Left: Girls Go Bug-eyed as the Beatles Perform, Feb. 10, 1964. (Los Angeles Times) Right: Scenes from the Beatles' Feb. 9, 1964, performance on "The Ed Sullivan Show." (CBS / Associated Press)


Here's What the Reviewers Say

By the Ottawa Journal Staff, dated February 10, 1964

NEW YORK -- Beatlemania invaded the Ed Sullivan show last night -- in person...

Here's what the reviewers had to say about Britain's bushy-haired musical ambassadors:

Cynthia Lowery of the Associated Press: Anyone who is not a teenage girl obviously is unqualified to comment on the sight of The Beatles in action.

Heaven knows we've heard them enough. It has been impossible to get a radio weather bulletin or time signal without running into "I Want To Hold Your Hand."

And now, having seen the four performers on Ed Sullivan's show Sunday night, Beatlemania is even more of a mystery to an elderly viewer.


They sing close harmony, stomp their feet and play electric guitars, but so do a lot of crew-cut American boys in slacks and sweaters, and they cause riots.

Beatle clothes look about two sizes too small, and I've seen Hungarian sheep dogs, with more attractive hairdos.

But thousands of squealing young girls get their message. Camera shots of panting youngsters in Sullivan's audience were disquieting, in fact.

Maybe after two more exposures to the Beatles on television, all of us elderly people will become Beatlenuts, but I doubt it.

Rick du Brow of the United Press International: It is now clear why President de Gaulle has been giving England such a hard time about the Common Market. He undoubtedly saw The Beatles and decided nothing doing.

As you certainly know, America saw the four-member rock'n'roll British group live on television last night. Pandemonium reigned. Vive La France.


In fairness, it should be noted that the boys with the shaggy-dog haircuts are popular smashes all over -- in France, too, I believe -- and last night was the first of their three appearances on the Ed Sullivan show. They will be back in the next two Sundays so you can catch their act.

It is silly to get superior or snobbish about the boys. They are simply one of those inexplicable things that burst into a show business phenomenon -- with a little professional help -- every so often. They are merely taking advantage of that sound old laissez faire theory that there's a sucker born every minute.

The truth is that they are really pretty boring to listen to. Their act is absolutely nothing. Their greatest asset is that they look like rather likable, almost innocent young fellows who have merely hit a lucky thing.

In fact, one gets the impression that they are having a private lark over the silly, screaming girls in the audiences, not to mention the music.

I remember reading once that The Beatles actually were doing a parody of rock'n'roll. I don't know now; their act doesn't make it very clear. And anyway, clear - cut parody doesn't usually bring as many dollars as the real thing. I'm not inclined, though, to feel they're putting us all on, and if that's the case it's in their favor. They have, by the way, been described as Elvis Presley multiplied by four. No really. Divide.

Theodore Strongin in the New York Times: "You can tell right away its The Beatles and not anyone else," is the opinion of a 15-year-old specialist on the topic who saw them on the Ed Sullivan show. The age of 15 (or 16, or 14 or 13) is essential in Beatle experts.

And so taking the above axiom as gospel, an attempt was made to find out just what is musically unique about the English group that is now visiting our shores.


The Beatles are directly in the mainstream of Western tradition: that much is immediately ascertainable. Their harmony is unmistakeably diatonic. A learned British colleague writing on his homeground in London, has described it as pandiatonic, but this listener disagrees.

True, the group has a tendency to build phrases around unresolved leading tones. This precipitates the ear into a false model frame that temporarily turns the fifth of the scale into the tonic, momentarily suggesting the mixolydian mode. But everything always ends up plain diatonic all the same.   

Meanwhile, the result is the addition of a very, very slight touch of English countryside nostalgia a la Vaughan Williams, to the familiar elements of the rock'n'roll prototype. "It's just that English rock'n'roll is more sophisticated." explained our expert.

As to instrumentation, three of the four Beatles, George, Paul and John, the married one, each play a different size of electronically amplified plucked string instrument. Ringo ("he's just like a little puppy, he's so cute," said our expert. "I'd like to wrap him up and cuddle him," she said, squealing with the television audience) is on drums.

The group's vocal quality can be described as hoarsely incoherent, with the minimal enunciation necessary to communicate the schematic texts.

Two socio-psychological theories were bandied about in at least one American household in explanation of The Beatles' astounding popularity. The expert provided one theory: "We haven't had an idol in a few year," she said. "The Beatles are different and we have to get rid of our excess energy somehow."

The other theory states that the longer we parents object with high dungeon, the longer our children are going to squeal with such hysterical delight.

The Journal's Sandy Gardiner: It seems The Beatles came, sang and conquered -- All that is, but the TV reviewers.

Most of the time these reviewers have real troubles finding something to write about. Ask them...

When Elvis Presley first appeared on the popular musical scene and made his TV debut did they praise him? No. In fact, most beat singers who come under the TV reviewer's eagle eye rarely receive a word of praise.

It seems obvious the reviewers came to bury the teenage favorites and not to praise them. Again the teenage taste has been mocked.

As long as this superior feeling is put across the younger generation will continue to make their idols -- and won't give a darn who likes them.

-- End of Article. Copyright by the Ottawa Journal, February 14, 1964. All rights reserved.

Ottawa Beatles Site