The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit

Forty years ago this month, John, Paul, George and Ringo landed in America and took the country by storm.

To mark the birth of Beatle-mania, their record company is re-releasing on DVD a documentary film of the Fab Four's invasion called, appropriately enough, "The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit." CBS News Correspondent Mark Phillips reports.

As nostalgic moments go, this one is right up there: Ed Sullivan announcing on his show, "The city never has witnessed the excitement stirred by these youngsters from Liverpool who call themselves The Beatles."

Frozen in time are the black-and-white images, Sullivan's sleek black hair, The Beatles' mop tops, the boppers and the screams.

On Feb. 9, 1964, America stopped to watch the musical phenomenon of the age: the Beatles singing, "Close your eyes and I'll kiss you. Tomorrow I'll miss you."

They are images and sounds that carry all of us back in time.

Sipping wine and watching his younger self singing on screen, Paul McCartney finishes the song: "And then while I'm away I'll write home every day and I'll send all my loving...to you. Bee do bee do."

Turning to Dan Rather, he asks, "Remember them? Good group."

Rather replies, "I'm old enough to remember them."

A couple of years ago, McCartney returned to the Ed Sullivan theatre with Dan Rather for an interview for "60 Minutes II."

Walking with Rather through the main aisle towards the stage, McCartney says, "I mainly remember it this way: the curtains open and seeing a lot of screaming girls."

"What were they screaming about?" Rather asks.

"You know, Dan, I think we were just so darn cute," McCartney replies.

And so darn smart: The Beatles weren't only good; they were self-promoting geniuses. For example, at a press conference they were asked: "How many of you have to wear those wigs?"

"All of us," Ringo replied. "I'm bald," McCartney added. "Don't tell anyone, please."

They were like nothing that had ever come before: a combination of talent, style and clever, confident irreverence.

They had timed this trip perfectly, holding off on coming to America until they had a good, solid No.1 hit. The Beatles may have wanted to simply "hold your hand," but they never let go. That was the first of 27 international No.1 hits.

Only when they were sure their fame had preceded them, only when they knew that the popular hysteria called Beatle-mania had crossed the Atlantic ahead of them, would they follow.

On the news. it was reported: "It goes by the code name Beatle-mania. "D" day has been common knowledge for months and this was the day."

McCartney recalls, "We came with absolute degree of success. And then with the 'Ed Sullivan Show,' you know, it was a huge viewing audience. We've arrived. We well and truly arrived."

Fans kept singing their songs.

McCartney says, "First, you know, to come to America was a dream because most of the music we loved, inspired us, came from here. So to come to the place where Elvis was born, to come to New York and to come to Detroit and places like that, it was like Mecca to us, you know."

But if ever the mountain came to Muhammad, it did on the "Ed Sullivan Show" that night.

McCartney says, "We knew it was Ed Sullivan. We knew he was the man. That was the big American show. We didn't know it was going to go down well. We're going to be good on it. And right before we started, one of the guys, one of the crews, he said, 'Are you nervous?' I said, 'No.' Bluffing. He said, 'Well, it's going out to 70 million viewers.' Oh, thank you, now I'm nervous."

And it's funny what you remember.

McCartney says, "I remember stupid things. I remember the way he [Ed Sullivan] said Miami Beach."

When they first traveled across America, there may have been one or two people who didn't know the Beatles. But by the time of their final appearance, they were on the Sullivan show for three consecutive weeks, you would have had to have been living in a hole in the ground not to have known them. And remember them singing: "Shake it, shake it, shake it baby."

The world of pop music had been shaken up like never before.

And everybody was shouting.
  • Tatiana Morales

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