By Jessica Davis
A chilly ocean breeze seemed to tickle the surface of San Francisco as expecting fans paced in anticipation of the arrival of a new pop sensation, the Beatles.
Forty years ago, a young Ron Simpson was working in his father”s city office in downtown San Francisco when he heard a rumor that George Harrison, 21-year-old British guitar player, was spotted walking through the busy streets.
As the rumor hit Simpson”s ears, his feet seemed to carry him to the window almost as fast as his heart beat. As he reached the glass, his eyes caught a glimpse of Harrison and his spirit seemed to follow the parade of admirers roped and led behind Harrison.
In February 1964, “Beatlemania” ambushed America, and the British foursome appeared in front of 73 million viewers on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Performing only five songs, the Beatles became the biggest craze to hit the United States.
Simpson recalled that day, almost 40 years ago, when he experienced a portion of the hype and nationwide excitement surrounding the invasion of the Beatles.
To this day, he said he continues to praise the skills and sound of such a monumental group of songwriters.
“I had no idea who they were, but I recognized that this was a new sound,” said Simpson, BYU”s artistic director of the music department. “This was going to be huge and I wanted to figure it out.”
Soon, the Beatles were seen everywhere and their lyrics of life and love seemed to ring throughout the nation.
“I heard ”I Want to Hold Your Hand” up a long stairway,” Simpson said. “I was in the basement, and I heard it playing up and I knew that it was something different. I ran up and just sat there listening to it. It was one of those times that stopped life.”
The Beatles” journey became one of overwhelming success accompanied by controversy and skepticism. The sex appeal of this young, shaggy-haired musical group, frightened the parents of young girls and caused critics to marvel at their songwriting genius.
“Even though they were four irreverent guys, they had a reverence for song form and for the world song book,” Simpson said. “They had the universal respect of the whole music world.”
As time passed, the Beatles continued to bring their music to the masses by releasing movies and albums and touring the world.
“People could relate to them. It was like they grew up with them,” said Kristen Liljenquist, 20, a junior majoring in English and a dedicated Beatles fanatic.
Throughout their careers, the Beatles entertained by holding onto their signature sound while adapting to the changing times.
“No album was the same,” said Jessica Palfreyman, an enthusiastic 21-year-old Beatles fan from South Jordan. “They kind of grew up and their sound changed.”
In 1980, the Beatles” experience was halted when obsessed fan, Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Lennon outside his New York apartment. The world mourned Lennon”s passing and the remaining Beatles, no longer able to continue, erected a grave over current productions.
“Life happens and things changed but they didn”t,” said Liljenquist. “They didn”t try to be anyone but themselves. When they got tired of it, they quit.”
After the Beatles” booming American breakthrough, fans are participating in activities that will commemorate the anniversary of the Beatles and their legacy.
Palfreyman and Liljenquist said they will watch a marathon of Beatles movies, while others will finally dust off their old, vinyl albums and re-experience the excitement of the Beatles” era.
With so much to remember, Liljenquist said these celebrations illustrate the lasting impact and enduring legacy of the Beatles through time.