By 1964 The Beatles were one of the most popular bands on the planet. They had reached number one with a collection of memorable singles, including I Want To Hold Your Hand, From Me To You, and Love Me Do. The Fab Four’s next mission was to crack America, prompting them to fly across the pond and promote their work on various radio and TV shows. On this day, February 9, 1964, The Beatles gave their first-ever live performance on TV on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Sullivan’s show was a cultural influence for popular music, welcoming artists such as Elvis Presley, The Supremes, The Beach Boys, and The Jackson 5 on his stage over the years.
For the band to land such an incredible gig was a big deal for them at the time, who were keen to make their presence known in the US.
The band performed live twice and recorded two more sessions which were played throughout February on later editions of The Ed Sullivan Show.
Their live performance was reportedly watched by more than 73 million people.
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Speaking about the event in The Beatles: Anthology, Paul McCartney gushed: “It is still supposed to be one of the largest viewing audiences ever in the States.
“It was very important. We came out of nowhere with funny hair, looking like marionettes or something. That was very influential.
“I think that was really one of the big things that broke us – the hairdo more than the music, originally.
“A lot of people’s fathers had wanted to turn us off. They told their kids: ‘Don’t be fooled, they’re wearing wigs.’”
The Beatles performed All My Loving, Till There Was You and She Loves You live on the show.
They recorded performances of Twist and Shout, Please Please Me and I Want To Hold Your Hand for the February 23 Ed Sullivan Show.
Upon broadcasting the final recordings of the band, Ed Sullivan told audiences: “All of us on the show are so darned sorry, and sincerely sorry, that this is the third and thus our last current show with The Beatles.
“These youngsters from Liverpool, England, and their conduct over here, not only as fine professional singers but as a group of fine youngsters, will leave an imprint of everyone over here who’s met them.”
Ringo Starr also commented on the performance in 1995 and how the sound was not as good as it was supposed to be.
Speaking in the Anthology, Starr said: “TV had such bad sound equipment – it still has today, usually, but then it was really bad – that we would tape our rehearsals and then go up and mess with the dials in the control booth.
“We got it all set with the engineer there, and then we went off for a break.
The story has it that while we were out, the cleaner came in to clean the room and the console, thought, ‘What are all these chalk marks?’ and wiped them all off.
“So our plans just went out the window. We had a real hasty time trying to get the sound right.”
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