When I was a young boy, there were just three television networks. The U.S. population was split three ways, except on Sunday nights. Everyone watched The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday nights.

Everything changed in America Sunday night, Feb. 9, 1964. All week CBS ran promos for an appearance by a rock band from Liverpool England: The Beatles.

When Sunday night rolled around, the event was bigger than the hype. The Beatles performed two songs to a crowd of screaming teenaged girls. They screamed as tears ran down their faces.

This was something I had never seen. The Beatles were a sensation from that night on. They would appear on Ed Sullivan two more Sunday nights that same month, and again May 24. By the time they debuted on Ed Sullivan for the very first time in 1964, I was 9 years old and The Beatles had already released two albums. But the music was only the beginning.

Everyone in America began to grow their hair longer. Bangs appeared. American fashion changed to reflect what The Beatles wore. Men’s pants became trimmer and slim fitting. Beatle Boots began to appear. They were ankle-high dress shoes with high heels and pointed toes.

I wanted a pair bad!

The first schoolmate I knew to grow a Beatles haircut was Don Spiren. He had a blond mop top. Shortly thereafter we all stopped parting our hair. I began collecting Beatle bubblegum cards. I had quite a collection, and knew which cards I was missing.

In addition to their albums, Beatles hit singles blanketed AM radio. In 1965 the Beatles released “Rubber Soul” and followed it with “Revolver” in August of 1966. They set every trend.

The British bands that followed them to America were dubbed the British Invasion. The Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits, The Kinks, The Animals, The Hollies, The Dave Clark 5, The Zombies, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Yardbirds and The Who. That is just a few of the 40 acts following The Beatles.

It was quite a run. It would be another year before The Beatles would release another album. Things had gone more or less the same since 1964. But they were about to go in a very different direction.

Summer 1967 I was 12. The big grocery store in Rockland was the First National on Maverick Street. I still went shopping with my mother. There was a new Beatles album that had been out since the end of May. Going up and down the aisles looking for Bugles, I came to an endcap and there it was…

SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND

It went into the cart. When I got it home, I looked at the album cover for a long time. There was a lot to see.

There were 71 famous people on the cover. The cover shot was created by pasting the 71 life-size images on hard-board and then each image was hand-tinted. The Beatles themselves were photographed standing in front, wearing colorful silk military parade style uniforms each a different color.

I was very afraid they would not be The Beatles anymore. Had I looked at the spine, I would have seen the album title and then The Beatles plainly labeled. The music was very different, with horns and strings in a lavishly produced arrangement.

The album is a classic. I have been listening to it for more than 55 years. In that time the songs I like best have changed time and again. As I am writing this, I am looking at the album cover. Is it the original one I got from the First National? I cannot say for sure.

I can tell you this, “Fixing A Hole” sounds best right now.

Glenn Billington is a lifelong resident of Rockland and has worked for The Courier-Gazette and The Free Press since 1989.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Photo by Glenn Billington