It was 56 years ago; nearly 73 million people were watching when “The Ed Sullivan Show” went on the air and The Beatles took over music forever.
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, fresh from Liverpool, England, kicked off the first of three Sunday appearances on the variety on Feb. 9, 1964.
A screaming crowd and national television audience watched that first show, and the yelling did not subside as the quartet sang five songs over two sets.
Here are five fun facts about that smashing debut:
PLAYLIST: The Beatles opened their set with “All My Loving,” “Till There Was You,” and “She Loves You.” Later in the show, the band returned to play “I Saw Her Standing There” and ended their set with their No. 1 hit, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” All but “She Loves You” would appear on the group’s first album for Capitol Records.
SWEET DEAL: Appearing on Sullivan’s show during prime time on Sunday night was coveted by many acts. Sullivan had seen the excitement swirling around the Beatles when he visited England during the summer of 1963. Later that year, Sullivan met the group’s manager, Brian Epstein, for dinner at the Hotel Delmonico in New York City. In a handshake deal, Sullivan agreed to pay the group $10,000 to appear with top billing. In exchange, Epstein agreed the group would appear three times.
TOUGH TICKET: CBS received 50,000 requests for 728 tickets, The New York Times reported. The chances of getting into an Ivy League college were better, the newspaper reported.
WHO WAS NEXT? After the Beatles’ first set, the show broke for a commercial (for Anacin aspirin). At 8:12 p.m., Sullivan returned to the stage and signaled for quiet, which was proving to be difficult after the Beatles’ raucous version of “She Loves You.” Sullivan then introduced Fred Kaps, a magician who had the misfortune of following the quartet onto the stage. Kaps turned in a funny and entertaining five-minute stint, but the audience was revved up for the Beatles’ next segment. Also appearing was the husband-and-wife comedy team of Charlie Brill and Mitzi McCall. “We were doing a sketch,” Brill said. “We couldn’t hear each other. Because of the screaming.”
NOT THEIR DEBUT: The Sullivan show appearance was the group’s first live television performance. But it was not the first time the Beatles had appeared on U.S. television. On Nov. 18, 1963, “The Huntley-Brinkley Report” featured the band in a four-minute segment about Beatlemania. The “CBS Morning News” ran a five-minute segment on the band and were preparing to rerun it that night — but on Nov. 22, 1963, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy shelved that feature. It eventually ran again Dec. 10, 1963.