Fifty years ago this Friday, the Beatles made their first visit to America with a stop in New York City to perform on The Ed Sullivan Show – a moment in time that would enthrall millions of TV viewers and alter pop culture forever.
Now the Big Apple is commemorating the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania through a new exhibit held at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in conjunction with the Grammy Museum. Entitled Ladies and Gentleman…The Beatles!, the multimedia exhibit, which opened Thursday and runs through May 10, features over 400 items covering the history of the Beatles from their origins through the mid-60s. An opening reception was held Wednesday evening with the Beach Boys’ Al Jardine and Peter Asher of the ’60s British pop duo Peter and Gordon in attendance.
A recreation of the band’s live set up featuring Paul McCartney’s Hofner bass, George Harrison’s Gretsch guitar, John Lennon’s Rickenbacker guitar, and Ringo Starr’s Ludwig drums makes a grand statement upon entering the exhibit; nearby is a set of microphone stands that mimics the band’s famous press conference at John F. Kennedy Airport upon their arrival in New York. Further into the exhibit, there’s a treasure trove of photographs, newspaper clippings, fanzines, concert tickets and programs, and 45 rpm record sleeves for Beatles singles such as “Yesterday” and “We Can Work It Out.” Framed on the walls are gold records for the band’s Rubber Soul album and the “I Want Hold Your Hand” single.
Some of the iconic pieces the Fab Four wore are also represented: The jacket McCartney wore at the band’s legendary 1965 concert at Shea Stadium; Starr’s black jacket, as featured on the famous Abbey Road album cover; and John Lennon’s glasses from 1967.
In addition to the Beatles themselves, the exhibit also spotlights the band’s influences through memorabilia and artifacts from Ray Charles, James Brown, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and Buddy Holly. Other interesting touches at the exhibit includes a reconstruction of a typical American teenager’s bedroom filled with Beatles posters, fanzines and records; featured, too, is a glass case displaying vintage merchandise such as Beatles wigs and sneakers.
While the American teenage hysteria that surrounded the Beatles has long since passed, the enthusiasm for the band is still high 50 years later, as indicated by the large and diverse set of New Yorkers – old and young – who attended the opening reception. Boy bands come and go, but even the best of them are unlikely to surpass the sensation caused by the Liverpool quartet.
To read more about the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first visit to America, check out the new TIME book, The Beatles Invasion: The Inside Story of the Two-Week Tour That Rocked America, by Bob Spitz. Available wherever books are sold.