“We’re Going to See the Beatles!” : An Oral History of Beatlemania as Told by the Fans Who Were There
“Garry Berman does a great job of presenting the story of the Beatles—from the invasion to the breakup and beyond—through the eyes of dozens and dozens of fans who were witnesses to it all.”
—Mark Lapidos, founder and producer of The Fest for Beatles Fans
“We’re Going to See the Beatles!” presents the story of Beatlemania in America as experienced by their most devoted fans.
“We’re Going to See the Beatles!” includes anecdotes from those who cheered the group as they arrived at Kennedy Airport in 1964, who kept vigil for them outside the Plaza Hotel, and who sat in the studio audience of The Ed Sullivan Show for the band’s landmark first live TV broadcast. Other fans detail what it was like to see the Beatles in one of their rare concerts at such famous venues as Shea Stadium and Candlestick Park.
From the earliest whispers about the band to the Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, and from their subsequent tours and albums to their breakup, author Garry Berman has collected stories from the fans who witnessed the hysteria firsthand. Contributors from around the United States also share photographs and mementos to help create a richly detailed and entertaining oral history.
What emerges is a highly personal account of the Beatles and their incredible impact on music and popular culture.
Click below to purchase this book:
Foreword: Promoting the Beatles, Meeting the Fans
by Sid Bernstein, Legendary Concert Promoter
Preface: The Beatles, In My Life
by Mark Lapidos, Founder and Producer of The Fest for Beatles Fans
Chapter One: Early Rumblings
Chapter Two: The First Invasion
Chapter Three: A Hard Day’s Night
Chapter Four: The 1964 Tour
Chapter Five: The Shea Stadium Concert/1965 Tour
Chapter Six: The 1966 Tour
Chapter Seven: The End of Touring and the Middle Period
Chapter Eight: The Apple Years
Chapter Nine: The Break-Up and Solo Years
Chapter Ten: The Original Fans Today
Chapter Eleven: Reflecting
The First Invasion
Even with their astounding success in Britain and Europe, the Beatles were adamant about going to America only after they first had a #1 record in the States. They had seen other British pop singers try to make a name for themselves here without first securing a #1 hit, only to be placed third or fourth on concert bills, resulting in lackluster support from American audiences and record buyers. Brian Epstein needed to stay ahead of the curve. He had booked the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show back in November, getting them top billing for their three appearances. He also told promoter Sid Bernstein, who wanted to book them into Carnegie Hall, that the group would have to receive heavy radio airplay first. In fact, the idea of touring America at all as a top-of-the-bill act was, in Epstein’s mind, contingent on the kind of substantial airplay and exposure they would receive in the weeks leading up to the Sullivan show.
The waiting ended when the January 25th issue of Cash Box magazine placed “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in the #1 spot, giving it the honor of becoming the first Beatles single to do so in America. By February 1st, the song reached #1 on the more prestigious Billboard chart as well. It was everything the Beatles had been hoping for.
The stage was now set. The final bookings were made. The invasion of America was next.
With their much-anticipated appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show fast approaching, the accompanying hype and building excitement would continue to increase until reaching critical mass.
Leslie Barratt: Every week Ed Sullivan always announced who was going to be on next week’s show. But we knew definitely before that. We had enough time to get super-excited, and not enough time that we’d be waiting and waiting forever.
And so then, closer to their visit, we got more and more excited, and we were definitely listening and buying the magazines about them. I joined a Beatles fan club, and had several friends in junior high school who were getting very excited by the Beatles. Our middle school was right near downtown Hillsdale, New Jersey. And we were allowed to go downtown for lunch. So instead of going downtown and eating, which is what most of the students did, we went downtown and into the shop at least several times a week to see if they had any new magazines, and we knew what days of the week they’d come out, and we’d go in and buy the magazine and pore over it at lunch. So by the time the Beatles got there, we were a couple of months into Beatlemania, at least.
Barbara Boggiano: And 16 magazine at the time was the magazine. So as soon as I got my allowance, I was buying the latest edition. There was an article in 16 magazine, and it said would you like a Liverpool pen pal. They had hooked me up with a girl named Elizabeth from Liverpool, and a lot of my friends had gotten pen pals. That was exciting because I could actually write to someone who had been in the Cavern. All I could do was look at pictures, but she could write to me and tell me about just being down there, and experiencing that. And that to me was just fabulous.
Penny Wagner: Even though I was not 16 at the time, there was a magazine called 16, and my older cousin, who was 16 at the time, always got it, and when she came over she always gave me the magazines. So that’s when I first saw the Beatles. And then I heard they were going to be on The Ed Sullivan Show—and I come from very strict Catholics—and I begged my mom if we could watch Ed Sullivan that night, to see the Beatles.
Paula Lewis: Once I realized they were going to be on Ed Sullivan on my birthday, it was just too exciting. My parents were not happy about it. The long hair was really a big issue. The norm was the crewcut. It was especially disturbing to my father. All I wanted for my birthday was their newest album. I did get it, but my dad was really not happy about the whole idea of the long hair and this radical stuff.
Harold Montgomery: I went to school on the Friday before The Ed Sullivan Show, and every single person on the bus—I have to admit it was mostly the girls, but everybody had the 45 of “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” It was like the thing to walk around carrying that single. It was amazing.
On Friday, February 7th, one week after “I Want to Hold Your Hand” became the Beatles’ first #1 hit in America, the Beatles arrived in New York’s newly named John F. Kennedy International Airport at 1:20 p.m., aboard Pan Am flight 101, to the welcome of 3,000 screaming fans. With their first step off the portable stairway ramp from the plane, the Fab Four secured their foothold for their invasion of North America.
Claire Krusch: I was in sixth grade when the Beatles came in, on a Friday afternoon—you don’t forget these things. It was sunny out, it was cold, and the principal of my grammar school came into the classroom and said, “If anyone has a transistor radio, and they’re going to listen to this group that’s coming to JFK airport, to hear when they’re coming in. . . . ” I thought he was going to say we could listen to it, and I got real excited. He said, ” . . . I will take them away.” And he made the announcement to our teacher so we could all hear it. He had problems with people sneaking in radios knowing that this group was going to be coming to the United States that afternoon.
Debbie Levitt: When I got wind of it that they were coming here and it was supposed to be a big blitz, I figured, “Oh, Debbie has to go to the airport!” And I told my friends about it because they started to play the records, and nobody was interested. “It’s too noisy, it’s too loud, it doesn’t make any sense, what are you doing wasting your time? . . . ” I know it’s gonna go big and it’s gonna go far. I had my mother write a note, “My daughter has something important to do, she won’t be in.”
Annette Joseph Walker: I decided that’s where I wanted to go, so I called a friend of mine, and we headed off to the airport. I remember the subways being very crowded, so I’m sure it was morning rush hour. We got out there, and it was girls just everywhere. I remember just standing around, and these girls came over and asked if we had any information as to where they would be coming in, so we kind of banded together, about six of us, and we found out where the plane was coming in.
We stood at the observation deck, where you could actually look out onto the tarmac, to try to figure out where this plane was going to land. And then we found a hangar, and we climbed on top of this hangar. There was a ladder on the side of the building that went straight up, and we climbed up on the building, which we later found out was a UPS holding facility for their small planes. And we were up there for the longest time, and saw planes coming and going, but it never dawned on us that they would actually be coming down the steps from a plane, because back then they didn’t have those ramps that push up to the plane door. We never did see anything. The security guards finally spotted us up there and forced us to come down.
Shaun Weiss: It’s like it happened yesterday, so it’s pretty vivid in my mind. My mom and dad were flying home into Kennedy Airport from the Caribbean. My elder sister and I had to go and pick them up. After we got there, we ran into hordes of girls. And, living in New York City at the time, some of the girls we knew. When we ran into a bunch of friends of ours, we asked them, “What are you guys doing here?” The tops of the buildings were covered with the fans. And they said, “We’re here for the Beatles.” And my sister and I said, “Who the hell are the Beatles?” These girls had photographs, a lot of them had signs . . . My dad took photographs from the plane window looking at the fans standing on top of the building. And he joked to my mom saying, “Look, all those girls are there for me!”
The Beatles immediately made their way to the Pan Am lounge for a prearranged press conference. They were followed by a swarm of fans, reporters, film crews, and casual observers who found themselves swept up in the commotion.
Annette Joseph Walker: We went through the terminal, and you could see a whole stampede just heading in this one direction. We got down there right as they were passing by. We were back about 20 people deep, and you could only see the tops of people’s heads, but we thought we had just gone to heaven!
Once at the Pan Am lounge, adorned with the airline’s familiar logo serving as a backdrop, the Beatles stood on a platform in front of an array of microphones. They patiently waited for the photographers to settle down, but cries of “down in front!” and “give me some room!” threatened to stall the proceedings indefinitely. Press agent Brian Somerville asked for quiet, but when this was met with even more grumbling, he grabbed a microphone and demanded, “All right, shut up! Just shut up!” The Beatles jokingly repeated the admonishment, and the press conference finally got under way.
From that moment on, the Beatles quickly and easily charmed the army of reporters, who shouted out a steady barrage of questions and received a high quotient of clever one-liners in return (“Will you sing for us now?” “No, we need money first.” “When will you get a haircut?” “I had one yesterday.”) As first impressions go, the Beatles couldn’t have created a better one. The group then made their escape from the airport to their new home away from home, the Plaza Hotel on 5th Avenue.
Annette Joseph Walker: I’ve been to the airport since, and I’ve never been able to imagine what was there that day. I didn’t see anyone that looked like they were actually there to catch a flight. It looked like it was just Beatles fans. At that point it wasn’t an airport, there weren’t people milling around—everybody that was in the way got out of the way. It was chaos, and the decibel level—the planes landing were nothing compared to the roar in this place. It was like a steady hum, but it was just people screaming. And we went right from the airport to the Plaza.
Shaun Weiss: The girls told us they were going back to the Plaza Hotel, where the Beatles were staying. My sister and I decided we needed to investigate more about who these four guys were. But we got caught up in the hysteria of it. So we dropped my mom and dad off at home and we went on to the Plaza Hotel. We turned on the radio and heard Murray the K, standing out there with hundreds of girls, and very few boys.
It was no secret that the Beatles and their small entourage had booked a suite of rooms on the 12th floor of the Plaza Hotel for their stay in New York. The 3,000 fans who welcomed them at JFK Airport would prove to be merely the first throng of screaming teenage girls to greet them at their scheduled stops in Manhattan and beyond. The scene would repeat itself at concert venues, hotels, airports, and train stations throughout the Beatles’ tour of the U.S. and Canada later in the year.
The steadily building crowd outside the Plaza kept track of the Beatles’ whereabouts thanks to New York DJs such as Murray the K on WINS, and Cousin Brucie on WABC, who gleefully reported on the Beatles’ progress through the city. Young filmmakers Albert and David Maysles, hired at the last minute with a phone call from Granada TV in England, found themselves shoulder-to-shoulder with the group for the duration of their stay. They would capture each day of the group’s visit on film—not just their public appearances, but also (and more interestingly) their more private moments in their hotel suites and while traveling from one destination to the next.
Leslie Barratt: I went into the city with at least one other friend. We often went into the city. We were not that far, and I had gone into New York City from the time I was 10 by myself. I started taking my friends into the city, just to go shopping, or go to the Plaza hotel, pretending we were guests, sitting around the lobby. It wasn’t an unfamiliar location for us.
We made up our minds that we were gonna go. And we went in, and the real question was where to stand. But the police had cordoned off the street. We figured the Beatles were going to the front door. So everyone was standing there, and it was obvious to us, being so naïve, of course that’s where they were gonna drive up in their limousines to the front door, like all these other cars were doing. And every car that came, we were peeking and we’d scream, and it was some old guy or something—not a Beatle. It was a big crowd. It was a zoo. Every girl our age was excited by the Beatles coming, so we were expecting a big crowd. After we found out that they had gotten there—and I think we found that out not by anybody telling us there, but everyone was holding up transistor radios at various times, and there were a lot of rumors going around. And you’d see a group of people start to do something, and you’d have to go over and find out what they were doing.
At one point we found out they were already there, that they had gone in through a back entrance, which of course devastated everybody. Then the question became what floor were they on, could we see them through the windows. We found out they were on the twelfth floor, and every time a curtain moved anywhere on the twelfth floor, everybody was screaming. Nobody had thought to bring binoculars. And a few times we saw a curtain move and it set everybody off.
At one point, we tried to call their room from a phone booth. And it wasn’t just us, it was us and 15 other girls, as many as you can cram into a phone booth. Of course, the hotel didn’t connect anybody to anything. But we stayed there for quite a while, because it wasn’t just the arriving that was exciting, it was the fact that they were actually in that building. We’re looking at a building, and the Beatles were in it! It’s sort of—it’s a very odd thing. And that fever was definitely there through the day. I can’t tell you how many hours we stayed there.
Annette Joseph Walker: When we got there, the streets down 5th Avenue were blocked off three blocks in either direction. And they already had barricades up, and for some reason then they decided just to contain us in that area right in front of the hotel. People were sitting all over the fountain and in the street. They were still waiting for them to arrive, because everybody was very subdued, and at that point everybody was looking for the limo pulling in. Sometime later in the day, two or three limos did pull in, and all hell broke loose. We had no idea if they were in it or not, but it happened to be the only limo pulling up to the Plaza at the time. We stood out there screaming people’s names and people would look out the window and the whole crowd would erupt. We had no idea where they were in the hotel, or even if they were on that side of the building. As it turned out they were, and we did get a spotting the next afternoon, but they had been out of the hotel and at Central Park, and we never knew they had left.
The rest of my time there, it was just one sighting after another—over here, over there . . . I remember some guy coming downstairs with these little baggies that they sell marijuana in now, and he had these little squares of cloth in them. And he told us he worked in the laundry, and these were the sheets they had slept on, and he had cut them into little squares and was selling them for a dollar a piece. The guy just disappeared into a sea of these girls, and when he emerged, they had taken everything he had on him. They could have been anybody’s sheets for all we knew, but we didn’t care. He said it was theirs, and we believed him.
Shaun Weiss: I heard a lot of their music that weekend because it was being broadcast on “WABeatleC” night and day, 24 hours a day. A lot of the girls had little transistor radios, so you can hear the music blaring. Standing there was amazing, because anyone who came to the window with longish hair, people just started screaming. Or if somebody drove up in a cab, somebody would yell, “It’s Ringo!” and people would go crazy. It was just being swept up in this hysteria.
Leslie Barratt: There was always the possibility that they might come out again. The fact that they’d just flown from Europe didn’t mean anything to us, or that they might be tired and taking showers. There was a possibility that we might see them through the window, that they might wave.
Annette Joseph Walker: People were trampling each other, it was chaos. The news people were standing around and thought this was just bedlam at that point; cameramen were being knocked to the ground.
We stole maids’ uniforms and rolled up our pants and tried to get into the service entrance. There was a car parked about halfway down the block, with the windows down. And it had these uniforms in the back, probably just somebody’s laundry. We didn’t know if they were coming right back or not, so we just swiped the uniforms—they had “The Plaza” on them, so we went around the corner and put them on. We went to the service entrance, and rang the buzzer, and somebody pushed the door open, and we started inside. As the last one of us was getting through the door, a security guard stepped in front of us and asked to see our employee I.D. We had to say we didn’t have one. He said, “You don’t have one, do you.” We said no. “Where’d you get the uniforms from?” “Somebody gave them to us.” He made us take them off.
We sat and watched all sorts of other things. There was a girl who had been in the crowd earlier, and she said she was going to rent a limo. And we’re thinking, yeah, right. Two hours later she pulls up in this limo and she’s dressed to the nines, in her graduation dress or something. And they wouldn’t let her in.
There was a building being constructed next to the Plaza, and we actually rode up in the little construction elevator that they had, and we got up to a certain point, and the thing stopped. Some guy shows up screaming at us, and lowered us back down. At one point, we found an air shaft on the side of the building and contemplated crawling through this thing! Something about the little dark tunnel stopped us from crawling through. We had gone and bought screwdrivers and everything to take the cover off it.
Shaun Weiss: And I stood out there. And that weekend, my sister Joanne and I literally were totally transformed into Beatle fans. What happened was as the weekend progressed towards Sunday, we started to find out things about them like where they were going to be, what shows they were going to do, dress rehearsals. And I befriended someone at the time whose name was Mal Evans. He was walking out of the Plaza very late Saturday night, out the side entrance. My sister and I were heading home, ’cause it was getting late. I heard an English accent, I went up to him and I thought he was one of the Beatles. He said no, he was the road manager. He told us that the Beatles were going to be on The Ed Sullivan Show.
The Beatles managed to spend the morning of the next day, February 8th, in relative quiet. John, Paul, and Ringo avoided the mobs of fans awaiting them in front of the Plaza by using a side door, and took a stroll through Central Park (George was stuck in bed with a sore throat). Of course, their “stroll” was really for the benefit of the army of journalists and photographers covering their visit. The streetwise photographers didn’t quite know what to do with the group at first, so they shouted out instructions for poses like “point to the sky!” and anything else that came to mind. Next, the Beatles headed for the CBS theatre on 53rd Street, the home of The Ed Sullivan Show, for rehearsals.
Sullivan had witnessed Beatlemania first-hand during a trip to England back in September, but hadn’t seen or heard the group perform. He was nonetheless impressed with the passion they instilled in their British fans, and in November negotiated with Brian Epstein to have the group perform on three separate Sullivan shows beginning in early February. The group would be paid a total of $10,000 for two live appearances plus a taping of a third performance to be aired later in the year.
The next day, on Sunday afternoon, the group performed a full run-through of the songs they would play on the show that night. They did so in front of a full studio audience, who had the privilege of getting the scoop on the rest of the country by several hours. A different audience was later brought in for the live broadcast. When the program went on the air at 8:00 p.m., it was viewed by an estimated 73 million people—the largest audience for a television show ever to that date. It was only six weeks after Capitol Records officially released “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
And it was the night Beatlemania exploded.
June Harvey: My friend’s father worked for an ad agency and it just so happened that he had tickets for The Ed Sullivan Show for that night. A client had given them to him. But he did not want them, so he gave them to us.
Two days before, they came into JFK, and there was quite a bit of fanfare and excitement. I think some of my friends tried to go out to the airport to meet them. I was working on a project for school and couldn’t get off, but I knew we had the tickets. And at that time we thought they were just a passing fad. We had no inkling that they would be some part of music history. It was just so early in their recognition factor. This was February, and their music had only started playing six weeks before. There was some momentum building, but really not any that I thought was over the top, other than when they came into JFK, I remember seeing on the news that there were a lot of screaming fans that had come out there.
The day of the show, my friend and I went down on the subway—we lived in the Bronx—and we’d take the Lexington Avenue line down. We had the tickets, but I do not think they were assigned seats, I think they were just entry tickets into the theatre. We had to wait outside for quite a long time, well over an hour, and it was freezing cold. I do remember that! There were two girls standing right behind us who were British. We struck up a conversation with them. They were on winter holiday, and one of the girls’ brothers went to school with John Lennon, and she knew John. They were from Liverpool, and we talked about their friendship with some of the Beatles, especially John.
It was very electric, it really was, like something exciting was about to happen.
Shaun Weiss: By Sunday I was hooked. Sunday was very interesting for us. My sister and I knew where The Ed Sullivan Show was so we walked down to the theatre with a bunch of friends of ours. As the day progressed, we were trying to find tickets to get in. My sister started to put on crocodile tears, and we had run into these two older people who were standing on line to go in. My sister said, “Do you have any extra tickets?” and they turned around and said, “We actually have tickets for friends of ours, and we don’t know if they’re showing up. But if they don’t show up, you can have them.” So my sister attached herself to them. The friends never did show up, and when it came to getting into the theatre, they only put a certain amount of kids up front. They stuck the rest of us up in the balcony. But it didn’t matter. It was so amazing just to be there and see Ed Sullivan walk out on that stage. We were in the last row of the balcony, by the center aisle. My sister snuck down to the first row of the balcony with one of her friends.
The Beatles kicked off the show with their first set of three songs: “All My Loving,” “Till There Was You,” and “She Loves You.” Later in the show, after performances by the cast of Oliver! (featuring future Monkee Davey Jones), impressionist Frank Gorshin, and other acts commonly seen on Sullivan’s show, the host brought them back to sing “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
Shaun Weiss: When they came out to perform, you really lost sight of them onstage. It was just looking around and seeing girls screaming, and girls crying. Being as far up as we were, we really didn’t see them as well as you would on TV sitting in your living room. Being there was a whole different excitement. I was so caught up in this moment, the reality was just beingthere was the thrill. I don’t even remember the songs that were being played, just that I could not believe these guys from Liverpool were performing, and I was seeing this live. The charm of seeing them for the first time in person, and not really understanding what was happening to me. I was getting caught up in a hysteria that I didn’t understand. Everything else was fogged out.
The theatre had a way of locking you in, so that you couldn’t get out to bother the Beatles leaving. But we just opened the exit door and we all flew out, and tried to get around to the side to see them leave, but obviously they had other ways of getting out that we knew nothing about.
The things I remember about them were just their mannerisms—and how much fun it looked like they were having. But it also looked like they were kind of scared. Just their mannerisms standing there, and Ringo up on the drum set playing and his head shaking. . . . That weekend, walking into it, I was unaware of what I was walking into. For the next five years of my life, I was obsessed with them. And the more I became obsessed with them, the more I geared my life to kind of hang in their corner.
June Harvey: We must have been fairly close up in line because we were ushered into the balcony and we ended up in the first row. And the Ed Sullivan Theatre was very small, and the balcony hung right over the stage. I think Letterman has taken out the balcony. I was second from the end, and a photographer came in after all of us were seated, and there were a lot of screaming fans directly behind me. We were so close to the photographer that he could not get an angle on us. He leaned in and shot up over us. So all the pictures in the fan magazines were the people sitting right behind us, including the two girls from Liverpool.
The screaming was constant, but I remember hearing them sing, there’s no doubt about it. And we were literally hanging right over the stage so we could see them. It was a memorable experience.
While 728 audience members in the theatre experienced the Beatles singing to them in person, 73 million more were watching at home across the country. It quickly became an entertainment event famous for having not only generated unprecedented anticipation, but for surpassing even the highest of expectations.
The reverberations felt throughout millions of households across the country that Sunday evening were immediate. For most parents watching the Beatles’ performance, it was in parts laughable, cacophonous, unseemly, or worse. For their children, however, it was nothing short of electrifying. By the time that single hour-long program began rolling its closing credits at 8:58 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, the Beatles had generated an emotional shock wave of such intensity that it instantly sent an entire generation of American teenagers into a state of sheer exhilaration. An overstatement, perhaps? Not according to those who experienced it and who can still recall that night in vivid detail, and with that same youthful passion.
Janet Lessard: By the time they were on The Ed Sullivan Show, that was just—I can’t even compare it to anything right now. It was just fantastic. We were literally gathered in each other’s homes. We would sit there from six o’clock waiting for that show to come on at eight, in groups of fives and tens. We were just amazed.
Charles Pfeiffer: On that Sunday night in February of ’64 we gathered around the black and white Zenith, and when they came on Ed Sullivan, all I can remember is Ed saying, “Ladies and Gentlemen, here’s the Beatles!,” and gosh, when they struck that first chord it just sent something through me. And I was a 12- or 13-year-old boy with a crew cut, and I remember I turned around and said, “I’m growing my hair out.” That was the first thing I was gonna do, which I started to do. And just the minute they started to play, I thought, “Gosh, this is what I want to do.”
Penny Wagner: My dad didn’t want anything to do with it. I don’t think he was home that night, but my mom said all right—she was pretty open-minded, and we sat down, my youngest sister and myself. She never even liked the Beatles, to this day! No interest whatsoever.
I turned into a Beatlemaniac from the minute I saw them sing “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” That was it. I couldn’t stop myself. I started screaming and carrying on, and my mother didn’t know what to do with it—my grandmother thought something was wrong with me. And I’m still, to this day, an avid Beatle fan. I picked a favorite immediately, and what’s so cool about this story is I got to meet him in real life. It was Ringo Starr. He was my favorite Beatle, from the minute I saw him on Ed Sullivan till now.
Leslie Barratt: I took pictures of them on the TV. It was the first time I saw them performing. My sister and I were upstairs and I know my parents came to the TV and looked at it, probably my younger brother, too—not very interested with these two girls screaming at the TV. At that point I was just completely blown over and in love with every one of them, although my favorite was Paul.
Linda Cooper: My parents were giving me so much grief, I went to my girlfriend Sharon’s house to watch it. And it was just—you’ll probably think it’s goofy but I never was one of the girls who screamed and all that, but I would just sit there and cry! And so her father would laugh at me all the time and handed me his handkerchief and said, “You’re gonna need this.” So by the time they finished at the end of the show, all that was left of the handkerchief was the border. I ate the whole thing watching them.
Maryanne Laffin: I cried. I remember just sitting there crying. I didn’t know why.
Janet Lessard: The tears—we would watch them on The Ed Sullivan Show and we would just dissolve into tears. I can’t describe it. It was something that just came over us. It was so new, and overwhelmed us, I guess. Girls growing up in the mid-’60s were much younger, figuratively and emotionally, than girls growing up now. Girls 13, 14, and 15 now have already done all of this by now. This all happens to them much earlier. To us, we weren’t really into boys or anything like that. And all of a sudden these four guys come around with their charm, their music, their witty remarks, and it just kind of hit us like a ton of bricks!
Claire Krusch: My sister and I had a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and we taped it. So we have that on tape, but the sound is terrible. Just listening to that and us going “Oh my God, look at them!” and screaming. I remember my dad saying, “Their hair is too long, but they look very neat.”
Dale Ford: I actually took pictures of the television. They came out pretty good! I just thought they were the greatest. It was one of those things where you just knew that there was something special about them. I loved music and rock & roll, whatever was going on at the time. The Beach Boys were okay, Elvis I liked but I wasn’t a huge fan or anything. But there was just something about the Beatles you just kind of knew that this was really, really going to be big. I just knew it. And of course I was madly in love with Paul McCartney.
Carol Cox: I was like two inches from the screen, screaming. I was a screamer. We had a next-door neighbor and many years later she said to me, “We thought somebody was being murdered over there, we could hear you screaming for the Beatles. So we always knew when they were on!” I can’t articulate it all these years later. There was something about them. They were fresh, they were new, there was just something really special and magical. I wish I could pinpoint it. I still get it now, to this day. When I see the Sullivan shows, it takes my breath away.
Betty Taucher: I sat with my girlfriends to watch them. We were feeling the TV and touching it and screaming. My father was laughing hysterically on the couch at us. I had to clean the TV after that. And TVs then had those tiny little green screens, and it was black and white of course, we didn’t have a color TV. And I don’t think Sullivan was in color then either. We were embracing the TV and touching them and screaming, the whole nine yards. And after it was done I remember we were just lying on the floor and it was like, “Oh my God, what was that?”
Barbara Allen: My mother was always an open-minded person, but my father just said, “Oh my God, this is awful. How can you watch this?” The fathers were always negative towards them. They didn’t like the hair, they didn’t understand the music, they didn’t know what we were carrying on about, and they would all make a comment. And my father said, “I’ll bet you a dollar to a doughnut, in about four years, you wouldn’t walk across the street to see those goofs.” Well, if they were outside right now, I’d walk outside to see them, and I’m 55 years old!
Douglas Edwards: I remember watching with excitement as they led off the show. Before they were through with “All My Loving,” I was hooked. They had a charisma about them that was different than anything that I had ever seen or heard. By the end of the Sullivan show that night, this 11-year-old was counting my allowance to see how soon I could buy the next single.
Paul Chasman: I remember seeing them and being almost attracted and repelled at the same time; attracted because they were just so damn good and magnetic, and there was still part of me that was resistant, not being sure that I was recognizing the real thing. But I was really excited about them, and always wanting to hear more.
Harold Montgomery: Up until the Sullivan show, I wanted to be an archeologist. And all of a sudden, bam! All the archeology things came down and I started going to the neighbor’s house asking for newspapers to clip out and I started clipping out and saving everything that I ever found on them. It totally turned me completely around.
Kathy Albinder: The first time I saw them on Ed Sullivan, I can remember coming back from a family trip and pushing my father because we were gonna be late. I’m the oldest of eight kids, so I was there saying, “Come on, let’s go, we’re gonna be late!” So I think we missed the first half of it, but I did see the second half.
Paula Lewis: As I was watching it, I was remembering just a few years before when Elvis had been on, in 1956, and I have an aunt who is just a few years older than I am, and she was just so caught up with Elvis. And when he was on The Ed Sullivan Show, I was just six or seven, and she was screaming and crying, and just beside herself, and I was just not really caring what was on TV, but was fascinated with the way my aunt was carrying on. So when the Beatles were actually on, I was so enthralled with just seeing them, but afterwards I was thinking about how it was very much the way it had been for her. Some people couldn’t watch it because it was Sunday night and they had to go to church. Those people were really outcasts in lots of ways. They really had missed an important thing.
Pete Kennedy: We were a little young for the liberation of Elvis. My sister was into him and the Everly Brothers, so I knew about them from watching American Bandstand, I knew about the Fifties rockers, but it wasn’t specifically my music. And in ’63 I liked Peter, Paul & Mary and the Kingston Trio, which also wasn’t specifically my stuff, being 12 years old. And this was! It was this watershed—and the amazing thing to me is so many kids were experiencing the same thing all over the country at the same time, but we were all in separate houses on a Sunday night at eight o’clock. It was obvious to me these guys were breaking down that whole thing. I don’t know if they had any intention of doing that, but that’s what they did. It was a revolution, really.
Betty Taucher: The next day in school, that’s all anybody talked about. And all of a sudden all of the boys that had their hair slicked back on Friday—on Monday, it was all combed down. Over the weekend it changed that much.
Shaun Weiss: After that Sunday night, my hair was pushed down—the next day in school, I didn’t realize the historical event I was witnessing. I was just caught up in this Beatles moment.
Douglas Edwards: At school the next day, the Beatles were the only topic of conversation among the fifth graders at Watson Elementary. Before winter of ’64 had thawed in northeast Ohio, I had every single the Beatles had released in that couple of months.