Four decades later, Beatles still influence America

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 11, 2004

On Feb. 9, 1964, the face of music in America changed forever.

Forty years ago Monday, an estimated 73 million television viewers - a record at that time - watched the Beatles play "I Want to Hold Your Hand" on "The Ed Sullivan Show." It was the

Fab Four's first trip to America. This is the day Beatlemania surfaced - and it couldn't have come at a better time as the nation was still healing from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy just a few months earlier.

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Some say Elvis Presley defined rock music. This is why he is called "The King" of rock 'n roll. The Beatles, though, are also part of that royal family - the princes, perhaps.

After all, rock 'n roll was American, and many here in the United States were not ready for a British band to steal the show. This showed in 1963 when the band released three singles in the U.S., all of which flopped. In late 1963, though, the band began to receive a little exposure, and when the Beatles' plane landed in New York City two days before their Ed Sullivan performance - as thousands of screaming fans waited to greet them at Kennedy Airport - "I Want to Hold Your Hand" had soared to No. 1 on the popular music charts.

From this day forward, the Beatles were household names for teens and young adults. A few months later, the top five on the April 4, 1964, Billboard record chart was all Beatles singles - "Can’t Buy Me Love," "Twist and Shout," "She Loves You," "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "Please Please Me."

As America got to know the Beatles, each one of them showed different personalities, earning them nicknames. Guitarist George Harrison was "The Quiet One," singer-guitarist John Lennon was "The Smart One," singer-bassist Paul McCartney was "The Cute One" and drummer Ringo Starr was "The Funny One."

The success of the Beatles in America opened the door for many other rock 'n roll bands from Britain. Not long after the Beatles broke through, bands such as the Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Who made their way to America - sparking the British Invasion.

While the Beatles will forever be known as the trailblazers who opened the path for the rest of these bands to follow, they will also be known as one of the most influential bands of all time.

The scary thing is the Beatles could have, in theory, had even more of an impact on music as we know it. As their musical tastes changed and they began experimenting with a more edgy style of rock music, the band broke up over business and musical matters.This happened less than a decade after they first came to the U.S.

In addition to their musical influence, the Fab Four helped change young America's sense of fashion. For example, few people in America had seen a man with hair as "long" as the mop-topped quartet, but soon thereafter, young men began letting their hair grow out.

Even today the Beatles have an influence on all genres of rock music, from pop to punk. Even though two of the band's members - Harrison and Lennon - are dead, its music continues to flow across the airwaves and out of CD players across the nation.

One of my first memories of music was that of the Beatles. My mother was a huge fan and I can remember when she would listen to records such as "Meet the Beatles" and "A Hard Day's Night" as she did her housework. To this day, I consider the Beatles among my favorite bands.

Few could argue the fact that the Beatles are one of the - if not the - greatest bands of all time.

Shawn Doyle is managing editor of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1445, ext. 19 or via e-mail at shaw.doyle@