There was a cultural revolution in the 1960s. It was probably the biggest and fastest change in the way the youth in America dressed, wore their hair, music they listened to, and rebellious attitude towards "The Establishment," meaning the older generation and the government. The Beatles were just the beginning of the shift.
On February 7, 1964, Pan Am Yankee Clipper flight 101 from London Heathrow landed at New York's Kennedy Airport, and "Beatlemania" arrived. It was the first visit to the United States by the Beatles, a British rock-and-roll group that had just scored its first No. 1 U.S. hit six days before with "I want to Hold Your Hand." The "Fab Four," dressed in mod suits along with their trademark bowl haircuts, were greeted by 3,000 screaming fans who caused a near riot when the group stepped off the plane.
Two days later, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, and George Harrison made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show which was aired in black and white. The audience was packed with screaming teenage girls and made it hard for the estimated 73 million television viewers to hear their performance. Sullivan immediately booked the Beatles for two more appearances that month. The group made its first public concert appearance on February 11 at the Coliseum in Washington, DC with 20,000 fans in attendance. The next day, they gave two back-to-back performances at New York's Carnegie Hall, and police were forced to close off the streets around the music hall because of chaotic fan hysteria. On February 22, they returned to England.
The Beatles' first American tour left a major imprint on the nation's cultural memory. From the big band music of the early 1950s through Doo Wop in the middle of the decade into the Rockability of the late 50s, teenagers of the mid 60s were poised to break away from the more rigid landscape. The Beatles, with their new sound and good-natured rebellion, were the perfect catalyst for the shift.
Their singles and albums sold millions, and at one point in April 1964 all five best-selling U.S. singles were Beatles songs. By the time they released their first feature film, "A Hard Day's Night," Beatlemania was epidemic the world over. In August 1964, the four boys from Liverpool returned to the United States for their second tour and played to sold out arenas across the country.
The Beatles gave up touring to concentrate on their innovative studio recordings, such as 1967s Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, a psychedelic concept album that is regarded as a masterpiece of popular music. The Beatles' music remained relevant throughout the great cultural shifts of the 1960s, and critics of all ages acknowledge the songwriting genius of the Lennon-McCartney team.
In 1970, the Beatles left a legacy of 18 albums and 30 Top 10 U.S. singles to pursue solo careers.
As a side note... This author saw the Beatles on September 22, 1964 at Memorial Auditorium in Dallas, Texas. We could barely hear because of all the non-stop screaming. I am not sure we will ever see anything like "Beatlemania" again.