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A Trip back to Beatlemania ’64 with Cousin Brucie, Jamie Bernstein and Blac Rabbit

BY LIZ THOMSON | Where were you at 8 p.m. on Sun., Feb. 9, 1964? If you were alive back then, chances are you were in the family living room, peering at your TV awaiting the announcement by Ed Sullivan of the first US appearance of The Beatles.

They had arrived two days earlier on Pan Am Flight 101, and from the moment they opened their mouths to parry with the assembled press in the JFK arrivals hall, it was clear nothing would ever be the same again. Britain had succumbed to Beatlemania six months earlier. Now it was America’s turn.

Cousin Brucie interviewing The Beatles at the Plaza Hotel in 1964.

Relive the dawn of America’s love affair with the Fab Four at a special event presented by The Village Trip at the Loft at City Winery, at 25 11th Ave., at 15th St., on Mon., Feb. 5. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of The Beatles’ arrival in the US, legendary radio personality Bruce Morrow (Cousin Brucie) and author Jamie Bernstein (daughter of maestro Leonard Bernstein) will engage in a lively conversation about the group’s impact on music, popular culture and America. Blac Rabbit (twins Amiri and Rahiem Taylor) will perform their remarkable Beatles covers. Doors open at 6 p.m., the show starts at 7 p.m., and a meet-and-greet with Brucie, Jamie and the Taylor twins will take place afterward for ticket-holders who purchase special passes.

Jamie Bernstein, right, holding The Beatles album “Rubber Soul,” with her brother Jamie and her dad Leonard Bernstein.

John, Paul, George and Ringo arrived in a country still in its mourning clothes. President Kennedy was not yet three months dead, and New York’s Idlewild Airport had been renamed in his honour just six weeks earlier. It was as if The Beatles gave a traumatized nation permission to have fun again. These four talented and charming young men wore their hair outrageously long by the standards of the day, but were dressed in suits and ties and did nothing so vulgar that required they be filmed only from the waist up, as Elvis had been eight years earlier.

A Beatlemania collage poster Jamie Bernstein made when she was a young girl. (Photo by Jamie Bernstein)

Jamie Bernstein, who was 12 at the time, remembers watching the show with brother Alexander and her parents.

“Just because I was a Beatlemaniac as a kid doesn’t mean I can’t still be one, all these years later!” she said. “Not only is their music permanently tattooed into my core consciousness; it also evokes some of the happiest memories I have of growing up in my family. My dad loved Beatles music, and we geeked out over the albums together for hours. It’s one of the ways I learned a lot about music.”

Jamie would have to wait another year to meet them at their second “Ed Sullivan Show” appearance in 1965. Cousin Brucie was in the room that February day, interviewing The Beatles in their suite at the Plaza Hotel, where staff and police begged “the boys” not to stand by the windows. When they did, hysteria broke out among fans crowding the street below.

Jamie Bernstein. (Photo by Carol Friedman)
Radio deejay Bruce Morrow a.k.a. Cousin Brucie.

“The ‘British Invasion’ was about to begin,” Cousin Brucie recalled. “When The Beatles landed in New York, our music industry was in dire need of a shot of adrenalin. The four mop tops from Liverpool gave us that new energy — they affected our music, language, dress and hair style.

“That’s what I’m going to be talking to Jamie Bernstein about — the music, the magic and The Beatles’ effect on our lives.”

The Maestro’s daughter and the legendary DJ, whose “Saturday Night Rock ’n’ Roll Party” airs every week on WABC, will headline “The Beatles: It Was 60 Years Ago Today: A Beatles Conversation with Cousin Brucie and Jamie Bernstein.” It promises to be a lively give-and-take about music, radio, the Fab Four and the power of popular culture to bring people together while revealing underlying truths. A truly unique event presented by The Village Trip, it will combine heartwarming recollections and serious discussion about a phenomenon that changed popular music forever. At Christmas 2023, The Beatles were back atop the charts with a “new” song, “Now and Then.”

Leonard Bernstein, in the introduction to “The Beatles,” by Geoffrey Stokes (1979), wrote of “the frabjous falsetto shriek-cum-croon, the ineluctable beat, the flawless intonation, the utterly fresh lyrics, the Schubert-like flow of musical invention and the f— -you coolness of those Four Horsemen of Our Apocalypse, on The Ed Sullivan Show of 1964.

The band Blac Rabbit are “obsessed” with The Beatles’ music.

Joining Jamie and Brucie will be Blac Rabbit, whose “frabjous” sounds led The New York Times to describe them as “maybe the Best Beatles Cover Band Ever.” The Bed Stuy-born twins have been “obsessed” with The Beatles ever since their grandmother bought them The Beatles: Rock Band video game.

“Every melody, every guitar solo we would memorize and sing along,” Amiri said. “The Beatles have set such a high standard with their music, and they help us continue to strive in improving our skill as songwriters. I couldn’t imagine the world without them.”

And in case you’re wondering about The Beatles’ connections to the Village, amid the mayhem of that 1964 trip, on their last night in New York they managed to sneak Downtown and were spotted at the Improvisation coffeehouse. (If anyone is able to identify where it was, they will receive a free ticket to the post-show meet-and-greet, so get your thinking caps on!)

In the 1970s, John Lennon and Yoko Ono lived in a tiny apartment at 105 Bank St., rented from Joe Butler of The Lovin’ Spoonful. The couple partied with Norman Mailer and Barney Rosset, founder of Grove Press, recorded with David Bowie at Electric Lady Studios, and were photographed by Westbeth resident Bob Gruen. On the night of Lennon’s assassination, a candlelight vigil was held in Washington Square Park.

Lennon had told Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone: “I should have been born in the Village! That’s where I belong! … New York was it! I regret profoundly not being American and not being born in Greenwich Village. That’s where I should have been.”

Book tickets here.

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