February 9th, 1964- The Beatles Appear on Sullivan [VIDEO]
On this day in 1964 the Beatles appeared on the “Ed Sullivan Show” and earned $2,400. The show was watched by 73 million people and 50,000 requests were made for the 728 available seats in the theater!
In late 1963, Sullivan and his entourage happened also to be passing through Heathrow and witnessed how The Beatles’ fans greeted the group on their return from Stockholm, where they had performed a television show as warmup band to local star Lill Babs. Sullivan was intrigued, telling his entourage it was the same thing as Elvis all over again. He initially offered Beatles manager Brian Epstein top dollar for a single show but the Beatles manager had a better idea—he wanted exposure for his clients: the Beatles would instead appear three times on the show, at bottom dollar, but receive top billing and two spots (opening and closing) on each show.
The Beatles appeared on three consecutive Sundays in February 1964 to great anticipation and fanfare as “I Want to Hold Your Hand” had swiftly risen to #1 in the charts. Their first appearance on February 9 is considered a milestone in American pop culture and the beginning of the British Invasion in music. The broadcast drew an estimated 73 million viewers, at the time a record for US television, and was characterized by an audience composed largely of screaming hysterical teenage girls in tears. The Beatles followed Ed’s show opening intro, performing “All My Loving”, “Till There Was You” which featured the names of the group members superimposed on closeup shots, including the famous “Sorry girls, he’s married:” caption on John Lennon, and “She Loves You”. They returned later in the program to perform “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand”.
The following week’s show was broadcast from Miami Beach where Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, was in training for his first title bout with Sonny Liston. The occasion was used by both camps for publicity. On the evening of the television show (February 16) a crush of people nearly prevented the band from making it onstage. A wedge of policemen were needed and the band began playing “She Loves You” only seconds after reaching their instruments. They continued with “This Boy”, and “All My Loving” and returned later to close the show with “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand”.
They were shown on tape February 23 (this appearance had been taped earlier in the day on February 9 before their first live appearance). They followed Ed’s intro with “Twist and Shout” and “Please Please Me” and closed the show once again with “I Want to Hold Your Hand”.
The Beatles appeared for the final time on August 14, 1965. The show was broadcast September 12, 1965 and earned Sullivan a 60 percent share of the nighttime audience for one of the appearances. This time they followed three acts before coming out to perform “I Feel Fine”, “I’m Down”, and “Act Naturally” and then closed the show with “Ticket to Ride”, “Yesterday”, and “Help!”. Although this was their final live appearance on the show, the group would for several years provide filmed promotional clips of songs to air exclusively on Sullivan’s program such as the 1966 and 1967 clips of “Paperback Writer”, “Rain”, “Penny Lane”, and “Strawberry Fields Forever”.
Although the appearances by The Beatles, Elvis, and The Supremes are considered the most famous rock and roll performances on Ed Sullivan, several months before Elvis debuted, Sullivan invited Bill Haley & His Comets to perform their then-current hit “Rock Around the Clock” in early August 1955. This was later recognized by CBS and others (including music historian Jim Dawson in his book on “Rock Around the Clock”) as the first performance of a rock and roll song on a national television program.
Here’s a classic report from CBS on this whole “Beatlemania” thing: