Fifty years ago, the Beatles landed in the U.S., generating the biggest explosion rock & roll has ever seen. In the new issue of Rolling Stone (on stands Friday, January 3rd), contributing editor Mikal Gilmore examines just how the Fab Four arrived in the States facing media disdain and a clueless record label in the wake of the devastating assassination of John F. Kennedy — and still managed to conquer America.
On February 9th, 1964, Ed Sullivan famously intoned, "Tonight, the whole country is waiting to hear England's Beatles." Eight months later, the band had landed 28 records in Billboard's Hot 100 Singles chart (11 in the Top 10), seen 10 albums released worldwide and been introduced to marijuana by Bob Dylan. But the band's voyage from Liverpool to New York City in '64 was filled with far more apprehension and stress than relaxation and glee. Gilmore's story traces the band's early fears, label woes and other hardships that threatened to derail its journey. "They've got their own groups," Paul McCartney worried to Phil Spector on the plane. "What are we going to give them that they don't already have?" Lennon tempered his own concern with confidence: "We knew we would wipe you out if we could just get a grip," he later told Rolling Stone's Jann S. Wenner.