Week in Rock History: The Beatles Land in New York

Plus: The Clash begin recording their debut and Bill Haley passes away

February 6, 2012 9:35 AM ET

beatles new york 1964
The Beatles arrive at JFK airport in New York from London for their first tour of the United States.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

This week in rock history, the Beatles arrived in New York, Bill Haley passed away, the Clash began recording their studio debut, Sonny Bono declared his candidacy for mayor and Phil Spector was in a major car crash.

February 7, 1964: The Beatles land in New York
Beatlemania had a modest start: Pan Am Yankee Clipper flight 101, departing from London's Heathrow Airport for New York's John F. Kennedy Airport. However, its arrival was met with 3,000 hysterically screaming fans, many of them in tears, in one of the most iconic moments in rock & roll history.

The Beatles, all in their early 20s, were in New York to make their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, although they stopped for a now-famous press conference at Kennedy Airport. (When asked about the current campaign in Detroit to "stamp out the Beatles," Paul McCartney replied, "We're bringing out a Stamp Out Detroit campaign.") Though they had just scored their first major radio hit in the United States with "I Want to Hold Your Hand," their American reception still shocked the band. Little did they know that their arrival at JFK was only the beginning.

February 9, 1981: Bill Haley dies
Bill Haley, the unlikely singer behind "Rock Around the Clock," was a major international force between 1954 and 1957. In that time, accompanied by his band the Comets, he sold approximately 60 million records and appeared in the earliest teen-oriented rock movies.

Haley, a native of Highland Park, Michigan, was the first significant American rock artist to tour Europe, a move that would greatly motivate the Beatles and Elvis (the latter of whom would eclipse his homeland success overseas in the late Fifties). Though the Comets disbanded in 1962, "Rock Around the Clock" is still considered one of the most influential rock standards of all time.

Haley died in his sleep in Harlingen, Texas, at age 55. He had been battling alcoholism for some time. In 2006, the International Astronomical Union named an asteroid "79896 Billhaley" to mark the 25th anniversary of the musician's death.

February 10, 1977: The Clash begin recording their debut album
In the Clash's earliest days, the band had one righteous muse: Mick Jones' grandmother. The matriarch of the singer-guitarist's family attended the band's earliest shows at some of the scruffiest locales in London and lent her apartment to the band. It was in her flat that the group masterminded much of their eponymous studio debut.

The 1977 record was a quick hit. The lyrics, written almost entirely by Jones and Joe Strummer, were bristling with streetwise intelligence, and the histrionic guitars shaped much of punk to follow. The album was not released that year in the United States, though, as CBS Records decided the content was unsuitable for radio. The U.S. release came two years later, after the Clash's follow-up studio album, Give 'Em Enough Rope.

The Clash, and Mick's grandmother, currently enjoy several placements in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums list. The Clash rings in at Number 77.

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