It’s been almost 50 years since the British Invasion – of music, that is. On February 9, 1964, the Beatles made their iconic first appearance in front of an American TV audience on the Ed Sullivan Show, kicking off a massively successful coast-to-coast tour. The Beatles found throngs of new American fans in 1964, including a huge surprise crowd at JFK Airport when they first arrived. But in the first report on the band’s success to air on American television, just a few months earlier in November of 1963, NBC’s Edwin Newman was more skeptical about the band’s ability to make the jump to US fame. Newman introduced the band to American audiences by saying they were “not a collection of insects, but a quartet of young men with pudding bowl haircuts.” He went on to say that it was anybody’s guess why the Beatles emerged from Liverpool to national prominence in the UK, “but emerge they did” and described their so-called ‘Mersey sound’ as ‘somewhat strange’. But despite Newman’s reserve about the band, his report captured the true phenomenon they were in the UK by 1963, including audio interludes of screaming British fans meeting the band around the country. Newman did acknowledge rumors that the Beatles had designs on United States success, but quickly added “to which it may be rejoined, ‘show us no Mersey.’” Unfortunately for Newman, the Beatles – along with screaming fans – would emerge across the Atlantic just three months later.
No video of NBC’s 1963 report has survived, but you can listen to the original audio recording, paired with classic Beatles footage from throughout their career, in the clip below, courtesy of NBC Universal Archives (www.nbcuniversalarchives.com, @NBCUArchives). And don’t miss more Beatles videos and other exclusive NBC News clips on our archives website.
Courtesy NBC Universal Archives (www.nbcuniversalarchives.com).