The Beatles hit with an asteroid force: The Fab Four’s impact, 60 years after “Please Please Me”

The Beatles’ influence continues to reverberate through the decades since their epoch-making emergence into global culture. Last year alone they surpassed all “catalog” acts with around 1.5 billion streams. Meanwhile, “Revolver,” the subject of their latest “super deluxe” box set, recorded a top-five appearance on the Billboard charts. When it was originally released back in August 1966, Revolver marked an artistic, even psychedelic breakthrough that built heavily on the strengths of “Rubber Soul,” its folk-oriented predecessor.

Taking its name from the image of a spinning gramophone record, “Revolver” has proved an even more prescient metaphor for understanding the Beatles’ phenomenal success: it is almost certain that the LP played somewhere, without fail, in every minute of every hour since music lovers first laid hands on the album during that long-ago summer.

This month marks the 60th anniversary of the Beatles’ seminal first album “Please Please Me,” a release that launched a British chart-topper that exploded into British Beatlemania later that year with “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” .” Their impact would be felt Stateside with the force of an asteroid in February 1964, when they played their legendary set on “The Ed Sullivan Show”. The force of an asteroid might seem like an exaggeration. But not by much. Popular music has simply never been the same.

The month will also see the release of the fifth season of the “Everything Fab Four” podcast. Since 2020, Salon has hosted the show, which has featured an array of star-studded guests ranging from Peter Frampton and Steven Van Zandt to Kevin Bacon and Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson, among a host of others.

Our latest wave of interviewees continues our tradition of exploring the Beatles’ cultural resonance. We recently caught up with Barbara Feldon, the 1960s model turned TV star who played the inimitable Agent 99 on “Get Smart.” She was in New York City in February 1964 when the Beatles began their first campaign to conquer America. To Feldon, it was like nothing she had ever seen or heard before.

“I saw the Beatles and just everything changed. It was all of a sudden like, ‘Oh, this is what I want to do’.”

“This roar would come up from the street and we were on the fifth floor,” Feldon recalled. “And so we climbed up on the roof to see what was going on and looked over the parapet down Park Avenue. And there was a bunch of young women on Park Avenue spilling out from the sidewalk. And someone said, “It’s the Beatles! ‘”

That night, when she tuned into “The Ed Sullivan Show,” Feldon had doubts. “I was totally skeptical,” she told me, thinking, “This is just so silly, this little boy band.” And I turned it on and I got it right away. I was completely charmed by their light, the optimism, the freedom, the fun, the spirit they had.”

That same weekend, newly minted 16-year-old Kenny Loggins watched “The Ed Sullivan Show” in a state of awe. Sitting in front of his family’s television set in Alhambra, Calif. — some 2,800 miles from Ground Zero in CBS’ Studio 50 — Loggins simply couldn’t believe his ears. Years later, he is quick to thank his mother for tipping him off to the peculiar English band with the long hair.

“My mom, who worked in a pharmacy, was on her way to work that morning,” Loggins recalled. As his mother left the house, she told Kenny that “I hear there’s a new band on TV on Ed Sullivan tonight that you might be interested in. They’re supposed to be top notch.”

Do you love the Beatles? Listen to Ken’s podcast “Everything Fab Four.”

At the time, Loggins was a budding guitarist and a devotee of Bob Dylan. “I hadn’t heard anything about the Beatles until then,” he told me. “And then that night in front of our black-and-white TV, I saw the Beatles and just everything changed. It was all of a sudden like, ‘Oh, this is what I want to do’.”

For 1960s “It Girl” Pattie Boyd, the Beatles would soon become more than just a household name. Within months, she would date George Harrison, eventually marrying him in 1966. When she first met her future husband, she was familiar with the band. “I had heard their music and I really liked it,” she recalled. But like almost everyone else, “I had no idea they would become as world famous as they were.”

“There was a bunch of young women on Park Avenue spilling out from the sidewalk. And someone said, ‘It’s the Beatles!'”

That spring, the budding model was cast in “A Hard Day’s Night,” a part she almost flunked. “The thing is,” Pattie told me, “I’m really shy, and I really didn’t plan on being an actor.” The casting director promised her only a single word of dialogue and persuaded her to join the production. When Pattie told her boyfriend at the time about her upcoming role, he said: “I bet you fall for Paul McCartney.”

Pattie would never forget the moment the Beatles hopped onto the railroad train that served as a movie set. “They came into our carriage and introduced themselves and shook our hands,” she recalled. “And we kind of nodded. ‘Oh, my God, they’re so charming and so polite and beautiful!’

While it was Beatle George who caught her attention, Pattie’s boyfriend was right to be worried. George “was so delicious,” she recalled. “He was so handsome and had the most beautiful, velvety brown eyes.”

When he asked her out, Pattie hesitated because of her boyfriend. When she caught up with George a few weeks later, her boyfriend was out of the picture.

“When I saw George again, he asked, ‘How’s your girlfriend?’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t have a girlfriend anymore.’ So that was it. That was the start,” she told me.

As with the guests who came before them, Feldon, Loggins and Boyd talk about a shared experience. But they are not alone in their first moments of discovery when it comes to the Beatles. Baby Boomers hardly account for those 1.5 billion streams. Even now, as “Revolver” continues to spin merrily on uninterrupted some 57 years later, 21st century kids are enjoying their own first flush of Beatledom. And they will hardly be the last.

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about music from Kenneth Womack

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