Negative U.S. Press For The Beatles In 1964

The Beatles first came to the US in 1964 and they were greeted with great adulation. We remember their famous appearance on Ed Sullivan and the crowd of people waiting for them at the airport. We remember the screaming girls and the cheeky news conferences. But there was also a negative reaction to them too that isn’t remembered as often.

Much of the US press was very negative (or simply dismissive) towards the band. I’ve collected some of the best of the worst to share with you here.

Chet Huntley, NBC Evening News on February 7, 1964

Like a good little news organization, we sent three cameramen out to Kennedy airport today to cover the arrival of a group from England known as the Beatles. However, after surveying the film our men return with, and the subject of that film, I feel there is absolutely no need to show any of that film.

New York World Telegram Editorial on February 8, 1964

Having got rich off “teen-age lunacy” in their home stompings, these fantastic characters now have come to tap the jackpot – New York, Washington, Miami, American television. Their shrewdness in assaying a market is evidenced by the 4000 screaming, hookey-playing school-age adulators who swooned all over the airport when the Beatles arrived in New York.

These lads cultivate a vague allusion to being musicians, in a gurgling sort of way. They tote instruments, but blandly assure their fans they know not a note. (All their notes are in the bank.) Their production seems to be a haunting combination of rock ‘n’ roll, the shimmy, a hungry cat riot, and Fidel Castro on a harangue.

Anthony Burton, New York Daily News on February 11, 1964

It’s a relief from Cyprus and Malaysia and Viet Nam and racial demonstrations and Khrushchev. Best by troubles all around the globe, America has turned to the four young men with the ridiculous hair-cuts for a bit of light entertainment.

The Beatles know it. They know it’s a lot of nonsense and refuse to take themselves with the seriousness of those all around them . . . In another month America will have had its gigle and once more will be worrying about Castro and Khrushchev.

Newsweek on February 24, 1964

Visually they are a nightmare: tight, dandified Edwardian beatnik suits and great pudding-bowls of hair. Musically they are a near disaster: guitars and drums slamming out a merciless beat that does away with secondary rhythms, harmony and melody. Their lryics (punctuated by nutty shouts of yeah, yeah, yeah!) are a catastrophe, a preposterous farrago of valentine-card romantic sentiments.

45 Years Later…

Now it’s 45 years later and of course these negative reactions to The Beatles look extremely foolish. The Beatles remain relevant, popular, and influential today. As I posted earlier, their new remastered box set is the #1 bestseller on Amazon and the new Beatles themed video game is likely to be one of the biggest selling video games ever.

If you had told the writers of these negative articles how popular The Beatles would remain in 2009, they would have thought you were absolutely insane. Was music that was popular 1919 still popular in 1964? And yes, that’s the comparison. 1919 is to 1964 as 1964 is to 2009. Think about that. Mind = Blown.

2 thoughts on “Negative U.S. Press For The Beatles In 1964

  1. sarah

    What are your sources for these reactions? I want to use them for my research paper so sources would be greatly appreciated. Thanks and good finds!

    Reply

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