“America, America, America! Now if I can just get America, I’ve got the fucking world.”
John Lennon, December 1963.
Beatlemania hit the United States with the arrival of The Beatles on February 7, 1964, but it had been building in Great Britain for 3 years previous. The origin of Beatlemania can be traced back to a single night performance when the Beatles played the Litherland Town Hall on Tuesday, December 27, 1960. Pete Best was drumming for The Beatles and remembers the Litherland performance as an explosion in the fortunes of the Beatles. “We were playing for dancing in a hall that could accommodate some 1500 on the dance floor at one time, but they stopped dancing when we played and surged forward in a crowd to be nearer to us, to watch every moment and above all to scream. People didn’t go to a dance to scream: this was news.” (Pete Best, Beatle – The Pete Best Story, page 82).
Mark Lewisohn described the crowd response in his book The Complete Beatles Chronicles.
“As the curtains shuffled open and Paul launched himself into Little Richard’s ‘Long Tall Sally’, everyone suddenly and spontaneously crushed forward to the front of the stage, swept away by the group’s sheer magnetism.” The Beatles “were an absolute powerhouse, creating an inexplicable and unprecedented frenzy among the spellbound teenagers.”
It happened before any single hit record or before wide national attention but it was said that following this single night The Beatles never looked back.
The magnetism and unprecedented frenzy among spellbound teenagers in 1960 came to define Beatlemania. Audiences were described spellbound, transfixed, hypnotized, and in ecstasy in their presence. Everywhere they traveled they created bedlam, chaos, hysteria, frenzy and mania. What started in a small club in Liverpool in December of 1960, Beatlemania covered the entire United Kingdom by December of 1963.
John and The Beatles had the attention of all of Great Britain. They were receiving national coverage on BBC radio and television, so much so, the Brit’s began calling the BBC ‘Beatles Broadcasting Company’. Interviews with the band were held before and after every concert and the news footage from the scene was always the same; screaming crowds of Beatlemaniacs besieging the Beatles entering the theater, on stage and exiting the building.
John viewed all the British success as local attention and inadequate. Liverpool, London or all of Great Britain weren’t enough for John – he wanted the entire world.
After The Beatles’ Liverpool, Empire Theater concert in December of 1963, John called his friend Pete Shotton and asked him to meet him at his Aunt Mimi’s house. When Pete arrived he found John had left to his Aunt Harrie’s house. It was there he found John with his back turned, digging through a cabinet of his personal belongings, collecting some old books and papers he said he wanted to take with him to London.
Pete said that evening John talked excessively about his desire for riches and world fame and his desire to become legend. He talked about the recent success of his band, the ‘screaming mobs’, the ‘getaway limousines’ and celebrities they were meeting. He talked about the girls he was screwing in the dressing rooms and how at each concert their road manager Mal Evans would select the ‘most ravishing ticket holders’. It was a small taste of the things John desired most. Pete said John went on and on about America. “America, America, America, he repeated again and again, like an incantation. Now if I can just get America, I’ve got the fucking world.” (Pete Shotton, In My Life, page 78).
Pete specifically describes John’s words as an ‘incantation’, a formula used in ritual recitation, verbal charms or spells to produce a magic effect. John was calling upon the same powers that brought him success in Great Britain to assist him in his quest for world fame. A pact with the devil makes one the magician and sorcerer and it is the cornerstone from which all magic operations depends; it is important that every time the magician desires anything by means of their pact, they must expressly or implicitly call to Satan, and according to the agreement made between them, the Devil shall intervene and secretly work to fulfill their desires. In just a couple weeks John’s invocation would be answered.
On Friday, January 17, The Beatles were informed that ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ had hit the number one spot on the US Music charts. Overnight, the single jumped from 45 to number 1 on the charts. In just a couple days ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ sold 250,000 copies in America, and within a few weeks sales soared to over one million. In New York City alone it was reported that 10,000 copies were being sold an hour. When the album ‘Meet The Beatles’ went on sale in the US on 20 January, it sold 750,000 copies in the first week of its release. By the middle of March 1964, 3.65 million copies were sold.
All of this was mysteriously happening at a time when months earlier Brian Epstein scheduled the Beatles to visit America in early February of 1964. The Beatles could never have planned such a timely visit to the US. The strange occurrence of having a number one record on the American charts mere days before their first US visit even caused the Beatles themselves to wonder (Beatles Anthology):
Paul: “ ‘From Me To You’ was released – a flop in America. ‘She Loves You’ – a big hit in England – big #1 in England – a flop in the USA. ‘Please Please Me’ released over there – flop. Nothing until ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’.”
Ringo: “Things used to fall right for us as a band. We couldn’t stop it. The gods were on our side.”
George: “All these forces started working so that when we landed in the US the record was number one. We were booked five months ahead and you can’t plan that kind of thing. We got off the plane and it was just like being at home, millions of kids again.”
John: “It was just out of the dark. That’s the truth: it was so out of the dark, we were knocked out.”
Brian Epstein: “We knew that America would make us or break us as world stars. In fact she made us.”
Was it a string of lucky breaks, a perfect storm of circumstances and coincidences that took The Beatles from obscurity to phenomenal worldwide success?
Beatlemania started in Liverpool on Tuesday, December 27, 1960 and reached its peak in New York City at Shea Stadium on Sunday, August 15, 1965. On that day, in John’s own words, “I saw the top of the mountain.” Had John Lennon entered into a 20 year pact with the devil in 1960 for wealth and world fame, to become bigger than Elvis Presley, to become legend, by 1965 all of his desires were met. But entering into a pact with the devil is a reciprocal agreement. The devil will provide the pact signer all their desires but they will owe their soul to the devil when the term of their contract ran out. A 20 year pact that started in December of 1960 ended in December of 1980 with John’s violent death.