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1964 Twenty Years Ago

July 2024
1min read

FEBRUARY 7: There were three thousand teen-agers and over one hundred policemen at JFK Airport in New York when the Beatles arrived for their first American visit. They had already sold six million records, and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” had become the top record in the United States. George Harrison was twenty, Paul McCartney twenty-one, John Lennon and Ringo Starr twenty-three.

Lennon was asked how he accounted for the group’s success. “We have a press agent,” he answered. “We have a message,” McCartney added, and the crowd grew still. “Our message is: ‘Buy more Beatle records!’”

Another mob of kids hung about the Plaza Hotel, where the Fab Four were staying; some of these were asked by a reporter just why the Beatles generated all this hysteria. Social anthropologists of the future may find this material valuable:

“They’re just so sexy, also foreign.” “Their hair is so adorable.” “I scream because I hope they’ll look at me.” “It’s Ringo. It may sound silly to you, but I propose to him every single night.” “The American rock ’n’ roll is getting to be a drag.” “I just don’t know why I scream. It’s just because they’re Beatles.”

They performed three times on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and the first performance won the highest rating in television history. At a party at the British Embassy in Washington, someone sneaked up behind Ringo and clipped a lock of his hair. “Thank heaven,” said a writer for Life magazine, “the outrage technically was on British soil.”

FEBRUARY 25: Cassius Clay defeated Sonny Liston for his first world heavyweight title in Miami. Liston refused to come out for the seventh round. The judges had it scored as a draw to that point.

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