The Beatles in a session with Ed Sullivan prior to their February 9th, 1964 show. From left: Paul McCartney, Ed Sullivan, George Harrison, John Lennon, and behind & above, Ringo Starr.
The Beatles became a sensation in the U.K. in 1962-63, about a year or more before anyone in the U. S. knew much about them. However, before that, the Beatles had honed their craft playing in nightclubs and other gigs dating to the late 1950s. Known by earlier names such as The Quarrymen, Johnny & the Moon- dogs, and the Silver Beatles, they played a variety of venues, with some alternating personnel during those early years. In Hamburg, Germany, and Liverpool, Eng- land, from about 1960 on, they worked hard and steadily in nightclubs, putting in long hours, improving their stage act, increasing their range of music, and writing their own songs. They were a cover band as well, as most English rock bands then were. They offered their own versions of Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Larry Williams, and others. By late 1961, they were playing to packed houses at the Cavern nightclub in Liverpool, England where they were discovered by their manager-to-be Brian Epstein in November 1961. Epstein did a wardrobe and style make-over on them, cleaning them up for the music industry. By May 1962, after being rejected by a number of U.K. record labels, they signed a deal with EMI, then the U.K.’s leading music company.
Music Player “Please Please Me,”1963-64
During 1962, their songs began hitting the British Melody Maker music chart and others. “Love Me Do,” a Lennon/McCartney compo- sition, reached No. 21 in the fall that year, and their first No. 1 hit came with “Please, Please Me” on February 22, 1963. At about this point, what came to be known as “Beatlemania” began to take hold in the U.K. Their first U.K. album was titled Please Please Me, released in April of 1963. Within four weeks it would be the No.1 U.K. album, remaining in that position for 30 weeks, followed by their second U.K. album, With the Beatles. From then on, there came a string of No. 1 Beatles’ hits and No. 1 albums until the group broke up in 1969-1970.
The Beatles as photographed upon their arrival at JFK Airport in New York, February 7, 1964, from top left: John, Paul, George & Ringo.
In the American music industry, however, there was an initial hesitancy about the Beatles, as some record executives and DJs, especially in 1963, didn’t think that British acts generally would do well in America. That perspective would soon change.
What follows below is a timeline marking the rise of Beatles’ music and appearances in the U.S. during 1963 and 1964, along with a few photos, anecdotes, and sidebar stories. It is not a complete and comprehensive treatment of the Beatles’ activities during these years, nor is it meant to be. There are entire books and websites devoted to that topic, some of which are noted in “Sources & Additional Information” at the end of this article. What is offered here, hopefully, is a representative sampling of activity in those first two “Beatles-in-America” years, mixing in music history, business developments, and news-of-the-times – plus one or two stories that may be new to many readers.
January 1963 George Martin of EMI in London sends a copy of “Please Please Me” to U.S. subsidiary Capitol Records, urging executives there to distribute Beatles’ songs in the U.S. They decline, saying: “We don’t think the Beatles will do anything in this market.” Lesser known labels then begin picking up Beatles’1963 songs for U.S. release.
Vee-Jay single of Beatles’ “Please Please Me,” in Feb 1963, distinguished by ‘Beattles’ misspelling, later corrected.
25 Jan 1963 Vee-Jay record label of Chicago obtains a contract to release limited number of Beatles records in the U.S. for a limited time period.
25 Feb 1963 “Please Please Me”/ “Ask Me Why” released as single on Vee-Jay label. The song is played on Chicago’s WLS radio station where it reaches No. 35 on WLS music survey in March, but does not chart nationally; not on Billboard.
27 May 1963 “From Me To You” / “Thank You Girl” released as a single by Vee-Jay, but is barely visible; No. 116 on August Billboard chart, drops off thereafter.
Record sleeve for ‘She Loves You’ / 'I’ll Get You’ single issued by Swan Records in Sept. 1963, which went ‘virtually unnoticed.’
16 Sept 1963 “She Loves You” / “I’ll Get You” released in U.S. by Swan Records, a Philadelphia label, but does not chart on Billboard.
31 Oct 1963 American TV variety show host, Ed Sullivan, traveling to London, has his arrival delayed at London Heathrow Airport by a screaming crowd of teens welcoming the Beatles home from a tour of Sweden. Sullivan has his first thoughts of booking these rising British music stars with strange haircuts – perhaps as novelty act.
11-12 Nov 1963 Beatles manager Brian Epstein travels to New York and persuades Ed Sullivan to book the Beatles for an unprecedented three consecutive appearances on Sullivan’s much-watched Sunday eveningvariety show – February 9th, 16th and 23rd, 1964. CBS-TV gets one year’s exclusive rights to the Beatles’ U.S. television appearances.
Brian Epstein, who discovered the Beatles and became their manager, also negotiated early business deals and arranged for publicity.
15 Nov 1963 Time magazine take notice of the “Beatlemania” craze sweeping England and the Beatles’ command performance for British royalty in London.
16 Nov1963 CBS News bureau London – at the suggestion of Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein – sends a news crew to the British seaside resort of Bournemouth where they film a Beatles concert, thousands of screaming fans, and a few Beatles’ comments on camera. This film clip is later sent to New York.
Mid-late Nov 1963 Brian Epstein phones Capitol Records president Alan Livingston over label’s refusal to distribute Beatles songs in America. Epstein urges Livingston to listen to the U.K. single, “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” while mentioning the Beatles’ upcoming 1964 Ed Sullivan Show appearances as a big opportunity for Capitol. Livingston later agrees to spend $40,000 for Beatles promotion, equal to about $250,000 in today’s money.
Beatles’ ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand' song that Brian Epstein urged Capitol Records Alan Livingston to listen to, Nov 1963.
18 Nov 1963 NBC’s evening news program, The Huntley-Brinkley Report, airs a four-minute segment on the Beatles.
22 Nov 1963 U.K. album, With The Beatles, is released in the U.K., rising to No. 1 on the British album charts and remaining there for 21 weeks. With The Beatles becomes the Beatles’ first million-selling album in Britain, and the second album of any kind in Britain to sell one million copies, the first being the South Pacific soundtrack.
22 Nov 1963
The “CBS Morning News With Mike Wallace” runs a story on the Beatles for the network’s morning news show. CBS planned to repeat the segment that evening on Walter Cronkite’s newscast. However, that day, in mid afternoon, Walter Cronkite was breaking the tragic news to a shocked nation that their President, John F. Kennedy, had been shot and killed while visiting Dallas, Texas.
29 Nov 1963 The Beatles’ single “I Want To Hold Your Hand” is released in the U.K. and immediately hits No. 1 on the British pop charts.
“Dick Clark & The Beatles” Aug-Dec 1963
Dick Clark, of 'American Bandstand' fame, was a partner for a time in Swan Records.
Swan Records was a Philadelphia, PA record label founded in 1957 by Bernie Binnick, Tony Mamma- rella, and Dick Clark. Clark was then host of American Bandstand, a popular dance and pop music TV show. Binnick, an accountant, had worked with Clark on earlier music projects, and Marmmarella was a producer at Bandstand. Initially, Clark held 50 percent of Swan Records, with Binnick and Mammarella each holding a 25 percent share. After the 1959-60 payola scandal that had implicated music DJs in “play-for-pay” music deals, Dick Clark – though never found guilty of any wrong-doing – divested his music holdings, including Swan, which he sold to Binnick and Mammarella. By 1963, Clark was still at American Bandstand, and very much a recognized leader in the business of rock ‘n roll music.
The Beatles in England by this time were already a sensation, with hit after hit, setting music sales records. On August 23, 1963, the Beatles released the song “She Loves You” in the U.K. on EMI’s Parlophone record label. “She Loves You” hit No. 1 in the U.K. on August 29, 1963. However, in the U.S., Capitol Records, a subsidiary of EMI, declined to issue “She Loves You” in America. They had also not issued other Beatles’ U.K hits – “Love Me Do”, “Please Please Me” and “From Me To You.” That left the door open to other smaller companies to obtain the U.S. distribution rights for Beatles’ songs.
Swan Records released the Beatles’ ‘She Loves You’ in Sept 1963, but it went nowhere. Re-issued in early 1964 after Beatles’ music soared, it hit No. 1 in March.
According to John Jackson’s excellent book, American Bandstand: Dick Clark and the Making of a Rock ‘n Roll Empire, Bernie Binnick acquired the American rights for “She Loves You” for his Swan Record label while on vacation in England in the summer of 1963. When he returned, he pressed his old friend Dick Clark about the song, obviously hoping for some American Bandstand attention. “What do you think?” he reportedly asked Clark, who replied that the song sounded like “Buddy Holly and the Crickets and Chuck Berry and a lot of other early American songs sort of mixed together.” Clark was not reassuring, though Binnick tried to interest Clark in the new group’s novel look. But after glancing at a picture of the Beatles, Clark noticed their long hair and reportedly told Binnick, “you’re absolutely insane….It’ll never fly.”
Still, Binnick’s Swan label released “She Loves You” to the American market in mid-September 1963. But nothing happened. Clark, meanwhile, appears to have given the record a review on American Bandstand’s “rate-a-record” segment – probably in the Oct-Nov period. Bandstand’s “rate-a-record” consisted of a selected group of teenagers reviewing several new records that were played, then rated on a numeric scale by the teens who were interviewed by Clark. “She Loves You” reportedly did poorly on the rate-a-record segment, earning a seventy-one out of a possible ninety-eight points – not an impressive showing. According to another account, Clark would later explain that the Beatles’ disc rated “just fair.” He also added, ”then I pulled a picture of the group out, and the audience just giggled. I figured these guys were going nowhere.” But as Clark would later acknowledge, “We all found out the truth soon enough.”
New songs were rated by teens on Bandstand, who reportedly gave the Beatles’ ‘She Loves You’ a poor rating in 1963.
Binnick, meanwhile, had a pile of newly pressed Swan recordings of “She Loves You” going nowhere. Then in late 1963 he got a telephone call from Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, who was then in New York arranging an American television appearance for the Beatles. Epstein wanted to know how “She Loves You” was doing in America. Binnick replied that the record was “a stiff.” Epstein shot back that it might soon become a huge hit, explaining that the Beatles were going to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. Binnick, unimpressed, told Epstein he “blew it,” saying he should have had the Beatles appear on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand rather than The Ed Sullivan Show, suggesting that Clark’s show was more popular.
About a month or so later, Jack Paar, who hosted a Friday evening variety TV show on NBC, had just returned from England that December, marveled to his viewing audience over the “Beatlemania” that he had observed overseas. Paar was also able to get a film clip of the Beatles performing “She Loves You” in an English town, and he aired it on his show Friday, January 3, 1964, showing the Beatles performing the song as their teenage fans went wild. According to Binnick, “the record exploded [in sales] the following Monday.” Binnick and Swan, re-issued “She Loves You” to meet demand. By March 21st it would become the No. 1 hit in the land. “She Loves You,” in fact, would sell 1 million copies, creating a temporary windfall for Binnick and Swan Records. However, Swan’s option on future Beatles songs had been lost since it stipulated that ‘She Loves You” had to sell 50,000 copies in its first year, 1963, which it did not. Swan also had the rights to the German version of “She Loves You,” which did reasonably well too, but not enough to save Swan from its troubles. The company went out of business in 1967.
29 Nov 1963
Radio station KIOA in Des Moines, Iowa begins playing “I Saw Her Standing There” from a Drake University student’s copy of Beatle’s U.K. album, Please Please Me, and a few days later, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” from a U.K. Beatles’ single (see sidebar story below).
1 Dec 1963 The New York Times Sunday Magazine, runs a story on “Beatlemania” in the U.K.
4 Dec 1963 Capitol Records issues a press release announcing that it will begin selling the Beatles’ first U.S. 45 rpm single, “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” on Monday, January 13th, 1964.
10 Dec 1963 A four-minute CBS film segment on The Beatles that had been pre-empted by the JFK tragedy is aired on Walter Cronkite’s CBS Evening News.
Capitol Records issues a "Beatles' Campaign" memo to its staff, Dec 23rd, 1964.
17 Dec 1963
Radio disc jockey Carroll James at Washington. D.C. station WWDC, plays rare U.K. copy of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on the radio after 15-year-old girl from Silver Spring, MD wrote to him requesting Beatles music after seeing the CBS-news segment. James arranged to have an airline stewardess buy a U.K. copy of the Beatles’ latest single in London. Listeners phone in repeatedly to request the song.
18-19 Dec 1963 Capitol Records threatens to sue WWDC to stop playing song, but then reverses itself and decides to rush-release “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” previously scheduled for January 13, 1964. Christmas leave is canceled at Capitol Records, as pressing plants and staff gear up for rush release.
23 Dec 1963 Capitol Records issues a memo to its sales people and regional managers across the country, outlining an extensive “Beatles Campaign” using various promotional items – from major music magazine trade ads and a fake tabloid Beatles newspaper (reprinted in the thousands), to Beatle buttons, Beatle stickers, Beatle wigs, and a battery-powered, “Beatles-in-motion,” bobble-head-like, window display for music stores.
“Beatles’ Iowa Breakout” 29 November 1963
On the evening of Nov 29, 1963, a Drake University student showed up at this Iowa radio station waving a copy of a new U.K. Beatles’ album at the DJ through the window.
Stu Adams was a disc jockey at Des Moines, Iowa radio station KIOA – one of the “KIOA Good Guys,” as that station’s DJs were known locally. It was late November 1963, the Friday after Thanksgiving. In fact, it was exactly a week after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The programming at the station was gradually getting back to normal. Adams was working the 6:00 to 9:00 pm shift on that cold November night. He was situated at his radio post behind a huge storefront plate glass window in the studio at 803 Keo Way in Des Moines. While working, he was interrupted by an urgent rap on the window. Outside was a young man trying to get his attention. He was holding up a copy of a Beatles LP from England, Please Please Me, their first album, unavailable in the U.S.
At first, Adams tried to ignore the young man. But he persisted, holding up the album and pointing to it emphatically. So Adams finally let him in out of the cold. The young man was a Drake University student who had recently returned from a trip to England. He insisted that the station play the Beatles’ new music.
On the evening of Nov 29, 1963, a Drake University student showed up at Iowa radio station KIOA with this Beatles’ U.K. album.
Adams, as music director at the station, was aware of the Beatles. In fact, the station had tried playing “She Loves You” back in September 1963 when it was released in the U.S. by Swan Records. But the song received little interest. In fact, a teen record panel that met weekly at the station to rate songs had also given it a thumbs down. Adams was also hearing talk in the music industry that English records were a hard sell in the U.S., and that the Beatles wouldn’t make it here either. But Adams was more open-minded on that score, since a late summer song by England’s Cliff Richard, “Lucky Lips,” had been a Top Ten KIOA hit.
The Drake student, meanwhile, insisted the Beatles album he had was better than previous Beatles recordings, and that “I Saw Her Standing There,” on the album, was one of the songs that was then very popular in England. Adams, having been playing a steady parade of “car tunes and surfing music,” decided to give the new Beatles album a whirl. He “slapped the Parlophone labeled Please Please Me LP on a turntable” and asked his listeners to call in and let the phone ring just once if they liked it. “Instantly, all the lines lighted up and stayed that way until well after the song ended,” recalled Adams in a later account of the playing. “With that,” said Adams, “Beatlemania was not only born in Iowa, but throughout the Midwest.”
This was the U.K. Beatles’ LP that Iowa radio station DJ Stu Adams began playing on Nov 29, 1963.
Requests continued for the Beatles music the next day. Adams had no choice but to add “I Saw Her Standing There” to the station’s playlist, using a dubbed version taken from the student’s album. It became the most requested song at the station, but it didn’t make the station’s top tunes survey because that survey was based on local record sales, and at the time, there were no copies of that record in stores. No sales meant no chart position. But according to Adams, “the requests just kept on coming in.” Several days later, the Drake University student returned with the new UK Beatles single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” backed with “This Boy.” Said Adams: “sales in England were phenomenal and as soon as we put it on the air we could see why.” But as Adams and KIOA continued playing these U.K. Beatles releases, local record shop owners in Des Moines weren’t too happy, as they had none to sell. Soon, Capitol Records, which held the rights to the Beatles records in the U.S., ultimately was forced to move up the release date for “I Want to Hold Your Hand” — the first scheduled U.S. Beatle’ single from Capitol – from January 13th, 1964, to December 26th, 1963. Once released, the single, with “I Saw Her Standing There” on the B side, hit No. 1 in record sales in Des Moines and made it to No. 1 on the KIOA survey – as it soon did throughout the rest of the U.S.
The Beatles’ single ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand,’ issued by Capitol Records, went on sale in the U.S. in late December 1963.
26 Dec 1963
Capitol Records begins distributing “I Want To Hold Your Hand” to radio stations in major U.S. cities where it is played regularly. With teens home for Christmas-New Years break, radios get full-time use, and the record begins selling like crazy. In New York City, 10,000 copies are sold every hour. In the first three days, 250,000 copies are sold. Capitol was so overloaded it contracted Columbia Records and RCA to help with the pressings.
28 Dec 1963 The New Yorker magazine publishes a Brian Epstein interview; regarded as first serious article in U.S. about the Beatles and their manager.
29 Dec 1963 New York city radio station WMCA joins others broadcasting “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” Back in London, meanwhile, Sunday Times critic Richard Buckle praises the Beatles as the greatest composers since Beethoven.
A Beatles' film clip was shown on Jack Paar's TV show in early January 1964.
30 Dec 1963 A two-page ad from Capitol Records pitching the Beatles’ recordings runs in Billboard and Cash Box music industry magazines. Bulk reprints of these ads have already been distributed to Capitol’s sales agents for use with radio stations and in enlarged, easel-scale size for use in music store displays across the country.
3 Jan 1964 Jack Paar, host of the late night U.S. TV talk show, “The Jack Paar Show,” airs a filmed Beatles’ performance of “She Loves You” from England. It is the first complete Beatles song shown on American TV, and for many in America, the first time they see the Beatles.
V-J’s promotional cover sleeve for Beatles’ ‘Please Please Me’ single following Jack Paar show, Jan 1964.
10 Jan 1964 Vee-Jay Records releases the first Beatles album in the U.S., Introducing…The Beatles. Legal and business issues plague the album, but by late fall, it would sell more than 1.3 million copies.
10 Jan 1964 Two weeks after the Capitol Records release of “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” sales hit 1 million copies – a staggering number at that time for an unknown music group from overseas.
mid-Jan 1964 Vee-Jay Records’ issues special record sleeves for promoting “Please Please Me” to radio DJs, noting Beatles’ clip on Jack Paar’s show, upcoming Ed Sullivan Show dates, and national news coverage in Time, Life & Newsweek magazines.
'Meet the Beatles,' their first U.S. Capitol album.
17 Jan 1964 “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles is the No. 1 single in America.
20 Jan 1964 Capitol Records issues Meet the Beatles, the Beatles’ first Capitol album in the U.S.
20 Jan 1964 To promote the Meet The Beatles album and their upcoming first American visit, Capitol Records distributes pre-recorded interview with the Beatles to American radio stations.
29 Jan 1964 Capitol Records announced in a press releases, that Meet the Beatles had already sold 400,000 copies by January 27th.
Vee-Jay's "Please Please Me," released a 2nd time, late Jan 1964.
30 Jan 1964 Vee-Jay Records releases, for the second time, the single “Please Please Me” / “From Me to You,” entering the Billboard chart at No. 69. It would later reach No. 3, and Vee-Jay would sell at least 1.1 million copies.
7 Feb 1964 At about 1:20 p.m. the Beatles arrive at Kennedy International Airport in New York where they are greeted by 3,000 screaming teenagers, 200 reporters and photographers, and more than 100 New York police officers. At a televised press conference the Beatles come off as witty, charming and playful.
Beatles at press conference after landing in New York, February 7, 1964.
9 Feb 1964 Elvis Presley sends The Beatles a telegram wishing them well in their upcoming Ed Sullivan Show appearance later that evening.
9 Feb 1964 Beatles perform live on The Ed Sullivan Show, reaching a record-breaking audience of 73 million, or according to A.C. Nielsen, 23.2 million households. One estimate at 40% of population. They perform five songs: “All My Loving,” “Till There Was You,” “She Loves You,” “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”
Beatles performing on ‘Ed Sullivan Show,’ Feb 9, 1964, before estimated TV audience of 73 million.
11 Feb 1964 The Beatles give their first live concert performance in the U.S. at the Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C.
12 Feb 1964 The Beatles perform two shows at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
16 Feb1964 Second appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, live from the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida. Approximately 70 million people tune in, or 22.4 million households. Songs performed: “She Loves You,” “All My Loving,” “This Boy,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “From Me to You,” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
Beatles clowning with boxer Cassius Clay (later known as Muhammad Ali) during visit to Miami, FL, Feb 1964. Photo, Harry Benson.
22 Feb 1964 The Beatles return to London, U.K.; at Heathrow Airport at 7 a.m. they are met by an estimated 10,000 fans.
23 Feb 1964 Beatles appear for 3rd time on Ed Sullivan Show, a performance that was taped earlier in New York – performing three songs: “Twist and Shout”, “Please Please Me” and “I Want to Hold your Hand.”
13 Mar 1964 Meet the Beatles LP by this date is reported to have sold 3,600,000 copies. “Can’t Buy Me Love” their next single, has advance orders of 1,700,000 copies in the U.S.
The Beatles, 'Saturday Evening Post' cover, 21 March 1964.
14 Mar 1964 “Please Please Me” is a massive hit, rising to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart by this date.
16 Mar 1964 “Can’t Buy Me Love/You Can’t Do That” is released as single by Capitol Records; sells 940,225 copies first day, 2.1 million by March 19th.
21 Mar 1964 Beatles appear on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post, one of America’s mainstream magazines at the time. Post’s cover story – “The Secrets of The Beatles” – promises “an intimate account of their American tour and a probing analysis of their incredible power to excite frenzied emotions among the young.”
23 Mar 1964 “Do You Want to Know a Secret” / “Thank You Girl” released as a Vee-Jay single.
28 Mar 1964 Capitol Records reports sales of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” in excess of 3.4 million copies.
Beatles' 2nd album from Capitol, released April 10th, 1964.
31 Mar 1964 The Beatles hold the top five slots on Billboard: (1) Can’t Buy Me Love, (2) Twist and Shout, (3) She Loves You, (4) I Want To Hold Your Hand (5) Please Please Me — a musical first.
10 Apr 1964 The Beatles’ Second Album is released by Capitol Records, which replaces the Beatles first Capitol album, Meet The Beatles, at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart from May 5th to June 2nd.
11 Apr 1964 The Beatles hold 14 slots on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.
14 Apr 1964 The Beatles’ Second Album reaches $1 million in sales by this date.
Beatles’ Hot 14 Chart #s on Billboard April 11, 1964
1. Can’t Buy Me Love
2. Twist & Shout
4. She Loves You
7. I Want To Hold Your Hand
9. Please Please Me
14. …Want to Know a Secret
38. …Saw Her Standing There
48. You Can’t Do That
50. All My Loving
52. From Me To You
61. Thank You Girl
74. There’s A Place
78. Roll Over Beethoven
81. Love Me Do
___________________ Billboard Hot 100, 1964.
27 April 1964
“Love Me Do”/ “P.S I Love You” released as single by Tollie Records, a Vee-Jay subsidiary.
1 June 1964 “Sweet Georgia Brown” / “Take Some Insurance Out on Me” released as Atco Records single.
‘A Hard Day’s Night’ became one of the fastest-selling soundtrack albums of the 1960s.
June 1964 Advance orders for the soundtrack album from the Beatles’ forthcoming film, A Hard Day’s Night, are 250,000 in the U.K. and 1 million in the U.S.; album would sell 2 million copies in the U.S. by October, and 600,000 in the U.K. by year’s end. American version, with somewhat different songs, was released on June 26, 1964 by United Artists Records.
June 1964 The Beatles fly to Hong Kong, June 8-10, perform two concerts there and then go to Austrailia, June 12-14. In Adelaide, Australia they are greeted by an estimated crowd of 300,000 along their motorcade route.
Beatles’ single, ‘And I Love Her’/ ‘If I Fell’ released July 20th, 1964.
13 July 1964 “A Hard Day’s Night” / “I Should Have Known Better” released as single by Capitol Records.
20 July 1964 “I’ll Cry Instead”/ “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You” released as single by Capitol Records.
20 July 1964 “And I Love Her”/ “If I Fell” released as single by Capitol Records, as well as a new Beatles’ album, Something New.
Beatles' film poster, 1964.
11 Aug 1964 Beatles first film, A Hard Day’s Night, opens in America and is a huge hit. Shown in 500 theaters across U.S., it earns $1.3 million in the first week. Some 15,000 prints made for world-wide distribution – historical first in film industry.
12 Aug 1964 Variety magazine reports that by August 1964, the Beatles had sold approximately 80 million records globally.
19 Aug 1964 The Beatles perform at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, California, in the first concert of their USA/Canada tour, which lasts a month through August and September.
24 Aug 1964 “Matchbox” / “Slow Down” is released as a single by Capitol Records.
Beatles, 'Life' magazine, August 1964.
August 1964 The Beatles received a request from the White House press office to be photographed with President Lyndon B. Johnson, laying a wreath on the grave of John F. Kennedy. The request was politely declined by their manager, Brian Epstein, saying it was not the group’s policy to accept “official” invitations.
25 Aug 1964 The Beatles’ single, “A Hard Day’s Night,” is certified gold for exceeding sales of more than 1 million copies.
26 Aug 1964 Beatles’ North American tour plays Denver, Colorado.
27 Aug 1964 Beatles’ North American tour plays Cincinnati, Ohio.
28 Aug 1964 Life magazine article reports that the Beatles’ 33-day tour of 23 American cities is a sell out at every location and is expected to gross millions. Beatles pandemonium at the time is such that some hotels along the tour route refused to house the Beatles, and Los Angeles’ Lockheed Airport forbad any Beatles plane from landing there for fear of screaming fans running on to the tarmac.
“Charlie O & The Beatles” 17 September 1964
Ticket stub, Beatles' Sept 17,1964 concert in Kansas City, MO.
Charles O. Finley (b.1918 - d.1996) was an American businessman who made his fortune in medical insurance. In December 1960, he became the owner the Kansas City Athletics professional baseball team in Kansas City, Missouri. He later moved this team to Oakland, California where they became the Oakland Athletics. However, in Kansas City, “Charlie O” as he was sometimes called — remembered for his promotional antics and not always winning teams — was also responsible for bringing the Beatles to Kansas City in 1964. The Athletics played their games at Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium then, and Finley promised the city’s people he would bring the Beatles to Kansas City during the group’s first American tour that summer. But Kansas City was not on the list of cities where the Beatles had arranged to perform.
Finely on ticket back.
Finley went to San Francisco on August 19, 1964, where the Beatles were playing their first date. There he met with the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein. He told Epstein that he was disappointed that Kansas City was not on the Beatles’ itinerary. He then offered Epstein $50,000 and then $100,000 if the Beatles would schedule a concert for Kansas City. Epstein refused, pointing out that on the only free date available, September 17, the band was scheduled for a day of rest in New Orleans. Finley left disappointed, but again encountered Epstein in Los Angeles a week later. Epstein again rejected Finley’s offer of $100,000, noting that the band wanted to use their only day off to “explore the traditional home of jazz.” Undetered, Finley tore up the $100,000 check and wrote a new one for $150,000 (equal to about $1 million in today’s money). Astonished, Epstein excused himself to talk to the group. John Lennon speaking for his bandmates replied, “We’ll do whatever you want.” So Epstein accepted Finley’s check, and they agreed to play Kansas City. At the time it was the highest fee ever paid for a musical concert, working out to about $4,838 per minute (or roughly $33,000 per minute in 2009 $$). When the Beatles performed there they included their version of the song “Kansas City.” They also gave a memorable press conference at the Hotel Muehlebach, available today on CD.
CD of Beatles' 1964 Kansas City press conference.
Finley had justified the Beatle’s high-priced recruitment to Kansas City with the quip, “Today’s Beatles Fans Are Tomorrow’s Baseball Fans” – printed on the back of the concert tickets. Also shown on the back of some of the tickets was a photo of Finley in a Beatle’s wig – which were sold as a fad at the time as part of Beatles’ promotional merchandise.
At the concert, however, a crowd of 20,207 attended, which was just over half of Municipal Stadium’s full capacity of 35,000 when seats were installed on the field. The drop off in attendance was due in part to local animosity over Finely’s record with the Athletics and some of his promotional antics, which weren’t always welcomed in the community. In fact, the local media at the time, and especially The Kansas City Star, suggested boycotting the Beatles’s concert as a way to protest Finley’s unpopular management of the Athletics. Still, thousands came out, as Beatles’ fans heard a full set of their tunes performed that night. Finley, meanwhile, who had earmarked profits from the event for Children’s Mercy Hospital, had to write a $25,000 check to cover the minimum donation he had pledged to the hospital in the event that the concert did not earn a profit.
_______________________ Sources: “Charles Finley,” Wikipedia.com; “Can’t Buy Him Love,” Kansas City Public Library; and, Mark Lewisohn, The Beatles Live!: The Ultimate Reference Book, New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1986, pp. 168-69.
Vee-Jay Record’s “Beatles vs. Four Seasons” two-album set, October 1964.
20 Sept 1964 The Ed Sullivan Show replays broadcast of Beatles’ February 16th appearance on the show.
1 Oct 1964 The Beatles vs. The Four Seasons two-record set is released by Vee-Jay Records. Package is basically two previous albums – 1963′s Golden Hits of the 4 Seasons and VJ’s Beatles album, Introducing The Beatles. VJ hypes the package as “The International Battle of the Century!”
1 Oct 1964 Book by Brian Epstein, A Cellarful of Noise, is released by Souvenir Press; includes his autobiography and inside account of early Beatles. Later edition issued in 1998 by Byron Preiss Multimedia Books.
Beatles’ Tour North America Aug-Sept 1964
Aug 19 San Francisco
Aug 20 Las Vegas
Aug 21 Seattle
Aug 22 Vancouver
Aug 23 Los Angeles
Aug 26 Denver
Aug 27 Cincinnati
Aug 28 New York
Aug 30 Atlantic City
Sept 2 Philadelphia
Sept 3 Indianapolis
Sept 4 Milwaukee
Sept 5 Chicago
Sept 6 Detroit
Sept 7 Toronto
Sept 8 Montreal
Sept 11 Jacksonville
Sept 12 Boston
Sept 13 Baltimore
Sept 14 Pittsburgh
Sept 15 Cleveland
Sept 16 New Orleans
Sept 17 Kansas City
Sept 18 Dallas
Sept 20 New York
2 Oct 1964 As of this date, ten million Beatles’ records had been sold in the U.S.; their American concert tour had grossed at least $1 million; their film, A Hard Day’s Night, had reaped $5.8 million at the U.S. box office in six weeks. EMI, their record label, was reporting fiscal year sales of $265 million, up 12 percent largely on Beatles’ business. Capitol Records was reporting its revenues were up as well, by 17 percent. Brian Epstein and the Fab Four, meanwhile, were millionaires many times over, with total income earned beyond the U.K. then estimated to be some $56 million.
Atco album, of Beatles' songs and other U.K. artists, October 1964.
5 Oct 1964 Ain’t She Sweet album is released by Atco Records, an American album featuring four 1961 Beatles tracks from Hamburg, Germany and cover versions by other British groups.
13 Nov 1964 CBS TV shows a 50-minute doc- umentary, “What’s Happening! The Beatles in the U.S.A.,” filmed by Albert Maysles, covering the Beatles U.S. tour and other activities that year.
23 Nov 1964 “I Feel Fine” / “She’s a Woman” single released by Capitol Records.
23 Nov 1964 The Beatles Story double LP is released by Capitol Records, billed as “a narrative and musical biography of Beatlemania on two long-play records.” The albums feature interviews, press conferences, and songs by the The Beatles. It was The Beatles’ fourth release by Capitol Records.
'The Beatles' Story' album, 1964.
1 Dec 1964 Ringo Starr has his tonsils removed at the University College Hospital in London.
15 Dec 1964 Beatles ’65 album is released by Capitol Records featuring 11 Beatles’ cuts, among them: “I’m a Loser,” “Baby’s in Black,” “I’ll Follow the Sun,” “Mr. Moonlight,” “Honey Don’t,” “I’ll Be Back,” “She’s a Woman,” and “I Feel Fine.”
December 1964 Christmas recordings, with Christmas songs and messages from individual Beatles, are sent to fan club members in the U.K and U.S.
'Beatles '65' album, December 15, 1964.
The 7th Grammy Awards, held in 1965, recognized the accomplishments of musicians for the year 1964. This was the year musically when Barbra Streisand won a Best Vocal Performance award for “People,” and Louis Armstrong for “Hello, Dolly!”; the year Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto won Record of the Year for “The Girl from Ipanema” and songwriter Jerry Herman, Song of the Year, for “Hello, Dolly!”
1964 was also the year that Henri Mancini won a Grammy for the “Pink Panther Theme” and Roger Miller took home several Country & Western music awards, while Nancy Wilson won Best Rhythm & Blues Recording, Petula Clark for “Downtown,” and Gale Garnett, Best Folk Recording for, “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine.” Not to be left out, of course, The Beatles won two awards: Best New Artist and Best Performance by a Vocal Group for “A Hard Day’s Night.” But the Beatles’ 1964 arrival left its mark on more than music awards.
A Sound of Change
The Beatles’ bursting onto the music scene of 1963-64 with their numerous popular songs has been described by some historians as a rare “pop explosion” — a musical infusion lasting basically four years, 1963-1967. This Beatles’ infusion, however, produced change that would last much longer than four years, not only in music but more broadly throughout popular culture — in fashion, literature, politics and beyond. But it would all start with the music, especially that first flush of Beatles’ songs in 1963-64. What the Beatles had then, according to rock music historian Greil Marcus writing for The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, “was that elusive rock treasure, a new sound – and a new sound that could not be exhausted in the course of one brief flurry on the charts.” This new Beatles’ sound, according to Marcus, is best captured in a selection of their 1963-64 tunes, such as: “Please Please Me,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Boys,” “There’s A Place,” “It Won’t Be Long,” “All My Loving,” “She Loves You,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Things We Said Today,” “Eight Days A Week,” among others. This Beatles’ sound, at that time, was different and unique – exciting, optimistic, playful, and fresh. Also unique was what the Beatles did together musically – i.e., their group dynamic; beat, rhythm, vocals, composition, etc. – yielding a very high level of music quality. It blew away most of the competition. In fact, what the Beatles had in this case was “so fluid and intelligent,” says Greil Marcus, “that for years they made nearly everything else on the radio sound faintly stupid.”
Bob Dylan …On the Beatles
“We were driving through Colorado [and] we had the radio on and eight of the Top Ten songs were Beatles songs. In Colorado! ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand,’ and those early ones.
“They were doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were outrageous, just outrageous, and their harmonies, made it all valid… But I kept it to myself that I really dug them. Everybody else thought they were for the teenyboppers, that they were gonna pass right away. But it was obvious to me that they had staying power. I knew they were pointing the direction that music had to go…in my head, the Beatles were it. In Colorado, I started thinking but it was too far-out. I wouldn’t deal with it – eight in the Top Ten.
“It seemed to me a definite line was being drawn. This was something that never happened before.”
_______________________ Source: “Bob Dylan, 1971,” The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, p. 212.
Between January and March 1964, the Beatles accounted for 60 percent of all record sales in the U.S. In 1964 alone, the Beatles put 19 hit songs in the Top 40, and 30 in the Top 100. They had 15 separate recordings in 1964 – nine singles and six albums — that each sold 1 million or more copies, representing total Beatle sales in the U.S. that one year of more than 25 million copies. That feat has never been matched. Many of the Beatles’ songs from 1964 went on to enjoy continued success. “I Want To Hold Your Hand” would proceed to have worldwide sales of 15 million copies, the largest-selling single in rock history until Elton John’s 1997 version of “Candle in the Wind” for Princess Diana, eclipsed it. “Can’t Buy Me Love” would have worldwide sales of 6 million; “She Loves You,” 5 million, and several others from that year each surpassing 2 million or more copies.
On Billboard, the prominent U.S. music chart that reflects single and album popularity and success, the Beatles set a slew of records, most in the March-April 1964 period, but a few of which still stand today. Among their marks in 1964: most songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at the same time (14); most songs within the Billboard Top 40 ranking at the same time (7, on two occasions); most songs within the Billboard Top 10 and Billboard Top 5 at the same time (5); and most songs charting on the Billboard Hot 100 within a calendar year (30). On April 4, 1964, Beatles’ singles and albums simultaneously held the top five Billboard singles spots and the top two Billboard album ratings — a record that still stands.
The Beatles’ impact, of course, goes well beyond their music-chart numbers in 1963-64. Yet these Beatle years marked a turning point for rock ‘n roll, both musically and as a business. From their Ed Sullivan Show appearance onward, the Beatles made plain the power of good music meeting the right demographic – in this case, Baby Boomer disposable income.From their Ed Sullivan Show appearance onward, the Beatles made plain the power of good music meeting the right demo- graphic – in this case, Baby Boomer disposable income. This Boomer market was clearly visible before the Beatles’ pop explosion, but they certainly took it to another level, revealing a gigantic “rock business” segment that would only expand over the next several decades in all manner of ways, from concert touring to MTV and beyond. In 1964, the Beatles opened the door for other British rockers that helped to change and enlarge the nature of the rock music business globally. In that year, for example, the Dave Clark Five, Dusty Springfield, the Searchers, Billy J. Kramer, Peter & Gordon, Gerry & the Pacemakers, the Animals, Manfred Mann, the Zombies, Herman’s Hermits, and the Rolling Stones all had Top 20 hits on the U.S. music charts. It wasn’t just the British sound, of course, as all of rock ‘n roll was going great guns by then – from Motown to the Surf sound, the Beach Boys to the Supremes, Bob Dylan to Marvin Gaye, and many more to come. But the Beatles had their distinct effects on the music business – influencing the rise of album format in rock music, for example, and also presaging and influencing the music video era with their 1960s’ film-making techniques. The Beatles were also one of the first acts to package and exploit pop music as a multi-media business opportunity – combining music, television, film, concerts, and merchandising.
Beatles’ "Rock Band" video game, released internationally Sept 2009, features more than 40 Beatles songs.
Today, more than 40 years after the Beatles’ musical explosion of 1963-64, their music from that era is still a cultural and business phenomenon. As this is written in September 2009, Beatles’ songs from the 1960s are being used again to form the backbone of a giant new Beatles’ business built around family-based video games. And Beatles’ songs are also soon expected to be available on iTunes and similar digital media. In any case, the sales of Beatles’ music – whether for video or digital media – will only add to the 1.6 billion singles and albums already credited to their legacy.
Jack Doyle, “Beatles in America, 1963-1964,” PopHistoryDig.com,
September 20, 2009.
Sources, Links & Additional Information
‘Introducing...The Beatles’ was the first Beatles album sold in the U.S., by Vee-Jay Records. Business problems spoiled a planned July 1963 debut, but it did appear on January 10, 1964. Legal issues also plagued the album, but Vee-Jay was permitted to sell it until the fall of 1964, selling more than 1.3 million copies.
Beatles' 'Can't Buy Me Love' / 'You Can't Do That' single, Capitol Records, 16 March 1964.
Beatles' 'Do You Want to Know A Secret?' single, Vee-Jay, 23 March 1964.
Beatles’ single, ‘Love Me Do’ with ‘P.S. I Love You,’ April 1964, Tollie Records.
Beatles’ ‘Hard Days Night’ single, released by Capitol Records, July 14, 1964.
Beatles’ ‘I’ll Cry Instead’ single, released by Capitol Records, July 20, 1964.
Beatles’ ‘Something New’ – 3rd Capitol album of 1964, released July 20th. It spent 9 weeks at No. 2 behind then No. 1 Beatles’ 'A Hard Day's Night' album by United Artists.
Beatles’ 'Matchbox' / 'Slow Down' single by Capitol Records, August 24, 1964.
Beatles’ ‘I Feel Fine’ / ‘She’s A Woman’ single, Capitol Records, Nov 23, 1964.
Brian Epstein’s book, ‘A Cellarful of Noise,’ released Oct 1, 1964, included his autobiography & inside account of early Beatles. New 1998 edition shown here.
Poster for Beatles' Washington, D.C. concert, 11 Feb 1964.
Cover sleeve with Beatle photos on George Martin’s album of May 1965, featuring instrumental versions of Beatles’ songs from the film soundtrack for ‘A Hard Day's Night.’
“The Beatles,” in Holly George-Warren and Patricia Romanowski (eds), The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rolling Stone Press, New York, 3rd Edition, 2001, pp. 56-59.
“Singers: The New Madness,” Time, Friday, November 15, 1963.
Stephen Watts, “Nonconformists and Newcomers on the British Screen; Anomaly Universal “Beatles” Rising Star,” New York Times, Sunday, November 24, 1963, Arts & Leisure, p. 35.
Frederick Lewis, London, “Britons Succumb To ‘Beatlemania’,” New York Times Magazine, Sunday, December 1, 1963.
Lawrence Malkin, “Liverpudlian Frenzy; British Beatles Sing Up a Teen-Age Storm,” Los Angeles Times, December 29, 1963, p. G-4.
Hank Bordowitz, Turning Points in Rock and Roll, New York: Citadel Press/Kensington Publishing, 2004, 282 pp.
Greil Marcus, “The Beatles,” in Anthony DeCurtis and James Henke, with Holly George-Warren (eds), The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock n Roll, New York: Random House, revised edition, 1992, pp. 209-222.
Martin Goldsmith, The Beatles Come to America, J. Wiley & Sons, January 2004, 208 pp.
John C. Winn. Way Beyond Compare: The Beatles’ Recorded Legacy, Volume One — 1957-1965, Three Rivers Press, 416pp, 2008, and That Magic Feeling: the Beatles’ Recorded Legacy, Volume Two — 1966-1970, Three Rivers Press, 416pp, 2009.
Philip Norman, Shout!: The Beatles in Their Generation,” Simon and Schuster, 2005, revised edition, 546 pp.
Bob Spitz, The Beatles: The Biography, Little Brown, 2005.
Jonathan Gould, Can’t Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain and America, Piatkus Books, 2008.
“The First U.S. Visit: A Film by Albert and David Maysles,” DVD, Apple/Capitol Records, 1964, Revised 1990.
“The Beatles Anthology,” Directed by Geoff Wonfor, VHS, Apple/Capitol Records, DVD, Apple/Capitol Records, 1996.
“The Four Complete Historic Ed Sullivan Shows Featuring the Beatles,” VHS & DVD, Sofa Entertainment, 2003.
“The Beatles in Washington, D.C.,” Passport Video, 2003.
“Beatles Around the World,” DVD, Entertainment Properties, 2003.
John Lennon, background, and Paul McCartney, working on their music in Rishikesh, India during a 1968 visit there with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The song, ‘Dear Prudence,’ about a woman in the group there, was written by Lennon.
“Dear Prudence” is the name of a Beatles song written by John Lennon. It appears on the Beatles’ November 1968 double-disc White Album. Lennon wrote the song earlier that year in India, inspired by a woman named Prudence Farrow, sister of actress Mia Farrow. The Beatles and the Farrow sisters were part of a larger group who were then visiting the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on a weeks-long retreat in Rishikesh, India. It was February-March 1968. Prudence Farrow, then focused on learning transcendental meditation (TM), stayed in her room for long periods of time. Lennon, worried she was depressed, wrote the song “Dear Prudence,” inviting her — as his lyrics would say — to “come out to play.”
“All the people around her were very worried about the girl,” Lennon would later say. “…So, we sang to her.” Lennon and George Harrison were delegated by the group to help bring Prudence out, as she had held up in her room for some time. Farrow was intent on learning the TM technique well enough to be able to teach it herself. “I would always rush straight back to my room after lectures and meals so I could meditate,” she would later explain. “John, George and Paul would all want to sit around jamming and having a good time and I’d be flying into my room. They were all serious about what they were doing, but they just weren’t as fanatical as me…”
Music Player “Dear Prudence” – 1968
George Harrison later mentioned to Prudence as the Beatles were leaving India, that they had written a song about her. Farrow, flattered at the attention, would not hear the song until it came out on the album.
The resulting song, in any case, is quite beautiful musically; with finger-picking guitar featured prominently throughout, along with some very nice, harmonic Beatle vocals. The song’s lyrics offer simplicity and innocence while praising nature’s beauty: “..The sun is up, the sky is blue, it’s beautiful, and so are you…”. Lennon is said to have considered it one of his favorite Beatles songs, and his son Julian has also named it his favorite.
Cover of Beatles’ EP which includes BBC broadcast hit, “All You Need is Love.”
In the time period leading up to and including the Beatles’ trip to India – 1967-1968 — there had already been, and would continue to be, significant change in both the Beatles’ musical growth as well as the social and political setting of those times. The Beatles by then were nearly four years removed from the hysteria of the earlier “Beatlemania” that had prevailed in 1963-1964. They had also produced by then more complex and interesting music, adding the album Rubber Soul in December 1965 followed by Revolver in 1966. The Beatles’ music gained global reach in the sum- mer of 1967, after they were featured in the first live, satellite-fed, global TV broadcast singing “All You Need is Love.” And just as the “summer of love” was taking form in San Francisco in 1967 – ushering in the hippie-counterculture movement — the Beatles produced a highly innovative new album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, released in June 1967. That same month, the first live, satellite-enabled global television link occurred when the BBC in London featured the Beatles and others in a June 25th studio performance of the song “All You Need Is Love.” The BBC’s production, which included a longer two-hour show linking 26 nations entitled Our World, had the largest television audience ever up to that point – some 350 to 400 million people. The most famous segment, however, starred the Beatles plus a 13-piece orchestra performing “All You Need Is Love,” a song written by John Lennon. During the live telecast from the Beatles’ Abbey Road studios, other notable U.K. musicians, including the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Marianne Faithfull, Keith Moon, Graham Nash, and others joined the Beatles, some singing along. “All You Need is Love” was so well-received that the Beatles released it as a single in the U.K. in early July, rising to No. 1 on the U.K. charts and remaining there for three weeks. In the U.S., the song hit No.1 on the Billboard charts August 19th. The Beatles and their music were then at a peak globally; they were a group attuned to their times, changing music and culture as they went.
The Beatles & India
The Beatles in India with Maharishi Mahesh, 1968, from left: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison & Ringo Starr.
Not long after the Beatles had performed “All You Need Is Love” on their global broadcast, they met the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi for the first time in London at a lecture. George Harrison and his then wife, former model and photographer Patti Boyd, had become interested in Indian culture. George had discovered the sitar, an Indian musical instrument, and had visited India in the fall of 1966, where he first heard the Maharishi speak. The Beatles, at the time, especially Lennon and Harrison, were looking for more cosmic awareness and had been experimenting with LSD. The Maharishi’s transcendental meditation promised an alternative to hallucinogenic drugs.
Prudence Farrow in India; Beatles’ song subject.
In late August 1967, the Beatles attended a weekend retreat with the Maharishi in Bangor, Wales. While there, they received news that Brian Epstein, their manager, had died of a drug overdose. The Maharishi helped them through the Epstein tragedy with Hindu philosophy, and in February 1968, the Beatles decided to join him for a retreat at Rishikesh, India, a major center to study yoga. Among others in a group attending the retreat in India were: American actress Mia Farrow (soon to be divorced from Frank Sinatra); Mia’s sister, Prudence Farrow; Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan of “Sunshine Superman” fame (1966); American actress Candice Bergen; Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones; British singer Marianne Faithfull; Yoko Ono, artist; Mike Love and Al Jardine of the Beach Boys; John Densmore and Ray Manzarek of The Doors; and Patti Harrison, Jane Asher, and a number of others.
“The Saturday Evening Post” cover story of May 4, 1968 featured the Beatles, Mia Farrow, and others on their retreat in India.
The gathering in India, with all its high-powered celebrity, attracted a press following and a share of newspaper and magazine stories, a number of which appeared in the U.S., the U.K., and elsewhere. The Saturday Evening Post, for example, ran a featured cover story on the trip in its May 4th, 1968 edition, having sent a reporter to go with Beatles to Rishikesh. “Here’s the Scene:,” began the headline on the Post’s cover story. “The Beatles, Mia Farrow and a Post Reporter All Gather in India to Meditate with The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.” This was actually a two-part story, with the conclusion running in the Post’s May 18th edition.
There was also a spate of stories at the time surrounding the spiritual aspects of the Beatles’ retreat and related stirrings in the larger society, with some religious leaders, such as the president of the University of Chicago divinity school and others, commenting on the event with a range of opinion. Some well-known writers of that day, too, including conservative columnist William F. Buckley, Jr., wrote opinion pieces mentioning the Beatles’ trip to India.
John Lennon & Paul McCartney working on their music in India, Feb-Mar 1968.
The Beatles had planned to make it a three month retreat. However, after about ten days, Ringo Starr returned home, reportedly because he couldn’t deal with spicey Indian food, heading back to the U.K. “for egg and chips,” as one account put it. Paul left soon thereafter, with John and George leaving later. Although the Beatles left the retreat before the course on transcendental meditation was finished, Prudence Farrow, Mike Love of the Beach Boys, and others stayed on and became TM teachers. During the Beatles’ stay, however, they did a fair amount of song writing in their spare time, with McCartney and Lennon getting together frequently to compare notes. “Regardless of what I was supposed to be doing,” Lennon would later say, “I did write some of my best songs there.”
John Lennon penned ‘Dear Pru- dence’ in 1968 while in India.
During the retreat, however, there was one alleged incident of sexual impropriety between Mia Farrow and Maharishi, which reportedly had upset Lennon and some others in the group, leading Lennon to later write a critical song about the Maharishi – though with changed lyrics in the final version; a song that became “Sexy Sadie.” One of the original lines, later changed, went: “Maharishi — what have you done? You made a fool of everyone.” Other accounts, however, report there was nothing to the allegations about the Maharishi. And some reports say that the Beatles were asked to leave by the Maharishi because of some backsliding on drug use while attending the retreat. In any case, Beatles historians credit the India trip as a spur to the Beatles’ creativity; reviving their song-writing fortunes. When they returned to England they came home with at least 30 new tunes, in rough form. They then went to work on these, including “Dear Prudence” and other songs that would become the White Album. “Whatever shortcomings the Beatles’ interaction with the Maharishi may have had,” observes New York Times reporter Allan Kozinn, “the experience… seems to have opened a floodgate of creativity and got them out of what threatened to be a creative rut.”
Song & Album
In May 1968, a week before they were to begin work on what would become the White Album, the Beatles gathered at George Harrison’s house in Esher, England. There, they ran through the songs they had worked up in India and made a tape of the ones they would consider for formal recording in the studio. In all, some 30-to-40 songs were at least initially compiled during their trip to India, and many, though not all, would appear on the White Album. Some of the songs would surface years later, including in various bootleg versions.
‘Dear Prudence’ appears as the 2nd song on side one of the Beatles two-disc ‘White Album,’ shown here on the Apple record label in its 33.3 rpm vinyl version.
In late August 1968, as the Beatles continued their studio work on the White Album – most of which was done at the Abbey Road studios in London – the work on “Dear Prudence” began. The work on this song, took place over a three-day period at Trident Studios in London. This studio had new eight-track recording equipment, which the Beatles used on the “Dear Prudence” song. The basic track, recorded on this first day, featured Lennon on finger-picked guitar, George Harrison on lead guitar, and Paul McCartney on drums, as Ringo Starr had temporarily left the group. On the following day, McCartney recorded a bass part, and Lennon manually double-tracked his lead vocals and backing vocals. Handclapping and tambourine were performed by McCartney and Harrison with other contributions from others at the studio. On the final day of recording, McCartney added a piano track and a very brief flügelhorn section. “Dear Prudence,” of course, was only one of many songs on the White Album. The Beatles and their studio producer, George Martin, continued with work on the full album. The finished, two-disc White Album with 30 songs – double anything the Beatles had done in previous albums – was not released in the U.S. and U.K. until late November 1968. In the U.S. by then, Richard Nixon had been elected to his first term as president.
Sheet music cover for the Beatle’s ‘Dear Prudence.’
“Dear Prudence,” meanwhile, was not released as a single. It was likely first heard on the radio airwaves in late November and early December of 1968 as the album began to receive play on FM radio stations and through individual sales. On the album, “Dear Prudence” directly follows and bleeds in from the first song on side one, “Back in the U.S.S.R,” a more raucous tune, which at its ending has “jet landing” sounds that run over the early acoustic guitar lead for “Dear Prudence.”
In the U.K., the White Album debuted at No. 1 on December 1st,1968, spending a total of eight weeks at the top of the U.K. charts and holding in the Top Ten for another four weeks. In the U. S., the album debuted at No.11, reaching No. 1 in its third week, spending nine weeks there and remaining on the Billboard 200 album chart for 155 weeks. The White Album sold more than 1 million copies in its first two weeks on the market. In the U.S., it became the Beatles’ all- time best-selling album at “19 times platinmum” — i.e., selling 19 million copies and ranking tenth among all best-selling U.S. albums.
“Dear Prudence,” meanwhile, has had its fans over the years, one of whom was fellow musician Jerry Garcia, a founder of the famed Grateful Dead rock group. Garcia is said to have marked the song as one of his all-time personal favorites. Starting around 1979, his Jerry Garcia Band was known to have covered the song regularly at concerts until Garcia’s death in 1995. The song also appeared on the 1991 album, Jerry Garcia Band. The Garcia performance version of “Dear Prudence” – as with much music in “the Grateful Dead tradition” and their 1970s-era style – was often extended and improvised, some exceeding ten minutes.
Prudence Farrow …Since 1968
After India, Prudence Farrow went on to teach TM for about 37 years. She also received a BA, MA and PhD in South and Southeast Asian studies from University of California at Berkeley and raised three children – and now four grandchildren. Prudence Farrow also worked in film production, with credits including The Muppets Take Manhattan of 1984 and The Purple Rose of Cairo of 1985, with Mia Farrow and director Woody Allen. She also conceived and co-produced the 1994 film Widow’s Peak. In this latter film – set in an Irish town of the 1920s – Prudence’s mother, actress Maureen O’Sullivan, was initially intended to play the role of Miss O’Hare. However, O’Sullivan declined due to her advanced age with the part going instead to O’Sullivan’s daughter and Prudence’s sister, Mia. The late Natasha Richardson was also in that film.
“Dear Prudence” has also been covered by a range of other groups. English post-punk/ alternative rock band, Siouxsie & the Banshees, released their version of “Dear Prudence” in 1983, a song that became one of that group’s biggest hits, peaking at No. 3 on the U.K. singles chart. In commercial advertising, Cellular South, a wireless phone company based in Mississippi, began using portions of a “Dear Prudence” cover version for a TV commercial in mid-2008.
“Dear Prudence” memorabilia has come to the fore in at least one instance. In 1987, nearly 20 years after the song first appeared, Lennon’s original handwritten copy of the 14 lines of verse from “Dear Prudence,” was sold at auction to an unidentified investor for $19,500. Prudence Farrow, meanwhile, would work as an elementary school teacher along with her husband, both continuing to practice transcendental meditation (see box). For the Beatles, the trip to India and what had preceded it — including Brian Epstein’s death — began a process of unraveling that would lead to the group’s demise. Athough India had provided them with a temporary spur to their musical output, differences and strains within the group had become apparent during the White Album recording sessions; differences that would lead to the Beatles’ break up in 1970.
Article Citation: Jack Doyle, “Dear Prudence, 1967-1968,” PopHistoryDig.com, July 27, 2009.
Sources, Links & Additional Information
In 1968, the Beatles also released their animated film, ‘Yellow Submarine,’ previewed above with two Beatle characters on an early cover of a new music magazine named ‘Rolling Stone’– this being the magazine’s 9th issue of April 27, 1968.
Steve Turner, A Hard Day’s Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song, New York: Harper Paperbacks, updated edition, 2005.
Search “Beatle bootlegs” for: “The Beatles – Acoustic Masterpieces – The Esher Demos.”
Charles Reid, “Ravi Shankar and …The Beatles Put the Sitar on the ‘Pop’ Map Overnight,” The New York Times Magazine, May 7, 1967.
Sydney Gruson, “Beatles Put Off India Pilgrimage; TV Special Gets Nod Over Discipleship in Meditation,” New York Times, September 11, 1967, p. 53.
Associated Press, “Mia Farrow Plans Meditation in India,” New York Times, October 5, 1967.
“The Prophet the Beatles Follow Is Without Honor in His Own Country,” Washington Post, Times Herald, November 4, 1967, p. A-7.
“India Mystic Delivers Peace – For a Price; Guru Counts The Beatles Among His Disciples, Expects Them Next Year,” Los Angeles Times, December 15, 1967, p. A-1.
Barney Lefferts, “Chief Guru of the Western World; Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Who Numbers the Likes of Shirley Maclaine, Mia Farrow and the Beatles Among His Followers…,”The New York Times Magazine, December 17, 1967.
Joseph Lelyveld, “Beatles’ Guru Is Turning Them Into Gurus With a Cram Course,” New York Times, February 23, 1968, p. 13.
William F. Buckley, Jr., “The Guru or the Gospel?,” Los Angeles Times, March 1, 1968, p. A-5.
“Beatles Cable For British Food,” Washington Post, Times Herald, March 5, 1968, p. A-13.
Dan L. Thrapp, “Bishop Pike, Beatles Cited; Noted Cleric Criticizes Resurgence of Spiritism,” Los Angeles Times, March 7, 1968, p. B-6.
William F. Buckley, Jr., “The Beatles & the Guru,” National Review, March 12, 1968.
Dan L. Thrapp, “New Beliefs Traced to Faith Crisis; Christianity Lags, So Men Turn to Yogi, Cleric Says…,” Los Angeles Times, March 24, 1968, p. L-4.
Cover Story, “Here’s The Scene: The Beatles, Mia Farrow and a Post Reporter All Gather in India to Meditate with The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi,” Inside: “There Once Was a Guru from Rishikesh (Part 1),” Saturday Evening Post, May 4, 1968.
“There Once Was a Guru From Rishikesh (Part 2),” Saturday Evening Post, May 18, 1968.
“Yogi’s Posters Are Taken Down,” Washington Post, Times Herald, May 20, 1968, p. A-14.
“India Gives Culture, Gets Dollars,” New York Times, July 31, 1968, p. 43.