There comes a point in every art form, where evolution is necessary in order for it to progress and move forward. A short but legendary performance by The Beatles has come to represent a point at which the music of the old was almost immediately forgotten. In this one performance, The Beatles brought the “youth” back into music. As our staff watched this performance together we felt excitement, witnessed true magic and even saw our general manger get a twinkle in his eye. It was then that we quickly realized the kids of today will never fully understand the impact of this performance. Landmark bands like The Beatles come along once in a blue moon and they completely reform and reshape the sound and the world of music. Sometimes we even catch ourselves saying “they’re just The Beatles”, or “they’re just a simple 4 piece band” but like much of our generation, we must remember that at one point the lyrics, the hair, the charisma, and the music was a radical movement, even if it seems tame in comparison to today’s trends. One performance was a launching pad to one of the greatest bands of all time and the British invasion. One performance changed the landscape of music and pop culture.
Fifty years ago today (2/09), The Beatles made their first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and officially kicked off Beatlemania in America. Feb. 9, 1964 will forever go down in history as one of the most memorable moments in TV history as well as a land mark performance in pop culture and music history. In front of 700 screeching fans in the audience and a record setting 73 million television viewers, The Beatles opened with “All My Loving” at the Ed Sullivan Theater and the world of music would be flipped upside down and permanently changed before our eyes.
Leading up to the performance, several Beatles records had already hit number one on the U.S. charts, and the radio airwaves were filled with their tunes. The earthquake of anticipation surrounding The Beatles’ arrival from England had not been seen since Elvis Presley when he appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956. But even the Elvis experience could not have prepared the Sullivan staff or New York City authorities for what was about to happen.
The Beatles landed at Kennedy Airport on February 7th, 1964. The band was met by swarms of reporters and three thousand screaming fans. Right as The Beatles walked off of the plane, they were rushed to a Capitol Records press conference where they answered questions from the media in the only way that these lads from Liverpool knew how to. When asked “How do you find America?” Ringo Starr jokingly replied, “Turn left at Greenland.”The Beatles spent the next two days cooped up in The Plaza Hotel while fans did all they could to get closer to them. Groups of teenagers even set up camp outside the hotel. As the show approached, over 50,000 requests for seats came into CBS. However, The Ed Sullivan Show studio could only accommodate an audience of 700. Just 77 days prior to The Beatles performance on Sullivan, President Kennedy had been assassinated. America was ready for a much needed boost, and it came in a package from Liverpool. Four young lads with a sound, a look, an energy and charisma that had captivated America.
At 8 o’clock on February 9, 1964, America tuned in to The Ed Sullivan Show. Seventy three million people gathered in front their TV’s to see The Beatles first live performance in the U.S. The television rating was a record-setting 45.3, that means 45.3% of households with TVs were watching. That figure reflected a total of 23,240,000 American homes. Ed opened the show by briefly mentioning a telegram to The Beatles from Elvis and his manager, Colonel Tom Parker and then he introduced the band with this quote:
“Now yesterday and today our theater’s been jammed with newspapermen and hundreds of photographers from all over the nation, and these veterans agreed with me that this city never has witnessed the excitement stirred by these youngsters from Liverpool who call themselves The Beatles. Now tonight, you’re gonna twice be entertained by them. Right now, and again in the second half of our show. Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles! Let’s bring them on.”
With these words the face of pop culture and music would be forever changed John, Paul, George and Ringo took the stage, opening with “All My Loving” to screeches from teenage girls in the audience. The Beatles followed their hit with Paul McCartney taking the spotlight to sing, “Till There Was You.” During the song, a camera introduced each member of the band to the audience by displaying their name’s on screen. When the camera got to John Lennon, the caption below his name read “SORRY GIRLS, HE’S MARRIED.” The Beatles then wrapped up the set with “She Loves You.”
With that one performance, The Beatles and their fans set in motion one of the most monumental changes to the face of popular culture ever seen. We, today’s youth, may look at them now as “…just The Beatles”, but 50 years ago, at a time in our history when the United States was hurting, the fab four wrapped us up in their charismatic arms, gave us “All Their Lovin’,” and changed the world forever.
Someday, 30-some-odd years from now, some college student will utter the phrase…”So what? It’s just Nirvana.” When that happens, just look for one of us. We’ll be one of the ones with magic in our eyes, regaling the student with stories about three lads from another blue-collar coastal town, called Aberdeen…and how they changed the world.