SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — On August 18, 1964, the Fab Four, better known as The Beatles, arrived in San Francisco to start their first-ever North American tour. Fifty years on, the social phenomenon known as “Beatlemania” is still the stuff of legend.
After John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr exploded into American living rooms on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in February of 1964, there was no turning back.
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By the spring of ’64, the British invaders sporting mop top-style haircuts held the top five slots in the Billboard Hot 100. That hadn’t happened before and still hasn’t since.
For youngsters like Denise McKevitt Rasmussen of San Francisco, The Beatles were “it.”
“Life was Catholic School and pretty much The Beatles,” she said. Naturally, she had a favorite. “Oh, of course Paul, because he was just so cute with that sparkle in his eye and that sweet smile when he sang.”
By that summer, Beatlemania was reaching a fevered pitch. The band launched a month-long blitz of North America: 32 shows in 33 days with the first stop being the Cow Palace in Daly City.
The top pop music stations of the time, such as KEWB, were fully revved-up. Their reporters were at San Francisco International Airport to greet The Beatles when they arrived.
Not that fans like Terry O’Brien needed any more encouragement. “They used to have a record store on Geneva and Mission called The Record Breaker and everybody was running down there to get their 45s,” she said.
The band’s Pan-Am flight to San Francisco included stops in Winnipeg and Los Angeles, where 2,000 fans and a crush of reporters waited.
A chaotic news conference produced no real news and then it was on to San Francisco where 9,000 frantic fans at SFO awaited along with even more madness in the city.
“When they got to the Hilton, it was insane,” said Larry Kane, a journalist who traveled with The Beatles. “All these police officers in 1964 had never seen anything like it.”
Things would get even crazier the next night, when the tour actually opened at the Cow Palace. We’ll have that story in the next part of our series tomorrow.