reprinted from the 2/17/2013 DemocraticUnderground.com
Anyone remember the American Beetles (spelled with a double “ee”)? I watched the American debut of the Beatles on Sunday night on the Ed Sullivan Show over 49 years ago. I was 13 years old. The next day in my Jr. High English class the young girls were buzzing about them and asked our young teacher, who must have been in his mid-twenties, what he thought of them. He thought of himself as being cool, with his blond hair in kind of a James Dean rockabilly style, and he occasionally would whip out an acoustic guitar to sing a song to the class from his own generation, “Love Letters In The Sand” by Pat Boone. He lashed out at the Beatles, saying they were physically unattractive, less attractive than the boys in the class, and that their music wouldn’t last. There seemed to be something very defensive in his reaction, as though his style and his generation was being challenged and surpassed. Within the next few months, the boys at school started growing their hair longer, eliminating the greasy kid stuff, and combing it down and the girls were debating whether George or Paul was the cutest.
It seems that there was quite a bit of early resistance to the Beatles in the U.S. The Beatles’ label in the UK, EMI had Capitol records as its subsidiary in the U.S. Capitol records hindered the release of early Beatles records in the U.S. and refused to release them for nearly a year according to wikipedia, not until a few weeks before their appearance on Ed Sullivan. The day after their Ed Sullivan appearance, the American media were highly critical of them. In fact, American media had been viewing the rise of the Beatles from across the Atlantic with great disparagement according to Wikipedia:
“…The phenomenon of Beatlemania in the UK was regarded with amusement by the US press, once it made any comment. When newspaper and magazine articles did begin to appear towards the end of 1963, they cited the English stereotype of eccentricity, reporting that the UK had developed an interest in something that had come and gone a long time ago in the US: rock and roll. Headlines included “The New Madness” and “Beatle Bug Bites Britain”, and writers employed word-play linking “beetle” with the “infestation” afflicting the UK. …”
I was a regular viewer of American Bandstand as a kid. I remember shortly after the Beetles arrived in early 1964 that Dick Clark started featuring and promoting a new band that came out of nowhere called the American Beetles and seemed to be a bit depressed that the “doo-wop”, rockabilly, and Memphis sound on which he had thrived was being threatened. I’m not putting down the doo-wop sound but just noting that Dick Clark didn’t seem to be a happy camper in the era of Beatlemania. He was presenting the American Beetles as America’s answer to the English Beatles, as though the ‘fab four’ were a threat to our musical way of life, as threatening as Sputnik had been to America’s space program.
Without accusing anyone in particular, I’m wondering if the Beatles, as an outside element from left field thrust into the American music industry didn’t upset the “payola” applecart, thereby generating resentment. Such was the intensity of Beatlemania after the Ed Sullivan show that DJs had to play their records, whether they were compensated under the table or not.
The American Beetles were just cashing in on this climate and soon changed their name to the Razor’s Edge once the Beatles began to reign supreme in the U.S. Actually, their sound reminds me more of the Dave Clark Five than the Beatles. It seems the American Beetles also toured Argentina and developed a big following there, explaining why the only live clips available on youtube are from Argentine TV.