Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fab Four And Publicity, Then And Now

There was a big, two-page ad in the NY Times recently with archival photos and newspaper clippings of the Beatles' arrival in America 50 years ago. It was to promote a new re-release of some kind. The Beatles were always good at publicity.

Here's our attempt to be the same: an excerpt about them from our new book, "Brooklyn 3, New York", about the life and times in the borough back then . Available at Buffalo Street Books or from me directly.


Our dad ran the print shop at Pan Am - a pretty big job. They generated a lot of paper at the biggest airline in the world.

Along with all the other copying, they created a memo packet each morning that amounted to a daily newspaper. Trucks ran it out to LaGuardia and Idlewild every weekday. The Pan Am building itself was a town, going up instead of out.

Our dad started working there at age 16. He knew - and cared - a lot about the place.

One winter day, he came home with a record album in a Pan Am bag. "Ever heard of these guys?," he asked.

It was four guys called The Beatles. They looked strange.

Never, we said.

"You will soon," our father said.

They were from England, which we associated with wars, not music. But apparently they were popular there, and coming to America. They would be flying on Pan Am.

They would be on the Ed Sullivan Show, our father said, and if they became as popular in America as in England, it would be good publicity for Pan Am, having carried them.

That seemed strange to us, that Pan Am would care about publicity from flying four guys in weird suits and haircuts, but our father said so.

"Listen to it and see what you think," he said.

They didn't look like musicians. Musicians had straight teeth and hair piled up high. Like the Everly Brothers. That's who we liked.

Apparently, though, the Beatles liked them, too. That's what we found out when we listened.

They sang like the Everly Brothers. Those kind of harmonies. Except louder.

It was all loud, but we liked it. Every song on the record was good.

Soon, you started hearing the Beatles on the radio. The two songs they played the most were the ones we liked the least. But they were as good as anything else on the radio, or better.

Before you ever heard them on the radio, you would see bumper stickers on walls, saying "The Beatles Are Coming." Who?, kids asked. We knew, but failed to generate much interest when we explained they were a music group from England who were flying on Pan Am.

When they arrived in New York, two days before the Ed Sullivan show, they were met and interviewed at Idlewild by a mob of reporters and photographers. The Pan Am logo was behind them, on the wall above their heads. Job well done, somebody.

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