PORTLAND (AP) – It was 40 years ago Monday that the Beatles made their landmark appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, and Mainers are recalling how the group captured their fancy.

On Feb. 9, 1964, about 73 million Americans sat down to watch the show that marked the Beatles’ first U.S. visit. By the time the group was finished with “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You,” Beatlemania was sweeping the nation.

Dan Burke, 56, of Freeport, recalled how he wanted to grow his hair long after watching the mop-headed British rock group. The Beatles’ hair was neat and of unremarkable length by today’s standards, but was almost scandalously long in that crewcut era.

Burke kept his hair short at his parents’ insistence, but his rock band was so struck by the Beatles that they sewed velvet collars on their blazers and wore narrow ties to look more like the Fab Four.

“They could sing and the music was good to dance to…and had lyrics that kids could identify with. They put it all together in a package. That was pretty unique,” said Burke, who now plays in a bluegrass band.

Jane Eberle, 51, of South Portland, said the Beatles played an important part of her growing up.

“As a sixth-grader,” she said, “my aspiration was to marry Paul McCartney.”

When Vanessa Caron first saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, she thought of them as a “bunch of beatniks.” By the end of their set, though, she was hooked. Today she still feels a passion for their music.

Caron, who is 49 and lives in Skowhegan, said the Beatles are a part of her youth that she’s been able to take with her into adulthood. She has kept her Beatles bubble gum cards and pictures, and read the Beatles’ biographies. In the early 1990s, she realized a long-held dream when she attended a Paul McCartney concert in Foxboro, Mass.

“They’ve always been there. They’ve never disappeared, even Paul. He’s still putting out music and still looking cute at 62 years old, or whatever he is now,” she said.

Not everybody was enthralled, however.

Bob Wirtz, 53, owner of Enterprise Records on Congress Street in Portland, said the Beatles didn’t make a big impression on him when he was growing up in Chicago; he preferred jazz and the blues.

Wirtz was more a fan of the Rolling Stones because “they had the blues thing going on.”

“I never did really care for the Beatles that much,” Wirtz said. “There was this other stuff around that was more appealing and the Beatles’ stuff was kind of light.”

Still, he said the Beatles remain perennially popular at his record store.

“As far as singing groups are concerned, they are probably our best-selling group,” Wirtz said.

AP-ES-02-09-04 0215EST



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