60 Years Ago, The Beatles Appeared On ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’ Starting Beatlemania In U.S.


60 years ago, the Beatles made history on the Ed Sullivan Show60 years ago, the Beatles made history on the Ed Sullivan Show

It’s not always possible to discern that moment in history when nothing will ever be the same again – not in the moment, anyway. But even without the gift of hindsight, it was easy to tell something special was happening when the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, a remarkable occasion that happened 60 years ago this February.

This moment was a perfect storm of all the right forces meeting at the right time and place. The Beatles had four years of establishing solid stardom in their native England, but they were not the band was not yet the cultural touchstone it would be in America. That changed with their 1964 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, the start of their sensational fame in the U.S. – the start of Beatlemania.

The Beatles took the stage on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ by storm 60 years ago

60 years ago, Ed Sullivan secured the Beatles for his widely-watched show60 years ago, Ed Sullivan secured the Beatles for his widely-watched show
60 years ago, Ed Sullivan secured the Beatles for his widely-watched show / Everett Collection

1964 was just finding its stride as February rounded the corner into its second week when the Beatles set out from Heathrow, accompanied by some 4,000 screaming fans saying goodbye, destined for New York. When they landed in John F. Kennedy Airport, 3,000 more fans were already there to bid them welcome.

Just two days later, the Beatles officially gave their very first live American television performance on none other than The Ed Sullivan Show. 73 million viewers across 23 million households tuned in for the occasion, accounting for an estimated 34% of the country’s entire population. For some fun additional context, 24 million viewers tuned in for the very first Super Bowl three years later; there was no keeping up with the Fab Four. Crowds they were relatively used to – but the setting on The Ed Sullivan Show was totally new to the Beatles.

“When we first came here, we’d never seen this kind of thing,” recalled McCartney in a 2009 interview with David Letterman. “TV studios in England were kind of all on one floor… But here is’ like an apartment block!” He added, “The memory of being here is great. It was kind of scary the first time.”

The start of a transformed cultural landscape

THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW, The Beatles (from left: Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, John Lennon) in dress rehearsal, (Seaseon 17, ep. 1719, aired Feb. 9, 1964), 1948-71.

The Beatles were the exciting new foreign musical sensation performing on one of the most-watched programs on TV. “Just received a wire, they did, from Elvis Presley and Col. Tom Parker wishing them a tremendous success in our country,” Sullivan said to his eager audience. “Now tonight the whole country is waiting to hear England’s Beatles.”

Sullivan had started scoping the Beatles out as a talent for his show in ’63, around when they reached the height of their fame in the U.K. They might not have known at the time, but Sullivan was watching the start of Beatlemania unfold in Britain and his show would help cement its place in the U.S.

But first, he had to secure the quartet. An episode of Everything Fab Four details how this feat was accomplished, with testimony from Margo Precht Speciale, granddaughter of Sullivan and daughter of producer Bob Precht. “There are two stories – the PR story and the real story,” she explained.

Beatlemania officially had a home in the U.S.Beatlemania officially had a home in the U.S.
Beatlemania officially had a home in the U.S. / YouTube screenshot

“There’s an oft-repeated tale of my grandfather discovering them at an airport, but no – the truth is a lot more involved than that.”

At 8 p.m. on Sunday, almost a hundred million Americans got a firsthand look at the newest musical craze – not just the Beatles but the jubilation their presence could cause, as cameras gave an up close and personal look at the young crowd of fans screaming, swooning, and setting down the first stone in the Beatlemania empire.

Did you tune in for this historic moment in music history?


Source link