It was inevitable, time marching on as it does, and yet it also hard to believe: Half a century has passed ince the Beatles touched down in New York for the first time, on Feb. 7, 1964, and seduced the country with three performances on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and three concerts, one at the Washington Coliseum and two at Carnegie Hall. Everything about them — their pudding basin haircuts, their Cardin suits and pointed boots, their sharp, irreverent sense of humor — seemed outlandish, compared with American pop groups. And though their music was firmly rooted — as they were always quick to point out — in American rhythm and blues, soul and rock, they produced a sound that was fresh, energetic and unmistakably their own.
To be realistic, the hits that resonated through America during that first visit, and in the early months of 1964 — “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Please Please Me” — are not what gave the Beatles their longevity. The musical curiosity that led the group quickly and inexorably toward more complex ground on “Rubber Soul,” “Revolver,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and onward, undoubtedly has more to do with it.