The Beatles are Coming! The Birth of Beatlemania in America

The Beatles are Coming! The Birth of Beatlemania in America, by Bruce Spizer

Description (from back cover):

HERE AT LAST is the complete story of the birth of Beatlemania in America. The Beatles Are Coming! details the incredible events of the group’s first U.S. visit …. The book also explores the chain of events leading up to the visit, debunking myths and telling what really went on in America in 1963 and early 1964.

Inside you will learn …

  • Why Capitol Records turned down the Beatles four times before agreeing to release the group’s records.
  • How the Beatles ended up on Vee-Jay, an independent Chicago-based label that specialized in gospel and R&B recordings….
  • What prompted Ed Sullivan to book the Beatles on his show at a time when the group was virtually unknown in America….
  • Who was responsible for causing Beatlemania to explode in America weeks ahead of schedule.

Over 450 images, all in full color or original black & white, including many previously unpublished photographs and documents.

The back cover includes comments about the book from CBS News anchorman Walter Cronkite, Capitol Records president Alan Livingston, and Apple Records manager Ken Mansfield.


I purchased a paperback copy of this book at Beatlefest Chicago in 2009. I got it signed by the author:

My copy includes an additional ‘Special Bonus’ insert page which includes a color photo of The Beatles performing at Carnegie Hall. The insert explains that licensing for including the photo in the book came too late for the initial printing of the book. So, the insert was arranged to include the color photo with an adhesive backing and instructions on where to properly place the photo in the book (on the title page of the chapter named February 12, 1964 [the date of The Beatles’ concerts at Carnegie Hall]).

The Foreword of the book was written by Walter Cronkite. He describes how he first learned of The Beatles, his participation in The Beatles’ coming to America, his family meeting The Beatles, and, of course, his opinion of The Beatles and of that time in history. It’s impressive that Spizer was able to get Cronkite to write the foreword of the book; after all, Walter Cronkite was considered the most-trusted man in America.

A prologue, titled It’s Been a Long, Long, Long Time …, briefly describes Spizer’s introduction to The Beatles before discussing his mindset while writing this book. Including sections entitled “Timing is So Important”-Brian Epstein, The Time Compression Factor, and Time Capsules, this prologue explains why Spizer includes or omits various accounts in the book, in his effort to present the truth about what transpired when The Beatles came to America, even if such truth contradicts what might have been presented in other Beatle books.

Bruce Spizer (http://www.beatle.net/meet-bruce-spizer/bruceinwashingtondc/)

The book begins with a chapter titled February 7, 1964, which briefly describes highlights of The Beatles’ first day in America. The second chapter jumps back one year to February 7, 1963 (the title of this chapter) and discusses events leading up to that day’s U.S. release of the “Please Please Me“/”Ask Me Why” single on Vee-Jay Records. Subjects covered include how The Beatles ended up on Vee-Jay, initial attempts to release the single on other labels, and preparations, including manufacturing and advertising, for the release of the Vee-Jay single. The chapter includes sections entitled A Brief History of Capitol Records, A Brief History of Vee-Jay Records-The First Decade, and The Recording of the First Two Beatles Singles (the information in these sections are covered in much more depth in author Spizer’s other books). The chapter also features many pictures of related documents and labels and includes tidbits of interesting trivia.

The next chapter is titled February 11, 1963 and covers the major Beatle event of that important day: the recording of ten tracks for PLEASE PLEASE ME, The Beatles’ debut album. I was impressed with the detail of the description of the session, believing that compared to the information provided by Mark Lewisohn in his The Beatles Recording Sessions book. This chapter includes a picture of the album’s cover and label and also labels and related photos of the many songs covered by The Beatles on PLEASE PLEASE ME.

The Beatles Recording Sessions (http://www.paperbackswap.com/Beatles-Recording-Sessions-Mark-Lewisohn/book/0517581825/)

February 22, 1963 is the title of the next chapter. It focuses on the release of the “Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me” singles in Canada and shows how Capitol Records of Canada promoted the singles by use of its Sizzle Sheet flyer. The chapter includes two sections, The First Decade of Capitol Records of Canada and The First North American Airplay of The Beatles?, and photos of related releases.

The May 6, 1963 chapter also discusses Canadian activity of the next Beatles single and includes information reaching from the composition of “From Me to You” in February through the recording of the single in March, its release in England in April and in the U.S. in May, the U.S. release of Del Shannon‘s version in June, and chart activity of both The Beatles’ and Del’s versions in the U.S. through September. I thought it was interesting to see that some promo copies of The Beatles’ version were stamped ‘THE ORIGINAL HIT’, alluding to this being the second version to chart (after Del Shannon’s recording).

The chapter titled June 22, 1963 details the manufacture and release of INTRODUCING… THE BEATLES, their first U.S. album, by Vee-Jay Records. The chapter includes a section that describes How Records are Made and another that shows that slicks for the album’s cover were prepared at the same time as another Vee-Jay (unreleased) album, YOUNG PEOPLE’S INTRODUCTION TO HEBREW MUSIC … PRESENTED BY CANTOR SAMUEL VIGODA AND THE OSCAR JULIUS CHOIR.

Chapter August 8, 1963 discusses how release rights of Beatles recordings changed from Vee-Jay Records to Capitol Records. Unfortunately, Capitol’s A&R man wasn’t interested in The Beatles; a section included in this chapter, entitled Dave Dexter: The Man Who Kept Turning Down The Beatles, shows how he was more interested in recordings by Frank Ifield than in anything by The Beatles.

The next chapter is titled September 16, 1963, which is considered the date on which the “She Loves You” single was released in the U.S. by Swan Records. The chapter discusses the history of that record company and the history of the single’s tracks. What I thought was most interesting about this chapter was the section entitled George Harrison’s Reconnaissance Mission, which detail’s George‘s visit to the U.S. September, 1963, and refers to Jim Kirkpatrick’s excellent book Before He Was Fab.

Before He Was Fab (http://www.paperbackswap.com/Before-Fab-George-Jim-Kirkpatrick/book/1889899054/)

The chapter titled November 15, 1963 discusses American media coverage of Beatlemania in Time, Newsweek, and Life magazines, The New York Times newspaper, and television networks. The chapter includes details of the report made on the CBS network. The following chapter, November 22, 1963, details the CBS coverage of the assassination of John Kennedy and includes a section about the claim that Kennedy’s death led to The Beatles’ popularity in the U.S.

I thought the chapter titled December 4, 1963 was fascinating. That was the date on which a press release from Capitol Records announced the company’s exclusive rights to The Beatles’ recordings in the U.S. What I found most interesting were instructions given to Capitol employees as part of the company’s campaign to promote and market The Beatles. The campaign included the distribution to retailers, disc jockeys, and “potential Beatle buyers” of advertisements, buttons, stickers, wigs, tabloids, easel standees, promo albums and jackets, and “an extremely exciting motion display” (a video describing the motion display is embedded below). The book includes pictures of each of the items listed. Capitol employees were instructed to distribute the promotional tabloids and albums, make arrangements for placing of the advertisements, standees, and displays, and plaster the stickers everywhere, all while wearing the wigs. Capitol Records must have been an interesting place to work in late ’63/early ’64. The chapter includes a section about Alan Livingston, President of Capitol.

The “extremely exciting motion display” (https://www.pbs.org/opb/historydetectives/investigation/beatles-autographs/)

The next chapter, December 26, 1963, discusses the release of the “I Want to Hold Your Hand” single. One page describes a contest held by New York radio station WMCA encouraging fans to submit pictures modified to include Beatle wigs.

January 3, 1964 details the broadcast of a Beatles performance on The Jack Paar Program, the first Beatles broadcast in the United States. Interesting details include reactions by Brian Epstein and by Ed Sullivan and also comments from Paar and from journalist Jack Gould. The chapter also describes how Beatles releases fared on the American charts (including the April 14, 1964 placing of five Beatles records at the top of Billboard‘s main chart) and includes two pages of pictures of variations of labels of Beatles singles that existed then.

The chapter titled January 10, 1964 discusses the release of the INTRODUCING… THE BEATLES album on Vee-Jay, the first Beatles album released in the U.S. The chapter explains how Vee-Jay got the album released and is very detailed in describing variations of the album’s release. The section entitled Consumer Alert! explains how to identify counterfeit copies of the album.

The next chapter, January 13, 1964, details lawsuits between record companies Capitol and Vee-Jay about the distribution of Beatles records. Although the chapter contains the following warning (click on the picture to zoom in),

if the chapter is read slowly and carefully, interesting facts about the situation can be understood.

January 16, 1964 is a chapter describing The Beatles’ learning that “I Want to Hold Your Hand” reached No. 1 in the Cash Box Top 100 chart in America. Two sections discuss related myths.

The chapter titled January 20, 1964 discussed the release of the MEET THE BEATLES! album, Capitol’s first Beatles album released in the U.S. The chapter details Capitol’s arrangements for the release, the album’s chart success, specifics about the album’s tracks, Capitol’s marketing tools, and variations of versions of the album’s cover and label, including many pictures.

February 4, 1964 discusses initial plans that Capitol, working with CBS-TV and United Artists, were arranging for The Beatles’ visit to America. The chapter describes a memo that detailed these plans, but it doesn’t include a picture or reproduction of the memo. A reproduction of a related press release is featured along with pictures of the day of The Beatles’ arrival and with sections on related myths.

February 7, 1964, was the day The Beatles arrived in America. This chapter focuses on time The Beatles spent resting in their hotel suite. The chapter includes sections on disc jockey Murray the K and American girl group The Ronettes.

The Beatles in their Plaza Hotel suite (http://www.beatle.net/product/the-beatles-are-coming/)

The Beatles’ second day in America is detailed in the chapter titled February 8, 1964. George was suffering a throat infection. The other Beatles took part in a photo session and got to visit various locations in New York. They held a rehearsal for their upcoming appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, and George arrived briefly after the rehearsal. The other Beatles later met with a representative of the Rickenbacker guitar company, and they all returned to the hotel to present George with a 12-string electric Rickenbacker. After the other Beatles took another tour of the city, they all spent the evening back at their suite listening to Murray the K’s radio program and calling in to that show. The chapter includes a section about the true fifth Beatle and a section detailing the rehearsal held that day.

The Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show is featured in the chapter titled February 9, 1964. The chapter is very detailed in discussing the Sullivan show’s history, interesting facts related to the build-up to The Beatles’ appearance, and numerous minutia concerning the events of this memorable day. Although this momentous event has been covered many times by various Beatle authors, Spizer’s chapter is an interesting read.

February 9, 1964 (http://www.beatle.net/product/the-beatles-are-coming/)

The following chapter covers the following day, February 10, 1964, in which The Beatles were presented with gold record awards for their million-selling American records. The presentation was made among the many press conferences held that day. The chapter includes a section about reports made by psychologists and sociologists on the Beatles phenomenon, and it included reproductions of biographical material on The Beatles that was handed out at the press conferences.

The next chapter, February 11, 1964, details The Beatles’ visit to Washington, D.C. Events of the day described include the train ride to D.C., a press conference, an interview by disc jockey Carroll James, The Beatles’ concert at the Washington Coliseum (a section of this chapter discusses the concert’s supporting acts), and the controversial after-concert charity ball held at the British Embassy. A highlight of this chapter, in my opinion, concerns a hand-written set list for the concert.

February 12, 1964 was the date of The Beatles’ concerts at Carnegie Hall. This chapter describes The Beatles’ return from Washington to the Plaza Hotel in New York, Sid Bernstein’s arranging for the concerts at the Hall, and the concerts themselves. Additional sections discuss Bernstein’s ‘contract’ for The Beatles, promotion of the concerts, supporting act The Briarwood Singers, and related myths. I highly recommend Bernstein’s autobiography Not Just The Beatles for more details.

Not Just The Beatles (http://www.paperbackswap.com/Beatles-Autobiography-Sid-Arthur-Aaron/book/0970610106/)

The next chapter is another fun read. February 13-20, 1964, is when The Beatles were in Miami. Their stay consisted of a performance at the Deauville Hotel for The Ed Sullivan Show and also an extended rest. The chapter details the chaos surrounding their arrival in Miami and around the Deauville performance. But it also describes the down time The Beatles were able to enjoy on their vacation. Highlights include fan-related incidents at the airport and the hotel, visits to the home of the Pollak family, the inspiration of The Beatles’ use of the word ‘zap’, and the meeting between The Beatles and Cassius Clay.

The Beatles in Miami (http://www.beatle.net/product/the-beatles-are-coming/)

The last of the dated chapters, titled February 21, 1964, discusses The Beatles’ return home. Nothing about their flights, from Miami to New York and then to London, stood out to me. But the chapter contained two bits of interest, in my opinion. One was a quiz question related to the lyric, “Flew in from Miami Beach B.O.A.C.” And the other was speculation that author Spizer makes about the significance that certain Americans had in this whole account. It’s very interesting to consider.

Following the dated chapters are a few general chapters (not that they have any less significance or are any less interesting). The first is titled The Third Sullivan Show. The Beatles’ performance for this show was taped before they returned to London, obviously, but was broadcast two days after they left America. What I found most interesting is that the other acts on the show were also taped previously but not the same day as The Beatles. Spizer points out that noticing which necktie Sullivan was wearing helps to know on which day recording took place: the stripes on the ties run in different directions on different days.

The next non-dated chapter is an interesting one. It’s titled What if Capitol Records Released She Loves You?, and it’s presented as an account told by an other-dimensional character called The Watcher (?!?!). The account describes events on a mirror world where The Beatles’ break in America occurs earlier. But, although success and fame follow, a tragedy leads to a situation similar to the ‘bigger than Jesus’ debacle, and the outcome is very different that what really happened. The chapter’s speculation is an interesting diversion within the book, but I thought the comic book spin of the Watcher narrator was cheesy.

The next few ‘chapters’ are each only one or two pages long and are mostly pictures and captions. Radio, Radio discusses The Beatles’ fascination with American radio and details how Beatles songs fared on stations in New York and Miami. I dug reading about the little Pepsi transistor radios The Beatles used while in America (I wish I had one 🙂 ).

Pepsi transistor radio (http://umrkmedia.com/pepsi.html)

The chapters titled Magazines and Merchandising each feature pictures of their subjects that existed at the time of The Beatles’ visit of America. Miscellaneous Myths shares facts related to, among other topics, the lack of crime during The Beatles’ appearance on the Sullivan show, male fans of The Beatles, and the payment of bills incurred while The Beatles entourage stayed in Miami. The Ed Sullivan Show Remembered is a list of quotes about the show; each Beatle is quoted as are members of the Sullivan crew. Autographs discusses signed promotional pictures that fans received during The Beatles’ visit. Highlights include a picture of The Beatles’ signatures on the back of the Sullivan show’s set wall and also a letter by a member of the crew of The Beatles’ flight to America; the letter, to a fan in London, describes interaction with The Beatles during the flight and includes a postcard that each Beatle signed. Fab Four Firsts in America lists topics (such as first American record company to sign The Beatles and first Beatles album issued in North America), briefly describes each topic, and refers to where else in the book each topic is discussed in more detail.

Following is a chapter titled How Vee-Jay Squeezed 16 or So Records from 16 Beatles Songs. Although it briefly describes events covered in more detail earlier in the book, it continues past the events of the dated chapters, to November 1964, in describing the singles and albums that Vee-Jay was able to release. The chapter includes pictures of most of Vee-Jay’s Beatles records.

The rest of the book is additional ‘chapters’ (listed in the Table of Contents) of mostly pictures and not much text. Beatles American Discography 1962-1964 begins with a chronological list of this discography, featuring Release Dates, Record Numbers, and Titles. The chapter includes pictures of, I assume, the records on the list that haven’t been shown already in the book. It also includes a paragraph listing other books by Spizer which detail these records. Other Albums of Interest is a ‘chapter’ that features performers that were billed along with The Beatles in America in ’64. Books of Interest show 46 books and magazines related to this topic; the first three are by Spizer. Vendors of Interest are eight pages of Beatles-related ads. The Index is two full pages and is very detailed.

Overall I enjoy Spizer’s books, especially the detail that he presents, which shows the hard work that went into his providing such a quality product. This is my favorite of his books. I find the subject and its time period fascinating. Even though Beatlemania in America has been covered in many other Beatles books, I think that Spizer’s book discusses it at a level far above all the others. I’m very happy to recommend this book.

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4 thoughts on “The Beatles are Coming! The Birth of Beatlemania in America

  1. What a great and comprehensive review! I’m so drawn to early Beatles history, so I’ll have to keep an eye out for this the next time I’m at the bookstore. And I love that little warning: “this chapter may cause drowsiness.” 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Haha! “This chapter may cause drowsiness”!

    This looks like a fascinating read. Thanks for breaking down your review into chapters, and thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. You probably know enough about The Beatles to write your own book..?

    Liked by 1 person

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