The Beatles visited the U.S. for the first time on Feb. 7, 1964

By Nick Catucci
Updated January 30, 2014 at 05:00 AM EST

At the end of 1963, a band called The Beatles were barely known in the U.S. But on Feb. 9, 1964, Beatlemania — a British phenomenon that had been dismissed by American critics and even the foursome’s own U.S. label — fully engulfed the nation: The band drew a then-record-setting 73 million-plus viewers for the first of three riveting, painstakingly negotiated headlining sets on The Ed Sullivan Show. By year’s end, they would send 11 songs into the U.S. top 10, famously toke weed with a pre-electric Bob Dylan, and redefine rock & roll itself. Boy bands, art rockers, and scandal-courting pop stars alike can trace their ambitions back to this still remarkable arrival on our shores.