Quick, when did the British Invasion begin? You know, when The Beatles took over North American hearts and minds, starting a year of insanity that changed music and popular culture forever. The Ed Sullivan Show, right? When everybody tuned in? Well guess what. That was Feb. 9, 1964, and The Beatles were old news by that time in Canada. This country had been going wild for the Fab Four since December, and it had been building for a year already, way before those slowpokes in the U.S. had paid any attention.
That story has been completely told in the meticulous, essential The Beatles In Canada: The Origins of Beatlemania! by Toronto author and music historian Piers Hemmingsen. A life-long Beatles fan, Hemmingsen had a unique view of the group's rise, living in England in the early '60's as the group broke in that country, and then moving in Canada just prior to their ascendance here. A lifetime of research has led to a series of books on The Beatles in Canada, including the most exhaustive discography of their releases in this country. It all came together with this huge, hard-cover coffee table book released first in 2016, jammed with photos, historic articles, first-time interviews and truly the whole story.
If you don't know, The Beatles first broke in England in late 1962, and over 1963 Beatlemania raged in England, as well as parts of continental Europe and Scandinavia. The group's label in the U.S., Capitol Records, was not interested at first, and didn't bother to release any of the group's music. But in Canada, a wise Capitol exec named Paul White, whose job it was to choose which U.K. artists to release here, took an interest. At first, not much happened, with debut single Love Me Do selling under a 100 copies. But White was determined, and over the year, four singles and a Canadian-only album release, White convinced radio, and radio convinced Canada. Hemmingsen follows the path, and documents each piece of that journey. So when The Beatles showed up in New York to appear on Sullivan, they were already stars back in Canada. No wonder Paul White was one of the few people allowed into the group's inner circle during that visit. And as Hemmingsen tells us, as fans lined up for their Carnegie Hall appearance, The Beatles were studying their chart numbers from Saint John, N.B., in their Plaza Hotel suite.
It's all a fantastic story that shows Canada's crucial role in launching the group world-wide, and a must for Beatles fans. The book has just been released again, this time as an eBook via Amazon, or a special edition by Apple iBooks. That's an exclusive enhanced edition that includes audio clips embedded in the book with interviews, rare radio recordings and info from the author. Especially interesting is hearing the story from Paul White, who sadly passed away earlier this year. Just fire up the iTunes and grab a couple of your old Beatles albums to listen to as well.