On this day 51 years ago, The Beatles made their first live American television appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
At 8 o’clock on February 9th 1964, America tuned in to CBS and The Ed
Sullivan Show. But this night was different. 73 million people gathered
in front their TV sets to see The Beatles’ first live performance on
U.S. soil. The television rating was a record-setting 45.3, meaning
that 45.3% of households with televisions were watching.
At last, John, Paul, George and Ringo came onto the stage, opening with “All My Loving” to ear-splitting screeches from teenaged girls in the audience. The Beatles followed that hit with Paul McCartney taking the spotlight to sing, “Till There Was You.” During the song, a camera cut to each member of the band and introduced him to the audience by displaying his first name on screen.
A week later, the February 24th issue of Newsweek magazine’s cover
featured a picture of The Beatles with the title, “Bugs About Beatles.”
Inside, the review of The Beatles debut on The Ed Sullivan Show began,
“Visually, they are a nightmare: tight, dandified, Edwardian/Beatnik
suits and great pudding bowls of hair. Musically, they are a
near-disaster: guitars and drums slamming out a merciless beat that does
away with secondary rhythms, harmony, and melody. Their lyrics
(punctuated by nutty shouts of “yeah, yeah, yeah!”) are a catastrophe, a
preposterous farrago of Valentine-card romantic sentiments.” The
article ended with the following prediction, “…the odds are they will
fade away, as most adults confidently predict.”
On September 12th, 1965, The Fab Four returned to the Ed Sullivan stage
one last time. They played “I Feel Fine,” “I’m Down,” “Act Naturally,”
“Ticket to Ride,” “Yesterday,” and “Help!” This performance was taped
in New York on August 14th, 1965, just one day before The Beatles kicked
off their North American Tour with a concert at Shea Stadium that set
the attendance record for an outdoor show at the time.