Watch All of The Beatles’ Historic Appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, 50 Years Ago

As you sure­ly know by now, The Bea­t­les invad­ed the U.S. by way of the Ed Sul­li­van Show fifty years ago yes­ter­day. What you may not know is that they appeared for three con­sec­u­tive Sun­day night broad­casts that year, begin­ning on Feb­ru­ary 9, 1964. That per­for­mance gar­nered a record 73 mil­lion view­ers and took place at the now his­toric Ed Sul­li­van The­ater. The sec­ond show on Feb­ru­ary 16  was broad­cast from Mia­mi Beach where the then-Cas­sius Clay and Son­ny Lis­ton were pro­mot­ing their famous bout on Feb. 25. The third broad­cast, Feb­ru­ary 23, showed a per­for­mance taped ear­li­er in the day of the orig­i­nal Feb. 9 appear­ance. Watch all three of those ’64 broad­casts above. (The band made a final live appear­ance on the show on August 14, 1965—watch “I Feel Fine” from that broad­cast below.)

It seemed like every­one want­ed a piece of The Beatles—the Amer­i­can press, the scream­ing hordes of teenage fans, even cer­tain British politi­cians—but the first Sul­li­van appear­ance was a gam­ble, arranged by their very savvy man­ag­er Bri­an Epstein to break the band in the States. Sul­li­van stood behind the band’s ini­tial head­lin­ing book­ing, despite his producer’s objec­tions, lat­er telling the New York Times, “I made up my mind that this was the same sort of mass hit hys­te­ria that had char­ac­ter­ized the Elvis Pres­ley days.”

Sul­li­van, the leg­end goes, first noticed the crazed response the band inspired (see above) when he wit­nessed “more than 1,500 young­sters lin[ing] the rooftop gar­dens of the Queen’s Build­ing and oth­ers con­gre­gat­ed on the ground” at Heathrow air­port after the group returned home from a trip to Stock­holm in Octo­ber, 1963. While the actu­al sto­ry of the first book­ing is a bit more com­pli­cat­ed, writes Bea­t­les’ his­to­ri­an Bruce Spiz­er, it still speaks to Sul­li­van’s impec­ca­ble instincts.

What was it like to be a view­er of that first broad­cast as a young fan? Above, Den­nis Mitchell, host of the “Break­fast with the Bea­t­les” radio show, remem­bers the moment. “Every­thing changed after that,” he says. Although the Sul­li­van broad­casts are mem­o­rable for all sorts of his­tor­i­cal rea­sons, “in the end, after it all,” says Mitchell, “it was the songs, it was the music.”

See­ing it on Ed Sul­li­van was over­whelm­ing, and the start of it all, but then we took it into our bed­rooms with the record play­ers and got deep­er into the music, because we knew that even though they’d done four or five songs on the Ed Sul­li­van show, there was more.

As the band evolved polit­i­cal­ly and styl­is­ti­cal­ly, says Mitchell, their fans “were all along for the ride. And they gen­uine­ly, it was almost like a mag­ic wand, changed things by chang­ing them­selves.” Could such a cul­tur­al moment hap­pen again? “No,” says Mitchell, “not at the lev­el that it did and not with the sig­nif­i­cance that it did.” In the fifty years since The Beatle’s arrival on U.S. shores, the world seems to have become both more frag­ment­ed and more close­ly drawn togeth­er, but we live in such a vast­ly dif­fer­ent media land­scape than the one that pro­duced the Ed Sul­li­van Show—and the last­ing fame of Elvis, The Supremes, and The Bea­t­les. After fifty years of post-Bea­t­les’ pop music, it’s impos­si­ble to imag­ine a tele­vi­sion per­for­mance hav­ing such a wide­spread impact that it almost sin­gle­hand­ed­ly trans­forms an entire gen­er­a­tion.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Bea­t­les’ Rooftop Con­cert: The Last Gig Filmed in Jan­u­ary 1969

Eric Clapton’s Iso­lat­ed Gui­tar Track From the Clas­sic Bea­t­les Song, ‘While My Gui­tar Gen­tly Weeps’ (1968)

The Kinks’ Ray Davies Reviews the Bea­t­les’ 1966 Album Revolver; Calls It “A Load of Rub­bish”

A Short Film on the Famous Cross­walk From the Bea­t­les’ Abbey Road Album Cov­er

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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