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From Decades, February 9, 2016:
It’s a wonder the microphones did not malfunction. The teenage shrieks were piercing as the Beatles kicked into “All My Loving.” It was not just the opening to that evening’s Ed Sullivan Show, it was the start of the British Invasion, precisely seven years and five months to the day after Elvis made his debut in that New York theater. The Mop Tops wrapped up their opening set with “Till There Was You” and “She Loves You.” Later in the program, the quartet returned to rock “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
The world was not the same after that broadcast on February 9, 1964, broadcast. Certainly not the music world, at least. […]
Sullivan and his wife Sylvia were traveling in Heathrow Airport when they spotted a crowd of British youngsters standing in the rain to await a plane. They were hoping for a chance to spot the Beatles, who were returning from a jaunt in Sweden. Sullivan noted it was like Elvis all over again and looked to book the band for his own variety show.
The Beatles were paid $10,000.
Beatles manager Brian Epstein brilliantly bargained to have his boys play three episodes of Sullivan, and to perform as the headliner, unlike most musical acts that come later in the show. For the added exposure, he knocked down the price. Still, $10,000 is about $76,000 in today’s cash. Not bad.
50,000 seat requests came for an auditorium that held 700. […]
73 million people tuned in.
Let’s put this into perspective. Last weekend, about 112 million tuned in for the Super Bowl. Considering the growth of the American population, which grew from approximately 192 million to 320 million from 1964 to today, it is about the same level of tune-in. Sixty percent of American televisions were tuned in to Sullivan that evening
“I Want to Hold Your Hand” was one of the first “record leaks” — long before the Internet.
We have been hearing about albums leaking online since the turn of the millennium. However, premature releases to the public date back half a century. The “I Want to Hold Your Hand” single was leaked to radio in advance of its planned debut late in 1963. Capital Records attempted to legally prevent DJs from spinning the track, but finally relented and dropped the record early. By the time the Beatles played Sullivan, it had sold in the seven figures.
Seventy-three million people were reported to have watched the first show. It is still supposed to be one of the largest viewing audiences ever in the States.
It was very important. We came out of nowhere with funny hair, looking like marionettes or something. That was very influential. I think that was really one of the big things that broke us – the hairdo more than the music, originally. A lot of people’s fathers had wanted to turn us off. They told their kids, ‘Don’t be fooled, they’re wearing wigs.’
A lot of fathers did turn it off, but a lot of mothers and children made them keep it on. All these kids are now grown-up, and telling us they remember it. It’s like, ‘Where were you when Kennedy was shot?’ I get people like Dan Aykroyd saying, ‘Oh man, I remember that Sunday night; we didn’t know what had hit us – just sitting there watching Ed Sullivan’s show.’ Up until then there were jugglers and comedians like Jerry Lewis, and then, suddenly, The Beatles!
From Anthology 1 liner notes:
As Ed introduced the group and Paul struck up his With The Beatles song All My Loving, a revolution in American popular culture occurred. Although this was not the Beatles’ debut on US television it was, all the same, the first time most Americans saw them, and it proved to be a record-breaking moment in the history of US TV – the A C Nielsen rating of 23,240,000 viewing homes meant that something like 73 million people tuned in, shattered the previous best figure and remaining the largest American viewing audience for three years.
The show went out live from 8 until 9pm, Eastern Standard Time, on Sunday 9 February 1964, and was networked across the United States by CBS from its Broadway studio in New York City. In the time that it took the Beatles to perform five songs (the other were Till There Was You, She Loves You, I Saw Her Standing There and I Want To Hold Your Hand) they booked themselves a place in American cultural history.
Fifty years after, on February 9, 2014, a special concert entitled “The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles” was broadcast on US TV.
Last updated on March 5, 2021
Setlist for the concert
Beginning of the show
Second half of the show