Remember watching on black-and white TV the crowds of screaming girls, bouncing in their seat, tears streaming down their cheeks, during the Beatles' concert on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964, or Shea Stadium in 1965? (Or at least have you seen video clips of it on You Tube?) Those girls were shrieking so loud you could see their tonsils. That wasn't just show, it was sheer idolatry, whipped up to a frothy frenzy.
Remember the throngs of fans, the police barricades keeping the crowds from crushing their heroes? How the Fab Four greeted their well-wishers, signed autographs. Sometimes a too-ardent fan might try to snip a lock of hair, or would give anything to have a piece of their idol's personal property? If an admirer was close enough to touch a sleeve or, the ultimate -- shake a hand -- they sighed in sweet agony, "I'll never wash that hand again."
Remember how Beatles souvenirs were everywhere? If you had even a tattered ticket stub to a concert, that was gold. Failing that, younger members of the groupie generation got Beatles lunchboxes or other widely available memorabilia.
Many got Beatles haircuts. The Beatles were simply all the rage. There was nothing they could do, nowhere they could go, that wasn't of highest interest and utmost fancy and fantasy. We were a nation on the verge of a new order, and the Beatles, the heroes from the other side of the pond, symbolized everything in that new way of thinking of ourselves as a nation.
Well, in 1824-1825, the Marquis de Lafayette, the last living general of the Revolutionary War, toured the young United States and created that socio-cultural phenomenon. Perhaps he was the first "American Idol" on a road tour.