The day before Valentine’s Day marks the 50th anniversary of Miami’s connection to a cultural phenomenon that revolutionized the world. Half a century ago, John, Paul, George and Ringo landed in Miami for a performance on the Ed Sullivan show (which was filmed at the Deauville Hotel on Miami Beach). The Fab Four, as they quickly became known, spent eight days in Miami, smitten by the sun, the bikini-clad, beautiful girls and the palpable sense of unpredictability that permeated in the Magic City.
America was still basking in post-WWII abundance, though another military conflict was already brewing in Southeast Asia. Many remember the early ’60s as the predawn of the cultural-political spin cycle that the decade turned into. The mop-topped British Boys piqued the interest of the American audience. The Beatles’ music was simple and sincere — the same formula that had catapulted Elvis Presley to prominence nearly a decade before.
In February 1964, The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan on three consecutive Sundays. The second of the three appearances was here in Miami. The ratings for the broadcasts were estimated at more than 70 million per show. Beatlemania had instantaneously captured America’s attention.
This week I chatted about the lads from Liverpool with Joe Johnson, a longtime fixture on Miami radio airwaves (currently the midday personality on Majic 102.7) and host of the nationally syndicated radio show, Beatle Brunch.
“I was a little kid in ’64 when Beatlemania landed in Miami,” Johnson said. I had older sisters who were already mesmerized and so the entire family gathered around our one and only black-and-white television set for the three fateful Sundays in February.
“The Beatles entered our lives in 1964 and somehow never left.”
The Beatles’ music and life experiences (as a group and as solo artists) mirrored our own discoveries and evolution of thought. Beatles’ music and lore permeated many of our family traditions and stories. For most baby boomers and those of us born just after, the Beatles are the soundtrack of our lives.
In the early 1970s, the Beatles greatest-hits albums were published — their incomparable, six-year body of work was broken up chronologically into two double records, which became a fixture in everyone’s LP collection. The red album included their best early material from 1964 to 1966, and the cover art of the album features a picture of the lads in their mop tops, clean shaven and neatly dressed. The blue album covered the more-psychedelic period between 1967 and 1970. The cover picture of this one included a long-haired quartet with lots of facial hair and hippie attire.
My mother (who was a Beatle fanatic) and I used to kid about what personality type would be more prone to liking one collection more than the other. We used to call my Dad, “1964 to 1966” simply because we deemed my Dad, “a square.” Conversely, the people whose musical and political acumen was more in tune with our own, and who we thought to be hipper, we would label, “1967 to 1970.”
My personal brush with a Beatle took place on Miami Beach, albeit 20 years after the initial invasion. On July 4,1984, my friends and I went to South Beach (in the nascent stages of what it would become) to watch the fireworks and listen to the Beach Boys. To our surprise, Ringo Starr was filling in for longtime Beach Boy drummer Dennis Wilson, who had died the year before. In honor of Ringo, the set that night began with Beatle favorite Back in the U.S.S.R. Ringo’s presence coated the performance with an important historic sense — we were in the presence of rock ‘n’ roll legends, appropriately set in the place where it all began.