“Consider the following: At the end of 1963, virtually no one in America had heard of the Beatles. Yet on Feb. 9, 1964, they drew the largest TV audience in history-73 million viewers-when they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. How could such a conquest have occurred so quickly?” Fifty years later, Billboard’s Steve Greenberg looks back on how the Beatles went viral.

+ “Visually they are a nightmare, tight, dandified Edwardian-Beatnik suits and great pudding bowls of hair. Musically they are a near disaster, guitars and drums slamming out a merciless beat that does away with secondary rhythms, harmony and melody. Their lyrics (punctuated by nutty shouts of “yeah, yeah, yeah”) are a catastrophe, a preposterous farrago of Valentine-card romantic sentiments….” Suffice it to say, not all of the early reviews of the Beatles were positive.