THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Sir Peter Westmacott Headshot

The Beatles Rock the British Embassy Yet Again, 50 Years On

Posted: Updated:

As every American with a TV or an Internet connection now knows, last week marked 50 years since the Beatles first rocked the United States with their sensational first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Half a million people applied for the 700 available studio tickets. Some 73 million watched on television -- almost half of all Americans alive at the time -- which shows just how wide their appeal was, even then.

After making their US TV debut in New York, the band headed south to Washington, D.C. Just to prove that some things don't change, their attempt to fly here was thwarted by a sudden snowstorm. At Union Station, John Lennon told a reporter he thought the snow would "probably last longer" than the Beatles' own influence.

Lennon meant that as a joke, of course. But who would have dared predict at the time that the Beatles would still be one of the most popular bands in the world half a century later? After all, what band popular in 1914 was still making waves in 1964?

On February 11, 1964, the Beatles played their first ever public concert in America. It took place in Washington before 8,000 adoring fans -- at least one of whom, the 15-year-old Al Gore, would go on to become rather well known in his own right. That evening, the band attended a reception at the British Embassy that was, famously, a somewhat raucous affair.

Half a century has not diminished the Beatles' power to bring people together. We at the Embassy recreated the moment with a party of our own. We decorated the Residence with psychedelic flowers, Mini motorcars and Beatles album covers. We served Let It Brie cheese and a cocktail called Abbey Road, which some guests affectionately renamed 'Beatle Juice.' Live music came courtesy of a fantastic tribute band called, fittingly, 1964, and we tried our best to dress appropriately. See the photos here.

Five decades on from The Ed Sullivan Show, the effect is still with us. The British Invasion may have started with the Beatles, but it certainly didn't end with them. A lot of its heroes are still popular today. The Rolling Stones celebrated their own 50th anniversary in 2013 with a massively successful US tour. When a bust of Winston Churchill was unveiled at the US Capitol toward the end of last year, Roger Daltrey of The Who was there singing "Stand By Me."

And of course America's obsession with British music has never ended. Adele won a Grammy, a Golden Globe and an Oscar in 2013. One Direction have made US chart history by debuting at number one with each of their first three albums. And one of the top new bands of the moment, Bastille, emulated the Beatles by playing at the Embassy, shortly before their single"'Pompeii" debuted at number one on the Billboard Alternative chart. So here's to another 50 years of British musical brilliance!