“Impact on popular culture” is a difficult thing to measure. It’s a you-know-it-when-you-see-it experience. A phenomenon flares up and soon it seems to be everywhere. Many musicians and performers make such an impact; some leave a significant and lasting mark; others are fleeting “one-hit wonders.” In the 20th century, no entertainers had a greater pop-culture impact, even historical and global influence, than The Beatles, the rock-and-roll group consisting of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. Their impact began with hairstyle and attitude, but extended to fashion, lifestyle, even politics. Originally from Liverpool, England, the Fab Four arrived on our shores 50 years ago this month, and after changing America, they changed the world.
The Beatles first performed live on television in the United States in February 1964 on The Ed Sullivan Show, and the phenomenon known as Beatlemania exploded across the country. Their stateside television debut was seen by some 73 million viewers, as about two-fifths of the nation’s population tuned in. By percentage, it was the largest audience in the history of American television. The Beatles’ American success launched the group to international fame, and kicked off the British Invasion—the influx of rock and pop music groups from the United Kingdom that included the Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, and many others.
Today’s music and entertainment industry arguably might not exist as we know it were it not for The Beatles’ career. Although “the charts” no longer have the vaunted place they once did, it is worth pausing to consider the amazing records the band set in the Sixties, records that are still standing: most Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hits (20); most Hot 100 top-10 hits (34); the only act to hold the Hot 100’s top 5 positions simultaneously (that is, in the week of April 4, 1964, their songs ranked at Nos. 1–5); the only act in the history of the Hot 100 with three consecutive No. 1 hits; and most No. 1 albums (19) in the history of the Billboard 200.
Image credit: © CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images
- A Rare Look at the Origins of Beatlemania: Watch the Throwback Footage
Archival video provides “an introduction to Beatlemania for millennials,” as The Beatles “conquer the colonies” in February 1964.
(Source: Time.com, February 9, 2014)
- The Beatles’ 50 Biggest Billboard Hits
In recognition of the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ US “invasion,” Billboard, the organization that “charts” the music industry, looks back at the band’s incredible record of record-setting records; the website includes the music itself (with a few rare ’60s music videos), photos and stats, and “How the Beatles Went Viral.”
(Source: Billboard.com, February 7, 2014)
- The Beatles: The Night That Changed America—a Grammy Salute
Link to photos and video clips from the CBS musical special celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ February 1964 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
(Source: CBS.com; accessed February 12, 2014)
- The Beatles in the United States
Among several Wikipedia articles that cover various aspects of The Beatles, this one focuses on their tours and TV appearances in the United States.
(Source: Wikipedia; accessed February 12, 2014)
- America Meets the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show
History.com’s This Day in History article takes you back to The Beatles’ February 9, 1964, appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
(Source: History.com, February 9, 2014)
- The Beatles: Biography
The Internet Movie Database provides a fairly brief but comprehensive minibiography of the group and a collection of interesting trivia.
(Source: imdb.com; accessed February 12, 2014)