Albert Maysles Filmed the Birth of Beatlemania

ABC News
Beyond The Headline

It seems inevitable now, when everyone knows the words to classics like “She Loves You,” that The Beatles would change the world.

But 50 years ago when they landed in New York it wasn't so obvious what was coming, certainly not to a young filmmaker who got a last minute call.

“They said The Beatles are arriving in two hours, would you like to make a film of them? So I put my hand over the phone and turned to my brother and I said, ‘who are The Beatles?’”

Albert Maysles and his brother David delivered the answer to that question with the footage they captured over the next several days for the film, What's Happening! The Beatles in the U.S.A. The Beatles revealed themselves as young boys that were dazzled by New York and startled by the crowds. They were still counting their own hits on the radio and not sure themselves whether they were just a passing fad.

In other words, they were hungry. And Americans, still raw with grief after the assassination of President Kennedy only three months earlier, were ready for something to light the night.

“They’re so innocent, they’re so open,” says Maysles, “it’s a privilege for anybody watching the Beatles on the screen, it’s a privilege for them to reach that extra stage of familiarity. Very few things can be better than that; I think we got it just right.”