The day The Beatles’ American invasion began. The Beatles’ Boeing 707, Pan Am flight 101, left London Airport early on the morning of 7 February 1964, bound for New York City.
All we knew was that a couple of the records had done well in the States. We believed there was still a huge mountain to climb if The Beatles were really to make it there.
At Heathrow there was pandemonium. Thousands of fans had arrived from all over Britain and any ordinary passengers hoping to travel that day had to give up. Screaming, sobbing girls held up ‘We Love You, Beatles’ banners and hordes of police, linking arms in long chains, held them back. We were ushered into a massive press conference, where journalists, spotting me at the side of the room, demanded a picture of John and me together. To my surpirse John agreed. He was usually careful to keep Julian and me away from publicity, but this time, carried along by the momentum of the whole thing, he agreed.
Minutes later we were ushered to the plane. At the top of the steps the boys waved to the packed airport terraces as the screams crescendoed.
It was so exciting. On the plane, flying in to the airport, I felt as though there was a big octopus with tentacles that were grabbing the plane and dragging us down into New York. America was the best. It was a dream, coming from Liverpool.
At first The Beatles found it hard to believe the reception at JFK was for them.
There were millions of kids at the airport, which nobody had expected. We heard about it in mid-air. There were journalists on the plane, and the pilot had rang ahead and said, ‘Tell the boys there’s a big crowd waiting for them.’ We thought, ‘Wow! God, we have really made it.’
Five thousand fans, mostly young girls, were crowded onto the upper balcony of the airport’s arrivals building, waving placards and banners to welcome the group. A further 200 reporters, photographers and cameramen from radio, television and the press were also clamoring for The Beatles’ attention.
It has since been reported that their American record company had promised that every person who turned up at the airport would be given a dollar bill and a t-shirt. What really happened was that the receptionists at Capitol Records would answer the phone, ‘Capitol Records – The Beatles are coming.’ There was a lot of mention on the radio, too: ‘The Beatles are coming!’ It was the people handling the Beatles merchandise at the time who were offering the free t-shirt. I had no idea about that at the time, and it was nothing to do with the record company.
The promotion was actually due to Seltaeb, The Beatles’ US merchandising organisation run by Nicky Byrne, which had been approved by Brian Epstein to oversee and collect the royalties for the group’s non-musical products in America.
Byrne had struck a deal with the WMCA and WINS radio stations, in which every fan who turned up at JFK would be given one dollar and a free Beatles t-shirt. Unbeknown to Byrne, Capitol had also arranged for posters and car stickers, bearing the legend ‘The Beatles are coming’, to be distributed throughout New York City.
Murray the K, a DJ at the 1010 WINS radio station, had announced the details of The Beatles’ flight number and time of arrival. The information was repeated by rival stations WABC and WMCA, which only increased the already feverish anticipation.