On February 9, 1964, the Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show, reaching an audience of over 70 million.
Overnight, America emerged from post-Dallas national mourning, thanks to the upbeat musical ministrations of those four loveable strangers from Liverpool.
One minute, no one had even heard of the Beatles; the next, thousands of hysterical girls spontaneously descended upon New York’s newly rechristened JFK International Airport to welcome the quartet.
“Beatlemania,” we called it.
The U.S. had never seen anything like it — and neither had the English, who promptly press-ganged more guitar groups to mount a “British invasion.”
The fiftieth anniversary of this epochal night in pop culture has prompted a flurry of books, think pieces and TV specials, all repeating the above received wisdom by rote.
The truth, as always, isn’t quite so pat.
In fact, some of this potted history is just plain wrong.