Photo of the Beatles

The Beatles on the original cover of their July 1966 American LP, Yesterday And Today.


Watch and listen to the Beatles' arrival at JFK Airport on February 7, 1964

Watch and listen to Murray the K with the Beatles in their Plaza Hotel suite on February 9, 1964

Watch and listen to the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show of February 9, 1964

Listen to Murray the K with the Beatles in Miami later in February 1964 on WINS

Listen to BMR's last hour on WMCA on March 20, 1965

Listen to Pete Fornatale with Rosko on WFUV on April 29, 1967

Listen to Rosko resigning on the air on WOR-FM on October 2, 1967

Read an explanation of and listen to The Lew Goodman Story on WFUV on March 30, 1973

Listen to Lew Goodman's last show on WFUV, which began with 10 Beatles' songs, on March 30-31, 1973

E-mail Lew

IT WAS 40 YEARS AGO TODAY
by Lew Goodman

It was 4:25 PM on Friday, February 7, 1964. I turned on channel 4 and caught "NBC News with Nancy Dickerson," as this 13-year-old often did after coming home from 9th grade at J.H.S. 127, near Parkchester, in the Bronx. And there they were—waving, as they descended the portable stairs on the tarmac of the newly renamed Kennedy Airport in New York City. I had heard of the Beatles—even caught a bit of their music on a Halifax, Nova Scotia rock station, via shortwave, that I had been listening to in January 1964 on my parents' five-foot-high, circa 1943, Philco AM/shortwave radio. I also had seen the slogan "The Beatles Are Coming" in my 19-year-old sister's 16 magazine. Something immediately clicked in my mind. I cannot say that little did I imagine that I would remember that telecast so clearly 40 years later. And, obviously, NBC thought their arrival was a big enough story to make a five-minute nationwide newscast, in an era when rock 'n' roll-related events were still considered for children and teens. Naturally, I watched the entire live "Ed Sullivan Show" at 8 PM on CBS on Sunday, February 9, 1964, as I did on February 16th and February 23rd (that one had been prerecorded). After the first telecast, I recall singing "All My Loving" to myself in school, though I didn't know most of the lyrics, and thinking that it was a great song. Of course, having the same guest on three consecutive Ed Sullivan Shows was a monumental event. However, February 7th, the date of their first arrival in the U.S., remained forever ingrained in my mind as the date that counted the most. I have never forgotten a February 7th since then. I even anxiously anticipate the date every February 1st, similarly to the way I had once anticipated spring training every March 1st. And I vividly recall New York City rock stations frequently celebrating every February 7th as the anniversary of the first Beatles' arrival. None of them ever celebrated February 9th, the first Ed Sullivan anniversary.

Sure, maturity has moved me well beyond rock, with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, and Ella Fitzgerald meaning more to me lately. But that first arrival of the Beatles profoundly affected virtually every aspect of my life. I almost immediately gave up baseball as my biggest love, replacing it with rock music and rock music radio. One of my friends once said, in 1964 or 1965, that I had a radio attached to my ear (in that pre-Walkman and pre-boom box era). I bought a "Beatles' suit" at Barney's Boys' Town—four-button, single-breasted, velvet collar—and had the pants extremely tapered. I wore pointy black leather boots. I had a "Beatles' haircut." I memorized every week's Top 10 of WINS (my favorite station), WMCA and WABeatleC. I joined the Murray the K Fan Club. (He was one of the many who called himself the fifth Beatle.) I suffered when my favorite DJ, B. Mitchel Reed, left WMCA for California in March 1965 and I suffered much more, the following month, when WINS became the first all-news station in New York City. I became obsessed with Pete Fornatale, when I discovered him on WFUV, in early 1966, amazed that "they" actually "allowed" rock on FM. And, best of all, I fell in love with WOR-FM (98.7), when they became the nation's first FM rock station in July 1966, which led to albums superseding singles and the big-time emergence of progressive rock music and free-form radio. I also chose to attend Fordham University because of WFUV, which led to my hosting a show for 4 1/2 years and becoming their program director. None of these would have occurred if it weren't for that Friday in February 1964.

I've written papers on the influence that the Beatles had on Western society, which, of course, went well beyond music. Now, 40 years later, I'm not so sure if it's still that paramount. However, one might say that the Beatles led to hippies, which led to the antiwar movement, which still affects the way we look at government. Yet I don't know if the emergence of the Beatles has any effect on the day-to-day lives of today's teenagers and those in their 20's. No matter, they were great. They were profound and prolific composers. They harmonized beautifully. They created a sound, unlike any I had ever heard, which led to many waves of truly great British musicians coming to our shores—both literally and via the airwaves. (Mind you, I was well aware of virtually every hit single from 1956-1963, due to my sister's obsession with rock 'n' roll radio and "American Bandstand.") They were extremely intelligent and witty. They single-handedly changed American AM radio by having their early albums played in their entireties. (Naturally, their later ones were played in their entireties on American FM radio.) They matured musically at an astounding pace—"I Want To Hold Your Hand" was released in the U.K. only two years before Rubber Soul. They took control of their own careers when they decided to stop touring after August 1966, greatly upsetting their record company and disproving all the pundits who predicted their immediate demise. They created two of the greatest music videos ever made—for "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane"—in February 1967, 14 1/2 years before the advent of MTV. (Of course, one might say that their first two critically-acclaimed films, A Hard Day's Night (1964) and Help! (1965) were loaded with wonderful music videos as well.) They released what still is clearly the most important album in the history of popular music, in June 1967, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Their sheer power forced American AM radio stations to play their entire seven-minute "Hey Jude" single in 1968, changing the unwritten three-minute limit that had been established some 45 years earlier. And to look at things from the macabre side of life, it was a Beatles' song that drove Charles Manson and a former Beatle who consumed Mark David Chapman. Despite their sometimes goody-two-shoes image, the Beatles had the uncanny ability to be as hard as they wanted, both musically and in attitude—all this within six years of that Friday in February.

They made me feel glad to be alive and devastated when half of them died. They enriched my life in countless ways and for that I am lucky to be 53, despite my not having that many years left on this planet. And so, on this February 7, 2004 I am happy in the knowledge that today is a holiday for me—my personal Christmas and Thanksgiving—and I hope to be able to remember February 7, 1964 on every February 7th for as long as I live.