It is very difficult to fully comprehend the magnitude of what was called “Beatlemania” when it swept North America in 1964 but there are ways to get some kind of an idea of what it was all about. The following are a bunch of books, DVDs and records to get you in the mood.
The first, most obvious place to start is with “Meet the Beatles.” Now, normally I would recommend sticking with the more superior British version of Beatles albums found on CD but really, if you want to be authentic, or at least as authentic as you could possibly be in this day and age, a vinyl copy of “Meet the Beatles” is the only way to go.
Once you have “Meet the Beatles” playing on the Hi Fi, I recommend a couple of first rate books to get an in depth feel for the whole phenomenon. The first would be “Love Me Do. The Beatles’ Progress” by Michael Braun. A sadly overlooked gem that John Lennon himself praised as being the most realistic look at The Beatles when he said “A true book. He wrote how we were, which was bastards.” Excellent stuff. The next book is “Our hearts went boom : the Beatles’ invasion of Canada” by Brian Kendall. A great little book that I picked up at the bargain bin of Chapters Bookstore, “Our Hearts Went Boom” covers all The Beatles’ appearances in Canada from 1964 to 1966. An interesting fact was that when they came to Montreal, Ringo had received a death threat against him for being “an English Jew” which as Ringo has pointed out he is not in fact Jewish. Ringo was so nervous throughout his Montreal stay that the band opted to fly out after the show instead of staying overnight just to play it safe. Montreal shares the wonderful distinction of threatening a Beatle, blowing up the Rolling Stones sound truck in 1972 and spitting on Roger Waters during a Pink Floyd tour here causing him to re-assess his commitment to rock and roll and Pink Floyd and ultimately write “The Wall.” The next book I would recommend is the brand new “The Beatles Are Coming: The Birth of Beatlemania in America” by Bruce Spizer, which covers the American angle of Beatlemania. I haven’t actually read it yet but Spizer is such a prolific and knowledgeable writer on all things Beatles that I have no hesitation in recommending his newest book. The last book you should look at is “Ticket to Ride” by Larry Kane. An inside look at the Beatles’ 1964 tour by the only authorized journalist, it provides a fascinating and sometimes sad portrayal of what was happening behind the scenes.
Finally, put “Meet the Beatles” away and pop “The Beatles – The First U.S. Visit” in the DVD. I saw the original VHS version some time ago and it was absolutely riveting. Even if you don’t like The Beatles this fly on the wall documentary is so fascinating to watch as you get to watch people like Murray the “K” in full rock and roll glory in the studio of radio station WINS. After you are finished with “The First U.S. Visit” gather the family around and pop in “Ed Sullivan Presents the Beatles” and sit back and pretend you were there. Kind of hard, granted but the DVDs include the complete shows plus commercials so it will give you more than a taste.
True, Beatlemania was a lot of hype but unlike these days, there was actual substance behind it and the music still stands up to this day. After taking this little primer in Beatlemania, it’s pretty hard not to get swept away in it all and you have got to admit that it feels kind of nice. Come on, sing along with me “We love The Beatles, oh yes we do….”