American Beatlemania - Memorabilia from the British Invasion
Back in 1964, this was an important week for The Beatles.****On February 7, they arrived in the New York for the first time, full of doubt about America’s potential reaction to them. February 9 was the first of three appearances on the Ed Sullivan show that cemented their popularity with the American public.
What followed was a revolution that none of them could have predicted, not just the onset of international Beatlemania, but also the start of the widespread musical and cultural ‘British Invasion’ of the United States.
The US press looked down at the Beatles, believing them to be simply copycats of the Memphis music scene that had been going strong for years. To a certain extent, the Beatles themselves reflected this belief, having idolised Elvis Presley from the off, and were unsure that they had anything to offer the American public (who also made fun of their haircuts). But with the release of I Want to Hold Your Hand in mid January, sparked by a single radio request from a 15 year old girl to play The Beatles that escalated across the country, their U.S. fanbase grew. One millions copies sold within ten days, and so when the Beatles arrived in New York, they had a throng of four thousand fans waiting for them.
Their February 9 appearance on the Ed Sullivan show was watched by an estimated 45% of American TV viewers. This seminal moment in music history projected them into a wider sphere of awareness and popularity than they had ever thought possible. They went on to appear again on the show the following week on February 16, and again on February 23. These appearances doubtless encouraged the spreading Beatlemania, and the consequent British Invasion.
The Beatles came back to the US in August 1964, August 1965, and August 1966. Throughout this time, the British Invasion – the popularity of British musical acts and culture that sent shockwaves through America during the 1960s – was in full swing.
Capitol Records had refused to issue earlier singles Please Please Me and From Me To You in 1963, so Vee-Jay Records issued them. Swan Records had released She Loves You in 1963, with little success. These singles are now rare and sought after. Capitol released I Want To Hold Your Hand to great acclaim just prior to The Beatles’ first US tour. After their surprising success, all these record labels wanted a piece of the action.
Introducing…The Beatles, their first US album, was the band’s debut British album reworked for the American public. It was first issued by Vee-Jay on January 10, 1964, 10 days before Capitol’s Meet the Beatles! Capitol Records and Vee-Jay were involved in a legal dispute as a result. The outcome was that from 10 October 1964, all rights were handed over to Capitol.
Before this date Vee-Jay also issued an interview album ‘Hear the Beatles Tell All’, and two re-workings of ‘Introducing…The Beatles’. One was ‘Songs, Pictures and Stories of the Fabulous Beatles’. The other was an unusual LP called ‘The Beatles Vs The Four Seasons’.
Early Vee-Jay albums, as well as Swan singles, are rare and command high prices on the collectors market. The Vee-Jay single of Please Please Me, released in February 1963, had the misspelling 'Beattles' which was later corrected. The incorrect examples are therefore rare and sought after.
American Beatles records released in 1964 other than those by Capitol included ‘The Beatles with Tony Sheridan & Guests’ released by MGM, and the American release of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ by United Artists.
Capitol themselves released several albums in 1964, and continued to do so until 1967. After this, the albums were released worldwide on Apple Records, the Beatles’ own record label.
By this point, the Beatles had grown so popular that the famous vision of a mob of hysterical screaming and weeping teenage girls was the one that met them at every concert. In the early days of their British fame, anyone could have walked up to the backstage door and got them to sign albums.
But in America, it was almost impossible to get near them. Therefore signed American album covers are a rarity.
US Tour memorabilia
There are an abundance of photographs of the Beatles in America, whether taken by professional photographers or by the fans.
A silhouette photograph of the band taken by Mike Mitchell at their first US concert tour sold for $361,938 at Christie’s in July 2011. Stan Wayman also took photographs at their very first concert in America at the Washington Coliseum on February 11, 1964.
Even images of the crowds, the adoring fans, the hysterical girls, are desirable to collectors as a memento of the early days of Beatlemania.
There are some photographs from the Ed Sullivan Show. Photographs of the band’s second appearance on the show, when they met Muhammad Ali – especially signed ones – are valuable.
The majority of photographs from the Beatles US tours are in black and white, but a rare selection of unpublished colour photographs from their first tour of the US will be auctioned by Omega Auctions in March 2013.
Tickets, posters, magazines and other ephemera from The Beatles’ US concerts are extremely sought after, and some items can sell for several hundred or into the thousands. These can often be found on eBay and at auction. A Washington Coliseum ticket stub dating from February 11 1964, their first live concert in America, sold for $1,300 at Heritage Auctions in July 2011.
The Beatles manager Brian Epstein was somewhat naive about the power of merchandising. He set up a group in America called Seltaeb (Beatles backwards) to handle the business of merchandise for him.
Seltaeb licensed over 150 different items of Beatles merchandise. Dolls, scarves, mugs, bath water, wigs, t-shirts, bubble gum, licorice, empty cans containing ‘Beatle Breath’, badges, wigs, egg cups, plates, clothing and more. These were extremely popular, yet due to bad management The Beatles made little or no money from them.
These early items of American merchandise are now popular collectors’ items.
The modern Beatles merchandise market continues to thrive, as their timeless appeal lends itself to all manner of novelty items.
Tips for collectors
It is likely that much memorabilia related to The Beatles in America is still in the possession of those that were there in the midst of the British Invasion – the hysterical girls in the crowds for example. It is worth keeping an eye out, as these veteran fans may pass their collections on one day.
Otherwise, head to eBay and other internet trading platforms to find items related to Beatlemania in the US.