There’s something alluring about big, round anniversaries. People just can’t seem to get enough of them. On the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, for example, virtually every media outlet in the United States—and more than a few overseas—responded with tributes, photos, videos and analysis. Even less-significant round anniversaries—say, the 40th anniversary of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s historic 1973 tour of China—often garner a remarkable amount of attention.
Here, LIFE.com looks back at 1964 through the lens of LIFE magazine covers. While not nearly as momentous as other dates from that tumultuous decade (1963 and 1968 come readily to mind), 1964 was, like any other year, nevertheless filled with events, personalities, triumphs and tragedies that, to greater or lesser degrees, still resonate today. From the release of the classic 007 movie, Goldfinger, to the emergence of a brash young fighter named Cassius Clay; from the first rumblings of Beatlemania and the British Invasion to America’s deepening entanglement in Southeast Asia and Vietnam, LIFE covers at the time provided readers with a sort of weekly visual tally of the year’s significant people and moments.