The Beatles are well and truly regarded as the most iconic and successful band of all time.
The British foursome, comprising the late John Lennon and George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, provided the defining soundtrack of several generations.
Formed in Liverpool in 1960, The Beatles were a mix of psychedelic rock and the Blues and were the world’s first boyband to achieve mass success all around the globe.
With timeless classics such as Hey Jude, I Want to Hold Your Hand and Yesterday, their songs are still beloved and endlessly played even in 2022. The unparalleled fanaticism around The Beatles resulted in a new word coined to describe just how obsessed people were with the four men: “Beatlemania.”
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Hysteria over Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Ringo began in around 1962 or 1963, once the English rockers broke into the US music market.
The term Beatlemania was first used when the band began performing around the globe and the high-pitched screaming emitting from devoted fans rendered their performances virtually inaudible.
By 1964, The Beatles had booked their first tour across the Atlantic ocean in America.
This is widely regarded as the peak “Beatlemania” period for the Eleanor Rigby hitmakers.
The only place we ever got any peace was when we got in the suite and locked ourselves in the bathroom.
On February 7, 1964, the baby-faced Beatles arrived at Kennedy Airport for the first time from London for their 10-day tour of the US.
A famous picture of the fab four looking windswept as they stepped off the plane is displayed in museums around the world and is an historic piece of music photography.
The Beatles were greeted with a 5000-strong crowd of screaming fans, with a throng of reporters and photographers waiting to catch a glimpse of the band who were, in Lennon’s own words, “more popular than Jesus”.
Not since a royal or politician had so many fans waited to greet a plane’s landing in New York.
“Never had a ruling monarch been so thoroughly upstaged by a group of her subjects as was Elizabeth II,” wrote journalist Robert Sandall in 1965.
More than 100 police officers were also recruited to watch over the frenzy of Beatles-obsessed punters, who were mostly young girls.
“It felt as though there was a big octopus with tentacles that were grabbing the plane and dragging us down to New York,” drummer Star recalled in The Beatles Anthology documentary.
It marked the beginning of The Beatles’ “British invasion” of the US. And even the band and their family were shocked at their mass popularity across the pond.
“At Heathrow there was pandemonium. Thousands of fans had arrived from all over Britain and any ordinary passengers hoping to travel that day had to give up,” Lennon’s ex-wife Cynthia once said in an interview.
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“Screaming, sobbing girls held up ‘We Love You, Beatles’ banners and hordes of police, linking arms in long chains, held them back.”
On the tarmac, the rockers gave the band’s first American interview. A journalist asked the foursome if they were “embarrassed” by the “lunacy” of their intense fame.
But all four men responded with a firm and resounding “no”. “It’s great,” Lennon replied. “We like lunatics.”
The band’s first performance for their US leg was on the Ed Sullivan Show, and two days later, they played for 8,000 fans at their first American concert, at the Coliseum in Washington. At the time, the ticket price was just $3.
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Beatles performances in the US were no different to those played in the UK. Screaming fans still drowned out the band’s music.
Their gig at Carnegie Hall in New York is remembered as particularly hysteric. “It was the most piercing, uncomfortable sound I’d ever heard,” attendee and DJ Dan Daniel told TIME in 2014.
“The five of us held our hands over our ears. Fifty years later, my ears are still ringing.”
Everywhere they went, fans followed the foursome and were desperate to nab a moment of time with the most famous celebrities in the world.
“The only place we ever got any peace was when we got in the suite and locked ourselves in the bathroom,” Harrison also told TIME magazine.
The Beatles toured America twice more after their debut in 1964. The same year, the British rockers also toured Australia.
It seems the mania was not so strong Down Under, as a crowd of only 1000 greeted the singers as they landed in Sydney on June 11, 1994.
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Of course, as is the natural life cycle of celebrity, Beatlemania could only last for so long.
The band broke up in 1970, with some of the members leaving o focus on their solo careers.
Only half the band is still alive today, after Lennon was assassinated in 1980 and Harrison died of lung cancer in 2001.
In 1969, Starr summed up the band’s inevitable expiration in a telling quote to a journalist.
“You know,” he explained. “We can’t go on forever as four clean little mop tops, playing She Loves You.“
“The Beatles were just four guys that loved each other,” he said in the documentary Beatles Anthology in 2000. “That’s all they’ll ever be.”
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