'The Beatles Are Coming!'

The Early Show has been commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Beatles' first trip to America. The Fab Four took the country by storm with a series of performances on "The Ed Sullivan Show," including the version of "I Feel Fine," which they played in their final appearance.

The performance, which can be found on the new DVD called "The Four Ed Sullivan Shows Featuring The Beatles," has not been seen since it originally aired in 1964.

In the new book "The Beatles Are Coming!" Beatles author and historian Bruce Spizer meticulously details the British foursome's first visit to the United States, including events leading up to their arrival on Feb. 7, 1964.

Its 246 pages contain over 450 images, including many previously unpublished photos and documents.

The author tells The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith Capitol Records turned the group down four times before finally agreeing, in late November 1963, to release, "I Wanna Hold Your Hand."

Showing a the Silver Dollar Survey from WLS Chicago, Smith holding the magazine points out Dick Biondi was playing a Beatles record a year before Ed Sullivan.

Spizer says, "He played 'Please Please Me' right out of the box because he was good friends with Vee-Jay Records. Chicago was the only city that had significant air play. It was a top 40 hit, but ignored everywhere else. Sold about 5,000 copies." The small record labels, Vee-Jay and Swan, issued the group's records without success in 1963.

The book takes a look at American media coverage of the Beatles in November 1963, when Beatlemania was viewed as a curious fad happening in England that could never catch on in the United States.

A pivotal report, Spizer says, was by Walter Cronkite, "He aired this story on Dec. 10. And there was a 15-year-old girl who saw the show, liked it, wrote a letter to the disk jockey saying, 'Why can't we have music like this in America?' So the station got a British copy of 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand' and put it on the air. Capitol wasn't going to release it until later. They pushed the release date up because of Walter Cronkite and this girl the day after Christmas. Kids in New York have money. They go to the record store and buy it and within a week's time it's No.1 in New York. The same thing all over the United States."

The book also explains how the Beatles were booked for appearances on "The Jack Paar Show" and "The Ed Sullivan Show," as well as two concerts at Carnegie Hall. It concludes with stories and pictures of the Beatles' historic visit.

By Feb. 7, when the Beatles actually arrived in America, the group received quite a reception.

Spizer says, "They had been getting saturation air play for well over a month and the radio stations were encouraged by Capitol Records to tell the listeners: The Beatles will be arriving Feb. 7, 1964, 1:20 p.m. People show up, cut school to go see the Beatles."

Two days later, they appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show," and 73 million people were watching, thanks to all the publicity and news coverage.

Here is part of an interview reporter Josh Darsa did with the Beatles before the tour:

Darsa: Do you have any fears that your public will eventually get tired of you and move on to a new favorite?

John Lennon: They probably will. But, you know, depends how long it takes for them to get tired.

Paul McCartney: It's stupid to worry about things like that because…

George Harrison: It's not worth losing sleep for.

Paul McCartney: No. It could end tomorrow, and we could have quite a run.

John Lennon: We just hope we're going to have quite a run.

In researching the project, the author reviewed hundreds of documents and pictures. He also interviewed Walter Cronkite, former staff members of "The Ed Sullivan Show," employees of Carnegie Hall and others.
  • Tatiana Morales

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