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Instant Expert: how the world caught Beatles fever

Float through any social event with M's fast facts. This week Rick Arthur remembers how pop music hysteria gripped the US and the British Invasion began 47 years ago next week.

THE BASICS "Beatlemania" described the fan frenzy surrounding The Beatles rock band. The hysteria, especially among teenage girls, began in early 1963 with the Liverpool lads' second UK single release, Please Please Me. The phenomenon spread to the United States when I Want to Hold Your Hand topped the US charts in late January 1964. The following month The Beatles - John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr - made their first visit to America, and the rest is music and pop culture history.

WHO SAID IT? Scottish music promoter Andi Lothian claims he coined the term "Beatlemania" in speaking to a reporter on October 7, 1963, at The Beatles concert in Caird Hall, Dundee.

SMART AND SMARTER The US television host Ed Sullivan saw a crush of Beatles fans at Heathrow Airport when the group returned from Stockholm in October 1963. He offered The Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, top dollar for a single appearance by the band on his Sunday night variety show, but Epstein wanted three shows at bottom dollar but with top billing. The first show, on February 9, 1964, is a milestone in pop culture and launched the British Invasion.

THE SET LIST The "mop tops" sang All My Loving, Till There Was You, She Loves You, I Saw Her Standing There and I Want to Hold Your Hand on the first Sullivan show. The broadcast drew an estimated 73 million viewers.

THE NUMBERS More than 3,000 screaming teenagers met The Beatles at Kennedy Airport in New York on February 7. More than 5,000 fans applied for the 750 tickets to the Sullivan show. Beatles T-shirts, sweat shirts, turtle-neck sweaters, tight trousers, scarves, jewellery, magazines, trading cards, lunch boxes, buttons, wigs and more hit the market and sold fast.

THE DISSENTING OPINION, PART ONE Decca Records executive Dick Rowe in London, saying: "We don't like their sound, and 'guitar music' is on the way out", famously turned down a chance to sign The Beatles in 1962.

THE DISSENTING OPINION, PART TWO Capitol Records, believing no British band could make it in the US, took nearly a year to release a Beatles single - then rushed it out three weeks ahead of schedule on January 20, 1964.

THE DISSENTING OPINION, PART THREE "Although my daughters loved The Beatles, I did not share their enthusiasm," said the CBS newsman Walter Cronkite, who first reported a Beatles story on US television on December 10, 1963. "I was offended by the long hair. Their music did not appeal to me either."

THE INVASION A wave of bands from the UK followed The Beatles into the US market. The groups ranged from the hard(er) rock of the Rolling Stones and the Kinks to the sugary pop of Gerry & the Pacemakers and Herman's Hermits.

THE RESULT Surf music, girl groups, Fats Domino, Chubby Checker, Elvis Presley, Ben E King, Smokey Robinson - all went into decline. It was, however, the beginning of garage bands.

THE YIN/YANG The Beatles had the No 1 hit of 1964 with I Want to Hold Your Hand, and the Stones had the top hit of 1965 with (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction. As the Invasion continued, music fans split into two camps: they favoured either the feel-good energy and innocence of The Beatles, or the darker, bluesier edginess of the Stones.

Rick Arthur is M magazine's deputy editor. He saw The Beatles in concert twice - at the Hollywood Bowl on August 30, 1965, and at Los Angeles Dodger Stadium on August 28, 1966. He was a wee lad. For more about music, past and present, check out www.thenational.ae/arts-culture/music

 

Five bands of the British Invasion

THE ANIMALS Eric Burdon's deep vocals and Alan Price's soulful organ riffs defined their bluesy sound. Their House of the Rising Sun remains a karaoke favourite. Burdon continues to perform solo.

DAVE CLARK FIVE An oddity in that the band leader played drums and was not the lead singer. They had 17 Top 40 US hits from 1964 to 1967.

HERMAN'S HERMITS Fronted by Peter Noone, the group supposedly inspired the made-for-television band (and the eponymous show) The Monkees. Noone has had many TV roles and also still performs in concert.

ROLLING STONES The bad boys of rock 'n' roll. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards came to rival Lennon and McCartney as songwriters. Satisfaction may be the greatest rock song ever. Still a force well into their 60s.

YARDBIRDS Eric Clapton was in the original R&B group, and was replaced by Jeff Beck. Jimmy Page later came aboard - so three of the world's greatest guitarists were in the band at one time or another. The Yardbirds morphed into Led Zeppelin, minus Beck, after Page brought in singer Robert Plant and others.

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