50 Years Ago - The Beatles Land In America & Play 'The Ed Sullivan Show'
It was 50 years ago today (February 7th, 1964) that the Beatles landed at New York's JFK Airport launching what has become known as the "British Invasion" and forever changing the face of popular music -- along with literally everything that came after -- arguably marking the modern world's cultural "big bang." The group's trip took in three appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show -- one being pre-taped prior to their first live appearance, and two full-scale concerts: the first at Washington, D.C.'s Washington Coliseum on February 11th -- one year to the day of recording their debut UK album, Please Please Me -- and a second show on February 12th at New York's prestigious Carnegie Hall.
Once in New York, George Harrison fell ill with a 102-degree temperature and missed the following day's photo shoot in and around Central Park and a camera blocking session at the midtown CBS studio. He was well enough to recover for the show without incident.
Prior to the visit, on January 20th, 1964, the album Meet The Beatles was released. Although, it wasn't the first Beatles record released in America; Vee-Jay's Introducing The Beatles beat the band's Capitol Records debut by just short of six months, it was Meet The Beatles, with its hit chart-topper "I Want To Hold Your Hand" that kick started the post-Kennedy '60s, the British Invasion, and completely revolutionized how music was written, played, sung, and produced. On February 1st, 1964, Meet The Beatles entered Billboard's Top 100 LP listings at Number 92, jumping the next week to Number Three, and the following week -- February 15th, 1964 -- hitting Number One for the first of 11 weeks.
Despite Paul McCartney's claims, the Beatles did not wait until topping the U.S. charts to come to America. The logistics of waiting until February 1st, 1964 to plan the group's entire itinerary -- including lodging, travel, security, and numerous contracts -- would be nothing short of ridiculous. "I Want To Hold Your Hand" knocked Bobby Vinton's "There! I've Said It Again" out from the top spot and stayed at Number One for a whopping seven straight weeks, before being toppled by the Beatles' own "She Loves You," which after two weeks was overturned on April 4th, 1964 by the band's official new single, "Can't Buy Me Love" -- the same week that "Fab Four" made history by holding down the Top Five positions in the Billboard singles chart.
Sunday night (February 9th) marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' American debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. Seen by over 73 million viewers, the show has gone on to become one of TV's most iconic moments, much like Neil Armstrong's 1969 walk on the moon. The Beatles performed twice, both opening and closing the program.
Here's Ed Sullivan's legendary introduction from that night's show: "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 the 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! (screams)" The Night That Changed America, which taped in L.A. January 27th, will air at 8 p.m. -- 50 years to the day and hour that the Beatles made their debut appearance in America on The Ed Sullivan Show. In addition to such high profile guests as Jeff Lynne, Joe Walsh, Dhani Harrison, the Eurythmics, Dave Grohl, Stevie Wonder, Maroon 5, and John Mayer -- both Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr will appear during the show's finale.