"When The Beatles were on Ed Sullivan, even the criminals had a rest of ten minutes"- George Harrison
The iconic shouting of "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Beatles!" by Ed Sullivan was heard for the first time on February 9, 1964 when over 40% of US citizens tuned in to see The Beatles perform their first performance on the Ed Sullivan Show at 8:00pm EST.
Before coming to the states the group had already released "I Want To Hold You Hand" to US radio stations across the country. It was soon that the single was number one on the Billboard charts within a month. The record selling 250,000 copies in the first three days and by January 10, 1964 had sold over one million! The hype for The Beatles America visit went viral in weeks before their arrival. Fans wearing Beatles wigs, buttons, buying bumper stickers saying 'The Beatles Are Coming". And when they arrived in New York in early February thousands of fans were there to meet them.
In New York George Harrison had gotten ill with a bad throat and was stuck in the Plaza Hotel, where he wrote "Don't Bother Me", while the other three paraded Central Park and then to The Ed Sullivan Show rehearsals.
"I had a bad throat and that's why I'm missing from the publicity shots in Central Park. There are pictures of just the three of them with the New York skyline behind. (The same with the rehearsal for Ed Sullivan: there are pictures of them rehearsing everywhere, with the mania going on, they actually did get out into the park for a photo session." - George Harrison, The Beatles AnthologyJohn Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Brian Epstein, and Neil Aspinall attended the Ed Sullivan rehearsals.
"George had tonsillitis and didn't go to rehearsals for The Ed Sullivan Show. I stood in for him so that they could mark where everyone would stand, and I had a guitar strapped round me. It wasn't plugged in (nobody was playing anything) and it was amazing to read in a major American magazine a few days later that I 'played a mean guitar'.Before coming to the US The Beatles had to first conquer the United Kingdom which they did. In 1963, the group made an appearance on "Val Parnell's Sunday Night at the London Palladium" and then released their first album Please Please Me, they even performed for the royal family. Once The Beatles made a success at home it was time for their debut in America. It was good timing to go into the states since they had already had a number one hit in the US with "I Want To Hold Your Hand".
The Beatles recorded a set in the after noon, which was to be broadcast after they left, and then played a live Ed Sullivan Show that night." -Neil Aspinall, The Beatles Anthology
There are numerous stories regarding how The Beatles got on The Ed Sullivan. One of the most popular one is in 1963 Ed Sullivan and wife Sylvia had landed in London's Heathrow Airport where they found a swarm of thousands of kids waiting in the rain. Ed questioned the commotion where they found out the fans were waited for the British band, The Beatles who were returning from a tour in Sweden. It was then he decided he wanted them on the show. Later it was decided between Ed Sullivan and Brian Epstein had come to an agreement at the Delmonico Hotel in New York City, where the two men shook hands and made the deal that The Beatles will play three shows in 1964 and will receive $10,000.
At 8:00pm EST it was recorded that 73 million people tuned in to The Beatles first live performance on US soil, about 45.3% of households with televisions at the time turned in to see the show. It was also recorded that the show garnered a 60 share, meaning 60% of the television's turned on were tuned in to the Ed Sullivan and The Beatles. It was even said that while the band was on the crime rate in the United States dropped dramatically!
"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."
“Nobody realized the impact to come, how momentous it would be. We didn’t talk about making history. It was more like, ‘What are we going to do next week? Not only are we doing this again, we’re on location.’” - Ed Sullivan Assistant Director, John Moffitt
The following week, February 16, The Beatles were back on Ed Sullivan except this time at Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida. It can be heard during the show before the band came on Ed saying " And now, here are- (a beat)- The Beatles right after this", having to cut to a commercial break due to The Beatles being delayed from fans trapping them in the ballroom. The Beatles arrived on stage and due to technical difficulties of the microphone not working the band wailed through "She Loves You", "This Boy", and "All My Loving". After a few commercial breaks and performers like Mitzi Gaynor, Allen and Rossi, The Nerveless Knocks, and monologist Myron Cohen The Beatles came out to close the show with three more songs. They performed, "I Saw Her Standing There", "From Me To You", "I Want To Hold Your Hand". Ed called them over and thanks the band.
One week later The Beatles performed their third and last, according to the contract, performance on The Ed Sullivan Show. What made their final performance different from the rest was that it was really their first. The show was taped prior to their performance on February 9th, and was saved for February 23rd. During this performance The Beatles played "Twist and Shout", "Please Please Me", and "I Want To Hold Your Hand". Other performers from this show included, Dave Barry the comedian, Gordan and Sheila MacRae, and American jazz singer Cab Calloway.
"They're wild, they're all wild. They just all seen out of their minds. I've never seen anything like it in my life. We just walk through it like watching a film. You feel as though it's something that's happening to somebody else, especially when you spot George and you think, 'Oh, that's George with all those people climbing all over him.'"- John Lennon
The February 23rd show ended The Beatles and Ed Sullivan Show contract for 1964. The Beatles then returned to the show on September 12, 1965. "I Feel Fine" "I'm Down", "Act Naturally", "Ticket To Ride" "Yesterday" and "Help!" were all performed on this show. Like the third performance, the show was taped in New York earlier on August 14, 1965. It was taped prior due to The Beatles North America Tour.
Although The Beatles never performed on The Ed Sullivan Show since the show aired on September 12, 1965 they did release their videos for "Paperback Writer" and "Rain" that were first shown on The Ed Sullivan Show.
The Beatles performed 20 Beatles songs- 7 that became Number One hits and had their shows attracting an audience of about a quarter of a billion people! And to this day the first two shows remain the highest viewed regularly scheduled television programs of all time!
The Beatles success in the US paved the way for Rock 'n' Roll and the British Invasion which started it all for The Rolling Stones, The Animals, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and much more. These four performances started a revolution that will never be able to be duplicated.