Fifty-three years ago today….

….Pan Am Flight 101 touched down at JFK International Airport in New York. Among its passengers were four young men who would take America, still grieving the loss of its 35th president, by storm.  (Idlewild Airport had been renamed for JFK just 6 weeks earlier).

[Any among you who read this blog during its first life in 2013-14 may be having a sense of déjà vu: I originally posted this on the 50-year anniversary of the events described; they still seem worthy of remembrance and reflection.]

The Beatles arrive at John F. Kennedy airport, New York City on Feb. 7, 1964. PHOTOGRAPH BY: © Bill Eppridge
The Beatles arrive at John F. Kennedy airport, New York City on Feb. 7, 1964.
Bill Eppridge/The Estate of Bill Eppridge

This picture was taken by Bill Eppridge, who, in his career, worked for Life and National Geographic, among other publications.  To mark the 50 year anniversary back in 2014, Rizzoli published a compilation of Eppridge’s photos taken during that historic visit, The Beatles: Six Days That Changed The World.  In the introduction, Eppridge wrote,

“I was in the Life magazine offices early in the morning of February 7, 1964. It was nearly eight o’clock and Dick Pollard, the director of photography, was the only other person on the floor. As I was walking down the hall, he saw me and called out, “Eppridge, what are you doing today? You want to shoot something for me? We’ve got a bunch of crazy Brit musicians coming to town this afternoon — the Beatles. Do you know anything about them?”

I answered back: “Nothing. Yes. And, no.”

In the three years that I had been shooting for Life and the time before that for National Geographic, I had worked in 22 countries, seen riots and a couple of revolutions. I saw that the world was changing in the 1960s. There were serious situations in the South with civil rights. Fidel Castro was affecting our country’s involvement in Latin American politics. The Cold War with the Soviet Union was escalating, and there was a great fear of nuclear weapons. At that time, I would never have believed that four musicians could have had such an impact.

Pollard told me to go to the airport right away — their flight was arriving in a few hours. I grabbed several cameras and took a cab to Kennedy airport. I arrived before noon and found New York press photographers, reporters, and television crews staking out their positions.

Police were gathering inside the Pan Am terminal, and teenagers were multiplying. It looked like a few thousand of them, and barricades had been put in place to keep them contained. There was something different about the excitement level — the kids knew it, and were part of it.”

A news conference at the Pan American Airways lounge at Kennedy Airport. Feb. 7, 1964.
Bill Eppridge/The Estate of Bill Eppridge

The Beatles gave American teenagers and young adults innumerable memorable moments on 7 February 1964 alone, not to mention in the days, weeks, months and years to come.  I was only two years old when they landed, so my moments would come later on, but come they did.  One of my seminal musical experiences was hearing one of their songs for the first time (see my post ‘The Revelation Came Early’, from 6 March 2013).

What memories, if any, do you have of 7 February 1964 and the days afterward?

[Hat tip: The New York TimesLens blog].

Trivia tidbit: Eppridge, who died in October of 2013 at age 75, is probably best known for the photo he took of RFK in June 1968, just moments after he’d been shot at the Ambassador Hotel in LA. Here he is holding that picture:



  • From Philip Norman’s “Shout” [Pan, 2003]:

    Early on 7 February 1964, (radio) station WMCA sounded the first note of impending madness. ‘It is now 6.30 a.m., Beatle time. They left London 30 minutes ago. They’re out over the Atlantic Ocean, headed for New York. The temperature is 32 Beatle degrees.’ [p.215]

    Echoing your comments, Norman suggests that the US press were desperate for a ‘good news’ story, leading to more coverage of this odd ‘teenage’ phenomenon than might otherwise have occurred. Whatever. The rest is history.


  • I also don’t remember this unfolding real time, but cannot remember a time when I didn’t listen to Beatles Music. Thanks for this wonderful piece


  • Brilliant article, this is one of the most iconic images of the 1960s! The Beatles are still so relevant today, I can’t believe it has been 50 years!


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