On the 7th February 1964, the Beatles visited the United States for the first time. Their welcome at New York’s Kennedy Airport by 3,000 screaming fans was unprecedented, even for a band that had already become accustomed to hordes of followers at home in Britain and in Europe. Within two days, their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show had put them in front of around 40% of the entire population of the country – an estimated 73 million people.
1963 had seen the release of the Beatles’ first two albums – Please Please Me and With the Beatles – as well as five number one singles including She Loves You and I Want to Hold Your Hand. The latter, released in the UK on the 29th November was kept from the number one spot for two weeks due to a resurgence in the popularity of She Loves You amidst the media storm that kick-started Beatlemania. A few weeks later, on the 26th December, I Want To Hold Your Hand became the first Capitol Records Beatles release in the USA, selling a quarter of a million copies in the first three days and finally hitting the number 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 on the 1st February.
The Beatles’ arrival in America six days later couldn’t have been any better timed, despite their Ed Sullivan Show appearance being booked before the single was even released. By the time they performed their first live concert to 20,000 fans at the Coliseum in Washington D.C. on the 11th February, Beatlemania had taken a firm grip on America.