Written By: Ben Cosgrove

When John, Paul, George and Ringo first made it across the pond in 1964 to play before their adoring, screaming fans in the States—including, famously, performances on The Ed Sullivan Show that mark, for many people, the true beginning of rock and roll’s British Invasion—LIFE photographers were there to capture the Liverpool lads’ wry spirit, their charm and their youth. (Were they really ever that young?)

Below is a short selection of pictures from 1964, when a quartet of mop-topped Brits landed on America’s shores and changed the pop-culture landscape forever.

John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr pose in a portrait on a black backdrop in January 1964

John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr posed in a portrait on a black backdrop in January 1964.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Two days after their U.S. TV debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show," the Beatles play for 8,000 fans at their first American concert, at the Coliseum in Washington, D.C., on February 11, 1964. Ticket price: $3.

Two days after their U.S. TV debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” the Beatles played for 8,000 fans at their first American concert, at the Coliseum in Washington, D.C., on February 11, 1964. Ticket price: $3.

Stan Wayman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The Beatles joke and smoke at a press date in August 1964.

The Beatles joked and smoked at a press conference in August 1964 at the start of their U.S. tour.

Bill Ray The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The Beatles wave to fans as they arrive at the Los Angeles airport in August 1964 for a press conference at the start of their second American tour.

The Beatles waved to fans as they arrived at the Los Angeles airport in August 1964 for a press conference at the start of their second American tour.

Bill Ray The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Police hold back a crowd of fans at the Los Angeles airport in August 1964.

Police held back a crowd of fans at the Los Angeles airport in August 1964.

Bill Ray The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Beatles concerts, like this American show in 1964, are noisy affairs where screaming crowds drown out the band.

At Beatles concerts, like this American show in 1964, screaming crowds often drowned out the band.

Ralph Morse The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

John, Paul, George and Ringo in a (very, very cold) Miami swimming pool in February 1964.

John, Paul, George and Ringo in a (very, very cold) Miami swimming pool in February 1964.

John Loengard The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

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