Consider this an introduction to Beatlemania for millennials. For those who’ve seen this ’60s footage before, it’s a nostalgic blast from the past, but for others, it’s more likely a fascinating first glimpse of the incredible craze surrounding the Beatles when they were just around Justin Bieber‘s age.
“My impression of these guys was that they were like four high school kids,” said LIFE photographer John Loengard, who took the iconic photo of John, Paul, Ringo and George in a Miami Beach swimming pool in 1964. “You know, they had beards, sort of — like when you first start having to shave, but aren’t quite sure how to do it.”
Ed Sullivan had never heard of the Beatles until he saw them surrounded by crowds at a London airport in 1963, but he was quick to book them for three appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show for a grand total of $10,000. A year later, when the Beatles returned to London, they were welcomed by a mass of shrieking, crying, fainting fans at Heathrow airport. According to the video, 40 girls fainted out of excitement.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the band’s first major performance in America, here’s a look at archival footage from when the British band first took America by storm.