The day the Beatles came to America, 50 years ago

 
Fifty years! What did our parents say? Something like, Egad! Well, it has been fifty years since the Beatles first entered our lives, but Kit Bigelow, who lives near Washington, DC, remembers like it was only … um … Yesterday!

Every inch of my walls and ceiling was covered with Beatles pictures at one point. They were my obsession, as only young teenaged girls can have obsessions, complete and true!

The Beatles arrive at New York's JFK airport, February 7, 1964.

The Beatles arrive at New York’s JFK airport, February 7, 1964.

I must have learned about the Beatles’ arrival in the U.S. in early February, 1964, from my favorite AM station in the Boston area, which had begun playing their tunes in late 1963. I knew they were to be on Ed Sullivan and did not miss a minute of their appearances. I have kept to this day evidence that I knew of their arrival with two photos from a newspaper, reprinted here.

I have kept plenty of other evidence of my first heartthrob (Paul was my favorite, a query that took place between each young girl during that period). Books, posters, magazines, and prized memorabilia.

Part of Kit's Beatles collection.

Part of Kit’s Beatles collection.

I actually went to see the Beatles on August 18, 1966, at Suffolk Downs Racetrack outside Boston. Today I realize my seat might as well have been three towns away as I needed binoculars just to see their tiny figures. For years, I kept the binoculars at that setting — for it was how I had seen the Beatles!! All my “fellow” obsessed female companions did was scream, so we didn’t hear any of their music either. BUT we SAW the Beatles. Nothing else mattered.

Beatles clips

My poor family. For about two years, I deemed any other topic to be booor-rring and would always find a way to tie my or my brothers’ school tales or world news to the Beatles’ latest escapades. During the 1964 Pacific typhoon season, I recall that Typhoon Kit interrupted the Beatles’ visit to Japan. I figured, well, it’s not the most pleasant connection, but the Beatles have heard my name!

Kit Bigelow today.

Kit Bigelow today.

My parents listened only to classical music and must have become convinced they’d brought home the wrong daughter from the hospital twelve years earlier. But when the wonderful Arthur Fieldler, maestro of the Boston Pops, played a Beatles song, Yesterday, I stood to my full height, looked both parents proudly in the eye, and said, If HE could appreciate good music, they might permit me to play my Beatles’ 45s and vinyl albums on their high-quality music equipment. I remember regularly losing that argument.

I don’t look at this 50th anniversary as a time to reflect upon a more pure or innocent period, although it certainly was. It marked for millions of us, women especially, the entrance into our teen years and the awakening of thoughts and feelings that proved to be the harbinger of more adult, more mature, and infinitely more complex times to come.

16 Comments

  1. Ahh, those were the days. Although I saw it from another perspective. I mean really, what is a so great about those guys that all the girls are going gaga over? They not only had long hair, they were English for goodness sakes. I do remember watching them on the Ed Sullivan show and looking back, I think it might have been more jealousy, the girls really did go bonkers over them. It was not until much later, and I am convinced it was not just my growing to appreciate their music, but it had in fact changed into something quite special. Let’s face it there was a big difference between “I want to Hold Your hand” and “Yesterday.” In my opinion of course. Thanks for the memories.

    1. I recall that most of the boys in school had a very different experience when the Beatles first appeared on the scene.

      Finally, someone courageous enough to admit there might have been some jealousy involved and not just the opinion that their music was terrible!

      Thanks for posting your comment, Eric.

  2. Such great memories, Kit. I remember every feeling and thrill at seeing these cool guys and hearing this music, so different from everything else we had been hearing. Half a century later, it still seems so amazing to me and this anniversary allows me to savor the experience once again.

  3. Yes, yes, yes, but they were really ours!

    I think my parents must have had the same view of the Beatles as Kit’s parents – not that I ever saw them live (sadly). So, Kit, I’ll touch the hem of your robe the next time I see you!

    Now I’ve got older and I’ve lost my hair (being older than 64), I still think they were (and will ever remain) unBeat(le)able.

  4. *sigh* My musical taste as a kid was largely due my friend’s older sister, who was 13.
    She had a collection of Beatles albums, and I remember the year she got Sgt. Pepper
    for her birthday. Looking back, the record had probably been released three years earlier, but it was all new to me.

    While shopping with my mother one day, I wandered over to the record department where I discovered a John Lennon album. Where were Paul, George, and Ringo? They weren’t on the back cover. I decided I must show this oddity to my mom. “The Beatles broke up,” she explained. The sudden tears could not be suppressed. I was ten years old, and I was too late. That day in the department store was the day the music died for me.

    1. Oh, Erin! That’s a sad coda to those times. The good news today is that we can enjoy all of their music, together and singularly, online, through retrospective compilations, and don’t need to cry over missing their tunes.

  5. When I first heard the Beatles on AM radio in early 1964, I recall thinking how they had instantly reinvented pop music. It was such a fresh, creative, clever and original sound. And, indeed, they changed music for decades to come.

    1. David, I think you captured for me what I feel the Beatles did for music.

      For me, the Beatles opened the door for a softer rock and roll kind of music — more lyrical, more upbeat, more harmony etc. Like someone else mentioned, they introduced us to British music.

      Guys, don’t forget that girls at that time were also “followers”, meaning I “liked” the Beatles because it was a popular trend at the time. While I did like their early music, I lost interest when “Rubber Soul” came out.

      Like most of my cultural tastes, I never embrace the “whole” of anything, I like select musicians from many genres.

      But, I do listen to Boomer Radio because it does capture the music of a moment in time and those songs do invoke some wonderful memories.

      1. Thank you, Ria, and I do agree with your assessment of the impact of their music. And I agree also with the fun of listening to old Boomer era songs. Surprisingly, I tried several times today to find a Beatles song on the radio in the DC area and came up empty! Is it possible the DJs didn’t realize what anniversary we’ve reached?

  6. Kit, (or Hurricane Kit if you prefer),
    I well remember the impact of the Beatles. I watched them on Ed Sullivan that night too and was agitated that the “screamers” were interfering with the music. And I also acknowledge a little jealously at the way the girls went totally mesmerized over them. But part of their redemption was that they represented a new alternative form of rebellion. I was only 11 and the older “rebels” (you know, the “cool” guys) who rejected me as “just a kid” seemed to style themselves after Elvis and James Dean – “greaser” hair, and a “loner” independence. But here was a BAND with a new look and a social attitude. There was more happening here than just Rock’n’Roll. These guys gave us a new way to be cool. –Darrell Elmer Rodgers (Bard of the Baby Boomers)

    1. Thank you, Bard of the Baby Boomers, who plays a mean guitar himself, I happen to know! We were really lucky to be the age we were when the Beatles came to the fore, weren’t we? I too was too young to have been part of or even accepted into a previous rock ‘n roll era, but the Beatles became “ours.” Hope you keep on singing and playing, just as Paul and Ringo have done!

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