Monday, February 7, 2011

February 7, 1964 – “Beatle Bomber” Strikes

Just after stepping onto the tarmac from their plane arriving in New York City, the famed British rock band The Beatles were mobbed by nearly three thousand screaming fans. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr waved to their fans while police struggled to keep the roaring approval from turning into a riot. Before reaching their car, the pressing crowd broke through the police barriers and swarmed the stars, which was when an explosion tore through the mob. One of history’s most famous unsolved mysteries resulted as the unknown bomber blew himself up just behind the band. The brunt of the blast would be absorbed by the crowd, resulting in twelve deaths. The tallest Beatle, Paul, sustained trauma to his head. While being rushed to the hospital, he died en route from his injuries. Starr and Harrison were both injured, but not critically. Lennon, who was standing in front of McCartney, escaped with only a few scratches. Numerous interviews throughout his life gave hints toward survivor guilt that would plague him especially later in life as he cycled through rehab and mental asylums.

The news rocked the nation. Only months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a sense of unease about the security of America in any public place overwhelmed the populace. It became a key issue of the election that November with winning incumbent LBJ organizing a new system of “National Security” on the small scale featuring metal detectors.

Meanwhile, the Beatles began a new chapter of their careers. The band was scheduled to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show on the 9th, and there was some debate over canceling the performance. Ultimately Lennon insisted on a solo performance in honor of Paul, accompanying himself on guitar while giving a tear-choked rendition of Fain and Kahal’s “I’ll Be Seeing You” made famous in Britain and America as a tribute to those serving overseas during WWII. Despite the loss of a key member, Beatlemania continued to spread with their records unable to stay on shelves. Though they were a wild financial success, the Lennon-McCartney creative team had been broken, and they would produce very little over the next few months.

In 1965, while enjoying a dinner invitation to their dentist’s, Lennon and Harrison would be introduced to LSD. The drug would prove transformative, and Lennon’s songwriting would become nearly incomprehensible. Tours continued until 1966, at which point the bandmates judged their futures together and ultimately decided to go their separate ways. Their fame would die as Beatlemania gave way to the Rolling Stones, who would be regularly listed as the greatest rock group of all time.

Conspiracy theorists routinely pore over the explosion from surviving footage and photographs. Witness reports are notably contradictory, which has led many to suspect a cover-up. Speculation holds that extreme conservatives attempted to head-off the “British Invasion” of challenging given morals, using Lennon’s famed line, “more popular than Jesus now,” though that was delivered much later. Others suspect it was competing American musicians knowing that they would be blocked off by the coming storm of Beatlemania. Still others suggest that it was the action of a lone fan driven to insanity by the wilds of their music.

In reality, the Beatles’ welcome to the United States was raucous but peaceful. They performed All My Loving, Till There Was You, She Loves You, I Saw Her Standing There, and I Want To Hold Your Hand two days later on the Ed Sullivan Show, where they would appear again numerous times. While critics were skeptical, the tour was well received, and the Beatles would perform all over the world in the next two years before a long stint in their “Studio Years.” Ultimately the band would break up in 1970 as McCartney announced his departure due to difficulties with the producers.

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