"One, two, three, FOUR!"
Never has a foreign invasion of a country's culture been announced in such a way. But so it was when American disc jockeys began playing the B-side of a 45 rpm record by a popular British rock 'n' roll quartet in January 1964.
The radio release of The Beatles' Capitol recording of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" backed by "I Saw Her Standing There" - some weeks before the record company planned as the story goes - touched off a revolution that permeated everyday life in America and remains permanently ingrained in our culture five decades later.
In commemoration of the Fab Four's first American performance on the Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday, Feb. 9, 1964, and all that followed, the Harford County Public Library has Beatles-themed events planned starting this month and lasting through the spring to examine the group's influence and give Beatlemaniacs of all ages an opportunity to remember and learn.
The first was Sunday at the Jarrettsville branch when "Is Paul Dead?" was presented by Beatles historian Joel Glazier.
Is he or isn't he?
None of the 10 or so attendees thought Paul McCartney was actually dead, although one woman admitted to being unsure.
But all were intrigued by Glazier's look at the album covers, song lyrics and even paternity claims that first fueled the 1969 rumor that McCartney was replaced by a lookalike after being killed in a car crash.
"I was a freshman at college at the time and it really took off at college campuses," Glazier, a former teacher from Wilmington, Del., said.
Sporting a "Is Paul Dead?" sweatshirt, Glazier said he has met all the Beatles, including McCartney – or is it "McCartney?" – in 1971.
"According to this story, I would have met the replacement," he said, calling the urban legend "interesting" and "entertaining."
Starting with the "Abbey Road" album cover, where (famously left-handed) Paul holds a cigarette with his right hand and is alone in walking barefoot, fans of the Fab Four scrutinized song lyrics and album art to find more "proof" that McCartney was secretly gone for good.
The Beatles themselves didn't do much to stop the rumors for a while, giving contradictory answers to anyone who questioned them about the rumor.
Wasn't John Lennon saying "I buried Paul" at the coda to "Strawberry Fields Forever"? No, Lennon said, it was "cranberry sauce."
Paul was supposedly "rehearsing" when he took off his shoes for the "Abbey Road" cover, but a rehearsal photo shows him in sandals.
Even an issue of Life magazine, where McCartney dismissed the rumor, didn't put the conspiracy to rest.
For Glazier, every rebuttal just gives rise to more questions. He, for one, stays mum on his belief about McCartney's existence.
"I never give my own opinion, because I really don't have one," Glazier told the audience.
The rumor, or at least its memory, has lived on through the decades. Glazier showed a 1993 "Saturday Night Live" sketch with the late Chris Farley interviewing McCartney about the time "you were supposed to be dead."
Real or ersatz, McCartney appeared with Starr, the other surviving Beatle, in the salute to the group during the Feb. 8 Grammy Awards telecast. Their appearance was taped in Los Angeles on Jan. 27.
This Saturday, Feb. 22, Glazier will present the program "From Eleanor Rigby to Sgt. Pepper" at the Harford Public Library's Fallston branch from 2 to 3:30 p.m.
The Beatles lasted as a musical group for less than eight years, but their influence went beyond the world of popular music and impacted fashion, popular culture, politics and multiple forms of entertainment.
In this program, Glazier will look how the four talented performers both influenced and were changed by their times. Visuals, audio and artifacts from The Beatles' career will be shared.
This program is for all ages from grades 9 to adult.
Other Beatles themed programs planned by the Harford County Public Library include:
• Thursday, March 20: Beatles Game Night, Fallston branch, 6 to 8 p.m.
• Monday, April 14: Beatles Rock Band Open House, Fallston branch, 1 to 4 p.m.
• Thursday, May 15: Beatles Trivia Night, Fallston branch, 6 to 8 p.m.
For more information on these and other Harford County Public Library programs, visit the Library's website, http://www.hcplonline.org.