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50 years of The Beatles: celebrating Beatlemania in America

Feb. 7, 2014 at 9:29 PM ET

The Beatles, from left, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr on drums, George Harrison and John Lennon, perform on the "The Ed Sullivan Show" in New York on Feb. 9, 1964.
Dan Grossi / AP
The Beatles (from left) Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr on drums, George Harrison and John Lennon perform on the "The Ed Sullivan Show" in New York on Feb. 9, 1964.

The Beatles first invaded the United States 50 years ago on Feb. 7, 1964, with the British band's arrival at New York’s JFK International Airport. Two days later, the Fab Four performed on "The Ed Sullivan Show" to a television audience of 70 million people — most of them screaming young girls and their alarmed parents.

Here are some of the concerts, exhibits and other events marking the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' arrival in America.

New York City
On Friday, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which operates JFK International Airport, will unveil a historical marker at the landmark TWA Flight Center paying tribute to The Beatles’ arrival and first press conference in the United States.

Through May 10, the New York Public Library and the Grammy Museum are hosting an exhibition of over 400 Beatles-related items titled "Ladies and Gentlemen…The Beatles!" at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. The exhibit includes original lyric sheets, handwritten set lists, guitars, vintage film footage, photographs, interactive displays and clothing worn by the band members. 

"As social history, Beatlemania turned America upside down, inspiring new ideas in music, fashion, art, literature, film, even politics,” said exhibition curator Bob Santelli, executive director of The GRAMMY Museum. “Little in America was untouched by The Beatles in the 1960s, and this exhibit explores that impact, using historical film footage, oral histories, and period artifacts."

Elsewhere in the city, there will be a series of concerts and numerous events connected to The Fest, a Beatles convention featuring performances and memorabilia taking place this weekend at The Grand Hyatt. The Plaza Hotel, where the Fab Four stayed upon their arrival, is offering three special cocktails ($23 each) through this month: Norwegian Wood, Strawberry Fields and Drive My Side Car.

Cleveland
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum will feature film screenings, music-listening sessions, family programs and curator-led gallery talks in the permanent Beatles exhibit, which includes about 70 artifacts. The museum will also unveil John Lennon’s Rickenbacker guitar, which he purchased to play during The Beatles' second appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

Cast members from "The Beatles LOVE" by Cirque du Soleil perform in “The Night That Changed America: A GRAMMY Salute to The Beatles,” a television special airing Feb. 9.
Courtesy Cirque du Soleil
Cast members from "The Beatles LOVE" by Cirque du Soleil perform in “The Night That Changed America: A GRAMMY Salute to The Beatles,” a television special airing Feb. 9.

Las Vegas
Cast members from “The Beatles LOVE” by Cirque du Soleil perform two acts in “The Night That Changed America: A GRAMMY Salute to The Beatles,” a TV special airing Feb. 9, but visitors to Las Vegas can see the live theatrical production featuring the music and voices of the Fab Four any Thursday through Monday evening at The Mirage in Las Vegas.

Seattle
This weekend, the EMP Museum of music and popular culture will be displaying Ringo Starr’s Millings Collarless Jacket (circa 1963), showing Beatles concert footage on the giant Sky Church screen and inviting visitors to play The Beatles Rock Band video game on a stage. As it does year-round, The Edgewater Hotel offers a “Romance, Beatles Style” package that includes a night in the waterfront suite where The Beatles stayed in 1964 — and famously fished from the window.

Los Angeles
On Sunday, as part of the Beatles Hollywood 50 celebration, the Hollywood Walk of Fame stars of John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, which are all in front of the Capitol Records Tower Building, will be decorated with flowers and memorabilia. The event will include a special “Beatles 50” cake, music tributes and “a special cleaning and polishing of all the Fab Four's individual Walk of Fame stars,” said event organizer Jerry Rubin.

Harriet Baskas is the author of seven books, including "Hidden Treasures: What Museums Can't or Won't Show You," and also writes the Stuck at the Airport blog. Follow her on Twitter at @hbaskas.

Video: Here’s what happened five decades ago on Nightly News when the Beatles arrived in the U.S. for the first time.


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