Beatlemania Turns 40
The Beatles, never exactly a low-profile band, are about to be everywhere again, celebrated from the Grammys to David Letterman.
Saturday marked the 40th anniversary of John Lennon, Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr ‘s descent from a Pan Am jet to the tarmac of New York’s JFK International Airport. Beatlemania had arrived in the United States.
From Feb. 7-21, 1964, the boys from Liverpool made witty remarks at press conferences, did The Ed Sullivan Show, played Carnegie Hall (top ticket price: $5.50), topped the charts (with “I Want to Hold You Hand”), visited Miami Beach, mugged with a pre-Muhammad Ali Cassius Clay on the verge of his title bout with Sonny Liston, and did the Ed Sullivan Show again.
About the only thing they didn’t do was, um, accidentally bare a nipple shield. But nobody’s perfect, as evidenced by one of their lesser 1964 efforts, “Mr. Moonlight.”
Since the Beatles never really went away (even as their ranks have been pared to two survivors, McCartney and Starr), it’s difficult to describe a slew of 40th anniversary tributes and events as a comeback. More like a continuation.
A sampling of what’s in store for Beatlemania II:
They were lauded at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards: Sting, Dave Matthews, Vince Gill and Pharrell Williams jamed on “I Saw Her Standing There.” They weren’t anywhere near fabulous, but at least they had strength in numbers.
Late Show with David Letterman (Monday, CBS): It’s no coincidence that Letterman’s TV home is called the Ed Sullivan Theater. The Broadway venue is where former newspaper columnist Ed Sullivan hosted The Ed Sullivan Show, and where the Beatles first made their U.S. prime-time mark on Feb. 9, 1964.
The telecast was watched by 73 million people, still TV’s second-most-watched non-sports event ever (when adjusted for population inflation), per a new study commissioned by The Fab 40!, a group spearheading numerous 40th anniversary events.
Letterman acknowledges his stage’s historic past on Monday’s show by screening the Beatles’ complete Feb. 9 Ed Sullivan performance of “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” 40 years to the night when the mop tops harmonized.
Later, Dr. Phil stops by. We’re hoping he doesn’t sing.
The Four Complete Historic Ed Sullivan Shows Featuring the Beatles (available on DVD, SOFA Entertainment): Released last October, this disc, as its title plainly states, offers all four Beatles Sullivan appearances: Feb. 9, 1964, Feb. 16, 1964, Feb. 23, 1964 (canned footage taped by the group back on Feb. 9), and Sept. 12, 1965.
The Beatles Are Coming! The Birth of Beatlemania in America (498 Press): The exhaustive guide as to how a gang of unknown, if cute Liverpudlians conquered the U.S. in six weeks.
For a good time, check out the book’s companion Website, which imagines how the Beatles’ arrival in the States would have been chronicled by a lovestruck–and Internet-savvy–teenage girl with a blog (http://www.thebeatlesarecoming.com/blog.html).
The Beatles Anthology (Chronicle Books): A paperback edition of the 2000 best-seller–the band’s authorized autobiography. In the name of anniversary tie-ins, the paperback initially is being offered at the get-it? price of $19.64.
Walking tour (Saturday, New York City): Daytrippin’, the international Beatles fan club, leads Beatlemaniacs through the Fab Four’s Manhattan. Stops include the Ed Sullivan Theater, Carnegie Hall and Lennon’s former home at the Dakota apartments.
Not the Beatles, but an incredible simulation, walk off an airplane (Saturday, Seattle): The members of veteran Beatles tribute band Rain descend from the Museum of Flight’s dry-docked Concorde at 1:20 p.m. (PT), said to be “40 years to the minute” to the real Beatles’ 1964 arrival at JFK. After, Rain pours it on with a song-by-song redo of the Beatles’ original Ed Sullivan set.
Screening of A Hard Day’s Night (Sunday, New York City): The 1964 classic returns to the big screen, courtesy Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater. After, Louise Harrison, sister of George, and other insiders talk about why the Beatles were important and stuff. (We summarize for brevity’s sake.)
Photography exhibit at Smithsonian Institution ‘s Natural Museum of American History (Ongoing, Washington D.C.): Eighty never-before-published black-and-white shots of the Beatles’ systemic takedown of the American consumer. Runs through July 5.
Beatlemania Turns 40