Feb. 9 – A REALLY Big Show…

This was the beginning of something big! On this night in 1964, The Beatles performed on the Ed Sullivan Show for the first time. The Fab Four had touched down in New York for the first time two days earlier; 3000 fans had been waiting for them there. They’d been a fixture at home on the British music scene for a year but had only risen to prominence in the US that year, hitting #1 for the first time with “I Want To Hold Your Hand” a week prior.

Watching Sullivan’s variety show was a popular Sunday night ritual for many American families and he’d been instrumental in helping launch Elvis Presley’s career a few years earlier. His interest in The Beatles was sparked when he happened to see them- or more accurately, their legion of screaming fans- in a British airport the previous year. He’d made arrangements to get them on his show, and rather than one single, highly-paid performance, their manager Brian Epstein had agreed to have them do three shows for a lower price. It was a genius move. It cemented them in the American culture as the band of note; they’d score three straight #1 singles that would top Billboard for 14 weeks that spring.

The actual debut TV performance saw them perform five songs, split over two sets: “All My Loving”, “til There Was You”, “She Loves You” and then “I Saw Her Standing There” plus “I Want To Hold Your Hand” to finish. At times it was difficult to hear them over the ruckus of the screaming fans, in the TV studio and in all likelihood in many houses! The show was watched in 23 million US households, by about 73 million people (at a time when the population of the whole country was only 190 million!). At the time it was the highest-rated TV show in history.

It’s import goes well beyond launching their career in a big way in the US. Seeing it and being influenced by it seems a common thread among American rock stars that came to prominence at the end of the 60s or early-70s. Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and Tom Petty are just three who cite it as the defining moment of their youth and what launched them on the path to music careers. Said The Boss, “this was different! Four guys playing and singing, writing their own material…rock’n’roll came to my house where there seemed to be no way out!”

2 thoughts on “Feb. 9 – A REALLY Big Show…

  1. Pingback: October 18 – Millions Wanted To Hold Their Hands – A Sound Day

  2. Pingback: October 25 – Lots Spent Night Together With Ed – A Sound Day

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