The Beatles’ impact on the US was particularly strong, where a garage rock phenomenon had already begun, with hits such as “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen. The movement received a major lift following the group’s historic appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show watched by a record-breaking viewing audience of a nation mourning the recent death of President John F. Kennedy. Bill Dean writes: “It’s impossible to say just how many of America’s young people began playing guitars and forming bands in the wake of The Beatles’ appearance on the Sullivan show. But the anecdotal evidence suggests thousands – if not hundreds of thousands or even more – young musicians across the country formed bands and proceeded to play.”
Tom Petty, who played in two garage bands in Gainesville, Florida during the 1960s, is quoted mentioning the Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show and how it influenced him to be in a band. According to him: “Within weeks of that, you could drive through literally any neighborhood in Gainesville and you would hear the strains of garage bands playing … I mean everywhere. And I’d say by a year from that time, Gainesville probably had 50 bands.” For many, particularly young baby boomers, the Beatles’ visit reignited the sense of excitement and possibility that had been momentarily taken by Kennedy’s assassination. Much of this new excitement would be expressed in music, sometimes much to the chagrin of parents and elders, as kids raced to start bands by thousands, and this proliferation of new groups was not limited to the United States.
While the Beatles are often credited for sparking a musical revolution, research conducted by the Queen Mary University of London and Imperial College London suggests that the changes sparked by the band were already developing long before they entered the US. The study, which looks at shifts in chord progressions, beats, lyrics and vocals, shows that American music in the beginning of the 1960s was already moving away from mellow sounds like doo-wop and into more energetic rock styles. Professor Armand Lero argues that the Beatles’ innovations have been overstated by music historians: “They didn’t make a revolution or spark a revolution, they joined one. The trend is already emerging and they rode that wave, which accounts for their incredible success.”[nb 7] Beatles biographer Mark Lewisohn disagreed with the research by Queen Mary University, saying it “[doesn’t] stack up … Speak to anyone who was a young person in the US when The Beatles arrived and they will tell you how much of a revolution it was. They were there and they will tell you that the Beatles revolutionised everything.”
George Harrison was the first person to own a Rickenbacker 360/12, a guitar with twelve strings, the low eight of which are tuned in pairs, one octave apart; the higher four being pairs tuned in unison. The Rickenbacker is unique among twelve-string guitars in having the lower octave string of each of the first four pairs placed above the higher tuned string. This, and the naturally rich harmonics produced by a twelve-string guitar provided the distinctive overtones found on many of the Beatles’ recordings.
His use of this guitar during the recording of A Hard Day’s Night (1964) helped to popularise the model, and the jangly sound became so prominent that Melody Maker termed it the Beatles’ “secret weapon”. Roger McGuinn liked the effect so much that it became his signature guitar sound with the Byrds. While the Everly Brothers and the Searchers laid the foundations for jangle pop in the late 1950s to mid 1960s, the Beatles and the Byrds are commonly credited with launching the popularity of the “jangly” sound that defined the genre. In addition to the Byrds and Dylan, the Beatles were a huge influence on the folk rock explosion that would follow in the next year.