John Lennon listening to The White Album, 1968
Tell Me Why
Today February 9th, 2014 is the much-celebrated 50th anniversary of The Beatles first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. The Beatles had been working hard since 1960 for this moment. To break America, The Beatles tried various label efforts including Vee-Jay, Swan and Capital to initial poor results. But when “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” hit number one on February 1st (eight days before their previously planned Ed Sullivan appearance) the tide was turning their way. But, it wasn’t luck…it was the residue of talent, hard work and aggressive management. Their manager Brian Epstein took a much smaller payment from Ed Sullivan…knowing the exposure would pay off. And it did. On March 2nd, 1964 filming began for A Hard Day’s Night…and the concert scene for the TV program in the film (video above), is incredibly reminiscent of their Ed Sullivan show appearance less than a month earlier.
Filming began at Marylebone station in London. The Beatles had just joined the actors’ union, Equity, that morning. The first week of filming was on a train travelling between London and Minehead. Roger Ebert said in his 1996 review of the film: “When it opened in September, 1964…The Beatles were already a publicity phenomenon (70 million viewers watched them on “The Ed Sullivan Show”), but they were not yet cultural icons. Many critics attended the movie and prepared to condescend, but the movie could not be dismissed: It was so joyous and original that even the early reviews acknowledged it as something special. After more than three decades, it has not aged and is not dated; it stands outside its time, its genre and even rock. It is one of the great life-affirming landmarks of the movies.” The full movie is available at Amazon.com here.
So lets just say that in the space of February 1st to March 2nd of 1964 The Beatles literally conquered records, radio, television and film. Proceeded of course by four years of grinding gigs in which they greatly prepared for this…their moment.
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February 9, 1964
It was 50 years ago that the Beatles played the Ed Sullivan Show, indelibly changing music and even pop culture and fashion. There have been celebrations of all sorts, including retracing the steps of their first US visit, an exhibit at Lincoln Center, CBS changing the marquee on the Ed Sullivan Theater, plenty of interesting brief encounters with the band and (lost) photographs and Ed Sullivan staffers.
I must admit that, when I was younger, I thought their talent and music was overrated. But that was before I listened to their music; when I began to listen, I realized that I had, unknowingly, loved so many of their songs. Soon, they were the only thing that I wanted to listen to.
The Beatles greatly influenced my life, making me realize how much I loved music, my choice to study it and, simply, bringing me joy during difficult times. Without their music, I wouldn’t be the same person. Thanks, lads.