Their American debut remembered half a century on
The runaway success that the Beatles enjoyed in the United States seems all but inevitable in hindsight. By February 1964, when they finally “turned left at Greenland” and embarked nervously on a whirlwind tour of America’s East Coast, John, Paul, George, and Ringo had already taken Britain by storm — racking up a series of No. 1 singles, bringing an end to the dismal and austere 1950s, and giving voice to an embryonic “teen” culture that was searching in vain for idols at whom to scream. They had even played for the Queen.
And yet, even as the group was inciting hysteria and breaking countless hearts at home, EMI’s obstinate U.S. imprint, the then-minor-league Capitol Records, remained unimpressed. Bemused by the stories of screaming girls and befuddled policemen across the pond, the label’s powers concurred with a skeptical press corps that they were simply witnessing the Brits’ late and eccentric arrival to the charms of popular music. After all, America had already had Beatlemania. It was called Elvis.