What it was like 50 years ago.. when the Beatles came to the US

Beatles Ed SullivanOnce again, I’m compelled to write about one of the events that changed our culture and had a major influence on the 60’s- the British invasion! At the time, kids like me listened to scratchy music on a little transistor radio with an ear plug. My favorite AM station was WDRC. We heard some Motown, Elvis, but the music mostly appealed to my older brothers’ generation. All that changed in February 1964.In the beginning of 1964 we started to hear music on our radios with a beat and harmony that was really really different. And then there was the intrigue of a band from England! Unheard of!

The Ed Sullivan show in February launched the Beatles in the US and we were immediately hooked. It was love at first sight on our little black and white TV! I had to read everything I could about the group and the first record album I ever bought was Meet The Beatles which I played ad nauseam.

Our parents hated The Beatles. They complained about The Beatles’ long hair, collarless suit jackets, and their music (and this was way before Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds!). What parents hoped was a passing fad turned out to bond us as a generation. Our parents couldn’t’ understand the attraction of The Beatles, so naturally they couldn’t understand us.

Over time The Beatles became more radical, as we did. I remember the hype when Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released and how amazing and original each cut was. John Lennon was a genius.

To this day, I have a Beatles scrapbook with collectables like Beatles trading cards, Beatles magazines (including a rarity on Paul my English pen pal sent me! ) and a fab sample of Beatle wallpaper from my cousin Judy’s bedroom.

The only person I know personally who actually saw the Beatles live is our own Trustee, Regina Madigan who was at the Ed Sullivan show. So you can be sure she and I will be watching the CBS special this Sunday.

It’s no exaggeration to say that The Beatles helped define my generation and I would argue that no other group since them has had as much impact.

Elizabeth Abbe is the Director of Public Outreach at the Connecticut Historical Society

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