From Dallas to Beatlemania

Beatles
The Beatles do Washington, Feb. 1964

James Rosen, a Fox News correspondent with an interest in the secret JFK files, is also a scholar of the Beatlemania who has a piece about the Fab Four’s visit to Washington in February 1964 in the current issues of the Washingtonian magazine

The combination is no accident. As Randy Blaser in the Barrington Courier Review in Illinois points out JFK and the Beatles are inextricably linked in the American imagination.

“If the Kennedy assassination was like a thunderclap at a late summer picnic, the appearance of the Beatles on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ on Feb. 9, 1964, was like the dawn of a new day,” Blaser writes.

“Perhaps no two events in modern history came so closely together and so clearly marked the end of one era and the beginning of another.”

via Blaser: JFK, Beatles marked a turning point.

8 thoughts on “From Dallas to Beatlemania”

  1. Though I was only six or seven, I remember this connection vividly. In fact, it is one of the most brilliantly etched memories from my childhood. The dark shadows of November, 1963 suddenly giving way to an album in my hand: “Meet the Beatles,” which seemed like alchemy, renewing a hope I’ll never forget.

    1. Actually I think that release date (221163) was in Britain, not in the USA. In the USA in late 1963, several labels carried the Beatles: Tollie, Vee Jay, Swan. Capitol Records wouldn’t release the first “official” Beatles LP, “Meet the Beatles” until the 20th of January, 1964. It featured the same Robert Freeman photo, but offered far fewer tracks than “With the Beatles” which was on the Parlophone label distributed overseas. I look at the 22 Nov. date as just a fun coincidence of course. Nothing more.

  2. I don’t recall which network it was, but one of the big 3, and likely CBS were to air a special about the Beatles on Nov. 22, 1963. The airing was delayed to Dec. 9, 1963 if I recall.

    I don’t agree with the premise of a “transition” of eras, just evolution of the rapidly changing face of the world at that time.

    The music of the 60’s was borne of a war weary world and their children, and was perhaps the only period that artists and musicians could actually express themselves, and the feelings of others in a socially and politically relevent manner reflective of what was taking place in world at that time.

    Protest was de-rigueur as people became aware of what was taking place rather than and contrary to what they had been led to believe.

    The oncoming tsunami in popular music was most likely a needed distraction and an effective balm that was rather necessary through that tumultuous decade…

  3. I think the Beatles would have made a cultural impact in 1964 even if JFK had been alive and still president in February of 1964. They had been a huge hit in Britain for most of 1963 and were poised to hit big over here no matter what. The pop music landscape wasn’t a static one from 1960-1964 as many boomers like to think it was. You had the emergence of Motown, the Twist phenomenon which lasted from 1960-62, surf music, and a huge folk music trend which heated up in 1963. The British Invasion was the big thing of 1964. I can assure you that my father, and many “G.I. Generation” cohorts of his were NOT suddenly awakened after JFK’s assassination by the arrival of the Beatles—or by The Dave Clark Five, Petula Clark, Herman’s Hermits, or the Rolling Stones. And for that matter, the death of Robert Kennedy didn’t force a rock music shift either, although there were many reference songs such as “Abraham, Martin, and John” that came out after all the assassinations.

    I think if JFK had lived, he may have been mildly amused by the Beatles, may have even met with them briefly, but that’s about all. He was interested more in show tunes and old Frank Sinatra records—just as my father was. In 1964, only the teeny-bopper kids were the most enchanted with the Beatles. That changed later, of course. But in 1964 it was a different world for the adults who were in charge, except for the marketing binge that Beatlemania offered at that time.

    1. Xavier Baudet

      I disagree. America would not have needed The Beatles in 1964 to the extent it did if Kennedy’s death had not left American youth in utter shock. The Beatles might have had a few hits. But they would not have had the chance to become the cultural phenomenon they became because the market wasn’t going to let them. America needed a new idol in late ’63 solely because there was a vacancy. Had Kennedy not been shot, American youth would have been satisfied with stars like Bobby Vinton and The Singing Nun, for it wouldn’t have needed a replacement for Kennedy. I’m not saying this because I like the Beatles (or The Kennedys for that matter), but because we have some facts to back it up: During the fifties record sales had totally exploded. Elvis came weeks after James Dean died, JFK became a national figure the year Elvis joined the army. Then during the Kennedy presidency there was virtually no growth in record sales. Then starting in december 1963 it again grew massively for another 7 years. The Beatles basically filled the space that Kennedy had left. And by mid 1965 Rock’n roll had merged with an unlikely partner that had previously been wary of rock’n roll : Folk. Rock became political, a movement for social change. That movement was fuelled by anger over events taking place in American society: riots, racial strife, Vietnam. I am convinced that American kids would have responded differently to these things if they hadn’t been exposed to the trauma of losing a president who was basically a pop idol. And of course many did not believe the Warren report, so this added to the sense that there was something very, very wrong with America. Had Kennedy not been killed there would still have been tension in the cities and of course in the south, but I’m not sure if white middle class kids would have grown their hair, smoked pot, walk around naked and do all these other naughty sixties things they did, for that sort of behaviour was the reaction to a huge trauma, brought upon by the Kennedy assassination. Actually what I’m saying here is more or less what David Crosby meant when he wrote ‘Almost Cut My Hair’, although that was about the 1968 election. He briefly considered giving the establishment a chance again, but finally discarded that option when RFK was shot.

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