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.