“I’m 15 and I feel like 80”

On today’s date in 1964,  “Introducing the Beatles” was released. It was the Beatles’ first album in the United States.

For Janelle Blackwell, the album would have dire consequences, aging her 65 years. In April of 1964, she wrote to the U.S. Labor Department, ending her letter with the statement  “I’m 15 and I feel like 80.”

What could cause a teenager to feel like an old woman?

The answer is surprisingly bureaucratic: The immigration status of the Beatles.

Thousands of teenagers had been sent into a froth of distress over the new rules put in place for foreign entertainers by the U.S. Labor Department in April 1964. Misleading newspaper reports started rumors that the Beatles would not be allowed back into the United States.

For Janelle, these reports were too much. Sickened by the thought that the mop-topped foursome could never step foot on American soil, she and three friends had to stay home sick from school. Janelle used her time to write a passionate argument to the Labor Department in favor of her band. Even if they had done something improper, she said, “you must all agree the teenagers of the U.S. want them back.”

Fortunately for Janelle and her fellow American teenagers, the rumors were cleared up, and the Beatles were able to return on several occasions.

It’s been a while since I was a teenage girl, but Janelle’s devotion to her favorite band still feels familiar. I wonder if she ever got to see the Beatles—and if she knows her letter is part of the National Archives?

Letter from Janelle Blackwell, 04/03/1964, page 1 (ARC Identifier 596104)
Letter from Janelle Blackwell, 04/03/1964, page 1 (ARC Identifier 596104)
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