George Harrison on How The Beatles’ American and British Fans Differed

Article Highlights:

  • George Harrison describes the difference between American and British fans
  • How The Beatles felt about coming to America
  • The Beatles play ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’
The Beatles (left to right: Ringo Starr, George Harrison, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney) step off the plane which brought them back from their tour of the United States.
Feb. 22, 1964: The Beatles (left to right: Ringo Starr, George Harrison, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney) return from their tour of the United States | Central Press/Getty Images

Though they started in Liverpool, The Beatles had fans all over the world. The band says they knew they made it big when they realized how popular they were in America. Their first trip overseas was a big one, filled with anticipation. But America loved them. The U.S. was no more immune to Beatlemania than the U.K. In 1964, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr frequently got asked “Are the American fans any different to the British?” Here’s Harrison’s take.

The difference between The Beatles’ American and British fans

In Harrison’s column for the Daily Express (assisted by Daily Express writer Derek Taylor), he wrote about The Beatles’ first trip to America and the differences between American fans and their fans back home.

“People have asked me here, ‘Are the American fans any different to the British?'” he wrote, as recorded in the book George Harrison on George Harrison. “They’re not really. They still react in the same way and shout the same things, except it’s in an American accent. They use different phrases in their letters. I had a note today from a boy who wrote that he had no father and no brothers and asked: ‘Will you be my big brother?’ That’s a new one.”

American fans were different on the phone, apparently, too.

“In England if they get on the phone they’ll go on talking and talking for ever,” wrote Harrison. “The Americans are quicker and straight to the point. They say: ‘I just want to welcome you to America. I think you’re great. I know you’ll enjoy it here. Goodbye.'”

The Beatles were ecstatic to come to America

The Beatles were famous for their generally blasé attitudes. But they couldn’t help but get excited about playing in America — about their star power reaching overseas.

“We have one aim: to conquer the United States,” Harrison wrote just before the trip. “We know we may be knocked and knocked hard. No nation likes to be taken by storm by foreigners. And the U.S., birthplace of pop music, isn’t going to give us an easy run.”

Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr had a lot to live up to.

“The build-up in curiosity value has been tremendous and we hope this will be an advantage,” wrote Harrison. “But there’s a chance that the advance publicity may act against us. We’re totally exposed—naked you might say—and the Americans are going to look very long and very hard at us. ‘So O.K.,’ they’ll be saying with their shrew showbiz eyes. ‘You’re here. So what’s so good? Show us.’ We hope to show them.”

And they did. They showed them.

American girls love Ringo Starr

The first big appearance The Beatles made in America was on The Ed Sullivan Show.

“It went fine,” Harrison wrote of the performance. “Mind you we had something great going for us—the audience. And something else. About half an hour before we were going to go on the Ed Sullivan Show our Press agent, Brian Sommerville, handed us a telegram.”

The telegram was a note from Elvis Presley welcoming the band to America and wishing them a good show.

“It was a terrific gesture and made us feel wonderful,” wrote Harrison. “So we went before the cameras in great form.”

The Beatles fans in New York City. A fan holds a sign that says 'I love you Ringo. Please marry me!'
Cheering Beatles fans gathered outside the Delmonico Hotel in New York where the band was staying, Aug. 28, 1964 | Staff/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

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Like their audiences back in England, The Ed Sullivan Show audience was very enthusiastic when watching The Beatles (one Beatle in particular).

“The audience was fabulous,” wrote Harrison. “They started screaming from the second we appeared. Mind you, Ed Sullivan had given us a great build-up. The fans shouting and cheering like crazy. Especially over Ringo. He really seems to have something big for the American girls. But he doesn’t know what it is. He just shakes his head and they go mad.”

And just like that, a few head shakes sealed the deal. The Beatles had conquered the United States.