TODAY | January 27, 2014
>>> meanwhile, the surviving beatles played a big role in the show, as well. and kate, good morning to you.
>> good morning, matt. paul mccartney and ringo starr brought down the house with a surprise appearance together. yoko ono dancing in the aisles. they took home a lifetime achievement award five decades after their unexpected rise of fame in the u.s.
>> reporter: 50 years later, fans were cheering for the beatles all over again. and in los angeles last week, director david lynch 's foundation gave ringo a lifetime of peace and love award.
>> how great it would be if there was more peace and love .
>> words he'd like all of us to remember as we mark 50 years of the beatles .
>> can you believe it's been 50 years?
>> no. i'm 24.
>> aren't we all?
>> reporter: it's hard to imagine now, but back in the fall of 1963 , americans had no idea an invasion was coming.
>> "she loves you" soaring up the charts. extremely popular in the uk. people over here don't even know who you are.
>> george had come on holiday because his sister was living here and came back and said, oh, they don't know us.
>> reporter: the first newspaper word about the music, but the riots caused by beatles fans in europe. they dismissed the guys who look like limp, upsidedown dust mops.
>> not a collection of insights, but a quartet of young men with pudding bowl haircuts.
>> nbc did the first tv news report dripping with sarcasm.
>> one reason for the beatles popularity may be it's comparable to --
>> we were sort of the antibeatles network at the time in the u.s.
>> well, you've come around now.
>> do you forgive us?
>> i do.
>> the thing is, the deejays and teenagers didn't care what the parents thought. and when a 15-year-old girl in maryland asked her local deejay to play some beatles , a flight attendant friend smuggled a copy of "i wanna hold your hand" out of london. the deejay played that bootleg copy and shared it with deejays around the country.
>> we didn't have the internet, didn't have social media , but what we did have were television and radio. and those commanded really big audiences.
>> producer steve greenberg wrote about the beatles in his book "how the beatles went viral in '64."
>> the average teenager back in 1963 listened to the radio three hours a day. and so imagine kids listening to the radio stations and hearing over and over and over again over christmas vacation this incredible new sound that was the beatles .
>> they were funny. they annoyed our parents, which was a great thing.
>> reporter: at 13, penelope rowlands was one of the screaming girls who lived for the beatles . she papered her room with photos of george harrison .
>> i felt we were soul mates , you know. i could tell. i could tell he was my future husband. it was obvious.
>> now, here are the beatles .
>> reporter: the beatles went viral, so to speak, in just a matter of weeks. three of the beatles had never even been to america before. and now, they were flying to new york to be on the " ed sullivan show ."
>> it was like the uk, it was like france, it was like denmark. there's a lot of girls screaming at us.
>> had you been expecting that?
>> not really, no. we didn't know what to expect, really. and then the press --
>> are you going to get a haircut at all?
>> i had one yesterday.
>> they thought you were cheeky, people kept saying.
>> and long hair. man, it was down to here.
>> ladies and gentlemen , the beatles !
>> that first night on " ed sullivan ," 45% of americans who had tvs were watching. close your eyes and i'll kiss you
>> we were all crystallized in this moment. and it was like being a part of a big movement. and it gave us sort of an authority. we mattered.
>> the country had just come out of a horrible, dark depression triggered by the death of john kennedy . they wanted something new. this is the next thing. let the '60s begin.
>> in february, ringo's releasing a children's book based on his solo. you can hear a portion of his reading of that book as well as more of our interview on today.com.
>> were you totally star struck ?
>> i was. it was so exciting.
>> remember when he taught you to play the drums?
>> he tried to teach me.
>> he talked about that with me.
>> did he? what is the biggest difference, though, between the beatles coming here and the reaction they got and someone like one direction now when they come here and what you see in the crowds there.
>> i think because they get big real fast now, but then disappear real quick because we move on to the next.
>> nice kids, will we be talking about them in 50 years?
>> is their music going to change the world ?
>> yeah. and the newness of that phenomenon.