Within nine days during the Beatles’ first visit, Americans had bought more than 2 million Beatles records and more than $2.5 million worth of Beatle-related merchandise.
The first products out were for impersonating the group-wigs (The Lowell Toy Company churned out 15,000 a day), jackets, and Beatle boots. There were: blue-and-white Beatles hats, Beatles T-shirts and beach shirts, tight-fitting Beatles pants, pajamas, and three-button tennis shirts, Beatles cookies and egg cups, Beatles rings, pendants, and bracelets, a pink plastic Beatles guitar with pictures of the group stamped on it, a variety of Beatles dolls, (inflatable figurines, 6-in. tall hard rubber figures, painted “bobble heads”), and a cake decoration in the form of the Beatles.
People snapped up Beatles nightshirts, countless Beatles publications, Beatles ice cream sandwiches (on the same day as the Beatles’ arrival, Baskin-Robbins put out a new flavor, “Beatle Nut”), Beatles soft drinks, AND Beatles bubble bath (encased within sturdy figures, that looked just like the group, and about the size of a ruler, more or less.)
Seltaeb (Beatles spelled backwards) was the American subsidiary of Stramsact, the British merchandising company (Remember Nicky Byrne, who made a 90% profit?). Under this branch, there were even plans for a Beatles motor scooter and a Beatles car. (In Aug. 1964, the original Seltaeb-NEMS contract was renegotiated; the Beatles’ take was increased from 10 to 46 percent.)
Not all were bitten by the “bug”; some adults disapproved of the new rage. The Herald-Tribune called the Beatles “75% publicity, 20% haircut, and 5% lilting lament.” Rev. Billy Graham watched the Beatles on Ed Sullivan (breaking a personal ban on Sunday TV viewing) and said that the performance revealed “All the symptoms of the uncertainty of the times and the confusion about us.” Ray Block, Ed Sullivan’s orchestra leader, predicted that they “wouldn’t last longer than a year.” Actor Noel Coward said, “I’ve met them. Delightful lads. Absolutely no talent.”
Most of the media, however, welcomed the group and Epstein. TIME-“The boys are the very spirit of good clean fun. They look like shaggy Peter Pans, with their mushroom haircuts and high white collars, and onstage they clown around endlessly.” The 1964 Yearbook of World Book Encyclopedia-“Rambunctious and irreverent sense of fun.” Yearbook of Collier’s Encyclopedia-“Little Lord Fauntleroys.” Newsweek-“A band of evangelists. And the gospel is fun.”
The Beatles scored other fantastic successes in America and England. “In His Own Write” by John Lennon was released shortly after their first tour. And “A Hard Day’s Night” was a HUGE summer hit. (There’ll be more on this in an upcoming “Spotlight”.)
In April 1964, the group held all top 5 positions on the U.S. charts, a feat that’s never been done before or since (to the best of my knowledge):
No. 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” In all, there were 12 (!) chart positions during this one month alone!
Here are a few brief Beatle stats, circa 1964:
John – Hair-Brown -Eyes-Brown -Height-5′ 11” -Weight-159 -Favorite Color-Green -Favorite Food-Corn Flakes -Hobby-Writing -Favorite Group-The Shirelles -Likes-Cats -Favorite Type of Girl-His wife (The first one, Cynthia, maiden name Powell, and the mother of Julian) -Brothers & Sisters-2 Stepsisters
Paul – Hair-Dark Brown -Eyes-Brown -Height-5′ 11” -Weight-158 -Favorite Color-Blue -Favorite Food-Roast Beef -Favorite Actress-Sophia Loren -Favorite Singer-Little Richard -Likes-Sleeping -Favorite Kind of Girl-Any kind -Brothers & Sisters-1 Brother ( who was also a singer for a while)
George – Hair-Dark Brown -Eyes-Hazel -Height-5′ 11” -Weight-142 -Favorite Color-Purple -Favorite Food-Hamburgers -Favorite Music-Hillbilly -Likes-Drive-in Movies -Favorite Type of Girl-Friendly -Brothers & Sisters-2 Brothers, 1 Sister
Ringo – Hair-Dark Brown -Eyes-Blue -Height-5′ 8” -Weight-136 -Favorite Color-Red -Likes-Science Fiction -Favorite Type of Girl-All types -Brothers & Sisters-None
The two left-handers were Paul and Ringo. Legend has it that the group’s TV debut in England was on the BBC show, “Teenager’s Turn” in 1962. They performed Roy Orbison’s “Dream Baby” (Pete Best on drums).
In August, the “Fab Four” returned to the U.S. for another series of concerts, (23 cities?) starting at the Cow Palace in San Francisco and ending a month later in New York with a charity benefit. And once again, wailing, screaming, hysteria, and total pandemonium ensued.
In New York, a brisk sale was reported in canned Beatles’ breath. In Denver, their bed linen was bought by a business consortium and placed, unwashed, in a maximum security bank vault. The sheets were then cut into 3-inch squares and sold at $10 per square, each one mounted on parchment and accompanied by a legal affadavit testifying to it once having been part of a Beatles’ bed.
There were even songs recorded by others about the new phenomenon.
Bonnie Jo Mason (who was actually Cher) had the novelty song “I Love You Ringo.” The Carefrees had a Top 40 hit with “We Love You Beatles” (no. 39). (There were countless others; I’ll have a more complete list upcoming for you!)
This wasn’t about the Beatles at all, but having “Ringo” for a song title (spoken word, actually, except for the chorus or backup) in 1964 certainly didn’t hurt actor Lorne Greene. It was a No. 1 smash!