truly “Hard Day’s Night” for the distraught parents, the disgusted Albany bus drivers, the police and the well-paid Beatles.

Beatles film: A Hard Day’s Night movie trailer

In A Hard Day’s Night, the Beatles find themselves on a wild ride, and they’re taking the audience along with them. Directed by Richard Lester, this 1964 film dives into a day in the life of the band, filled with music, mayhem, and a touch of madness.

Whether it’s dealing with fans, press, or just each other, the Fab Four keep things lively and entertaining. You don’t have to be a die-hard fan to enjoy the Beatles’ playful antics and catchy tunes in this classic film. It’s simply a fun watch that still resonates today.


Dad takes dare… attends a Beatles concert (1965)

by George Moses – Fergus Falls Daily (Minnesota) August 23, 1965

Bloomington, Minn. – The Beatles proved again Saturday night that their singing, if it can be called that, provokes mass hysteria in the young.

There were the usual screams of mingled ecstacy and agony, the usual defiance of club-wielding police, the usual near-riots.

But to a motley handful at a so-called press conference in Metropolitan Stadium, the Beatles, implausibly, became four nice young men — witty, responsive, and usually polite in the face of questions a kindergarten panel would have discarded as irrelevant.

They never answered in two words if one would do, but did it with such disarming charm that my resentment of their long hair eased a bit, and I found myself wishing I could stand their singing.

One example: A questioner asked the Beatles how they proposed to use their “vast influence” on small fry — presumably in the direction of moral uplift.

“We don’t,” chirped Paul McCartney cheerfully, and that was that.

I attended both events on what sounded like a dare from an editor friend, although he didn’t put it quite that way. He urged me to take along some daughters who not only buy Beatle records, but play them.

While I got a gold star for doing something most fathers would reject in favor of torture, the experiment left something to be desired, sociologically speaking.

Either my kids didn’t erupt in one groan or scream, or I missed them in the general clamor. They applauded each number warmly. But the rhythmic clapping during songs was so desultory, I feared my presence inhibited them, and said as much.

“Go ahead and cut loose, kids. Pretend I’m not here,” I said.

“Sorry, daddy, fainting isn’t in my line,” said a daughter who will become a teenager in a month.

The Beatles - 1960s (2)

The acid test came after the concert. Some 30,000 revved-up kids milled restlessly, dying for one close-up look or, preferably, clutch.

The Beatles, whose personal safety is no press agent’s gimmick, were out of harm’s way by truck one minute after they ducked through the Twins’ dugout, but the kids didn’t know that.

As my party headed for the press exit, kids began massing against it. Other kids began racing to the area. Still others, wild-eyed, joined the scramble.

Trapped in the stampede, an old buffalo hunter would have tossed his rifle and fled for his life. Although, for all my girls know the Beatles MIGHT have been behind that door, they joined me in a bruising dash to safety far down the hall.

Ushers said afterward there were no serious injuries.


Secret passage (1965)

Newsweek – August 23, 1965

Not since Normandy had an invasion been so skillfully staged.

The jet from London touched down at Kennedy International Airport on a remote runway guarded by 50 policemen. So far, so good.

Then John and George and Paul and Ringo entered automobiles and pulled off a surprise tactic — a westbound drive on an eastbound Manhattan street. That enabled them to slip into their hotel all but unnoticed by the 10,000 Beatles fans straining at police barricades.

Now the mop-topped Members of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire could relax — briefly, anyway — before heading by helicopter for a Shea Stadium concert opening their eighteen-day tour of the US and Canada.

At a press conference in their hotel, someone asked if they were bored with being Beatles. Came the cry from four millionaire musicians at once: “No!”

ALSO SEE: The Twist dance fad: Almost everyone was doing it, from Chubby Checker to Ann-Margret – but some wanted it banned (1960)

Beatles - 1964


Beatles film: Help!

In the 1965 film Help!, directed by Richard Lester, things get a bit wild and weird. The Beatles — who were reportedly high during much of the filming — find themselves in a zany adventure involving a cult, a mysterious ring, and Ringo’s unfortunate finger. (The movie’s oddball humor and sometimes disjointed plot might make a bit more sense with that tidbit in mind.)

While it might not be their most acclaimed work, Help! offers a glimpse into a unique time for the band, complete with catchy tunes and colorful escapades. If you’re in the mood for something a little offbeat, this could be a trip worth taking.

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Comments on this story

One Response

  1. My mom and dad and a cousin from Germany attended a Beatles concert around that time. I swear to you that my mother was neither drunk nor stoned, but she could not remember one bit of it. Had it not been for my dad and my cousin retelling the tale, she’d have sworn she was never there.

    I thought this astonishing, until my husband pointed out I’d been to a Lionel Ritchie concert in the 1980s…and did not remember it. I remembered the opening act, but not the concert, itself. And I don’t drink or do drugs, either. Guess “fainting isn’t in my line” either!

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