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Ed Sullivan and The Beatles

Ed Sullivan and The Beatles all started in October 1963 when Ed Sullivan and his wife were in London where they were delayed at Heathrow Airport by the crowds greeting them on their return from Sweden. As the story goes, Sullivan took note of the interest that they drew, and later, met with Brian Epstein, their manager. The Ed Sullivan show was the top-rated variety show on US television and was known for presenting first looks at up-and-coming acts.

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Stage
The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Stage

The rest is television history. Fifty thousand ticket requests came in for the 728 available seats, and on February 9, 1964 Nielsen estimated the audience at 73+ million viewers, something like 45% of the country. Everything stood still while America watched the Ed Sullivan and The Beatles.

The impact of the performance on American audiences was immediate and profound. The Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show marked the beginning of the British Invasion, a period of time when British rock bands dominated the American music charts. The performance also served as a cultural touchstone for the baby boomer generation, who were coming of age during a time of great social and political change.

The Music Scene

The state of popular music in the early 1960s was largely dominated by the music of Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, and other crooners of the time. However, The Beatles and their unique brand of rock and roll quickly began to take the world by storm. The impact of Beatlemania on American culture was significant, with young people all over the country dressing like the band members and imitating their music. The cultural significance of The Ed Sullivan Show cannot be understated, as it was a hugely popular variety show that showcased some of the biggest names in entertainment at the time.

The Beatles’ Rise to Fame

The Beatles’ early years in Liverpool are well-documented, with the band playing countless gigs in local clubs and venues. They released their first single, “Love Me Do,” in 1962 and quickly followed it up with a string of hits, including “Please Please Me” and “She Loves You.” The band’s growing popularity in the UK and Europe eventually caught the attention of American audiences, leading to their eventual arrival in the United States.

The Beatles Arrive in America

The story of The Beatles’ arrival in America is the stuff of legend, with fans lining the streets and screaming at the sight of the band members. Their reception by American fans and the media was equally frenzied, with news outlets reporting on the band’s every move. The cultural significance of The Beatles’ American debut cannot be overstated, as it marked the beginning of their domination of the American music scene.

Booking The Beatles for The Ed Sullivan Show was a monumental task, with the band’s management negotiating a deal that would see them appear on three separate episodes of the show. The logistics of planning the performance were also significant, with the band rehearsing for weeks to ensure that their performance would be flawless. The anticipation and excitement surrounding the event were palpable, with fans and the media eagerly awaiting their appearance.

February 9, 1964

The Beatles’ performance on The Ed Sullivan Show was a historic moment in television and music history. The band played a set of five songs, including “All My Loving,” “Till There Was You,” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” The impact of the performance on American audiences was immense, with millions tuning in to watch the show. The significance of The Beatles’ appearance in the context of the civil rights movement and other social issues of the time cannot be ignored, as their music and message resonated with young people all over the country.

Ed Sullivan and The Beatles Song List

Ed Sullivan and The Beatles
Ed Sullivan with The Beatles

The Beatles sang 5 songs: All My Loving, Till There Was You, She Loves You, I Saw Her Standing There, and I Want To Hold Your Hand. From the very first note, girls in the audience were screaming while a closeup of John Lennon had carried a message “sorry girls, he’s married”.

Although the Beatles appeared on the show 8 more times, this was the only performance that was live in the studio.

The Beatles were on again for the next 2 weeks. For February 16, 1964, they broadcast a live performance from their hotel in Miami Beach, Florida. The Beatles played to a live audience during the afternoon at the hotel, then at 8 p.m., broadcast a live performance on The Ed Sullivan Show by satellite. The Beatles sang six songs; She Loves You, This Boy, All My Loving, I Saw Her Standing There, From Me To You, and I Want To Hold Your Hand. On the following week, the performance was by a tape that was recorded when they were in the studio on the 9th. They played three songs, Twist and Shout, Please Please Me, and I Want To Hold Your Hand. During the performance, Ed Sullivan thanked The Beatles for “being four of the nicest youngsters”.