Somehow, it seems fitting that I write this from the birthplace of the Beatles and the beginning of the 60s British Invasion. On this date, five simple words changed not only the music world but the world forever going forward were spoken by Ed Sullivan 56 years ago today on Sunday, 9 February 1964…”Ladies and gentleman, the Beatles!” More than 73 million Americans (almost 50% of television households) gathered around their televisions to watch four young men from Liverpool make history. Beatlemania was officially a thing from that day forward.
Sullivan, who was easily considered the “king of Sunday night television,” booked The Beatles for three consecutive Sunday night appearances beginning February 9, 1964 after a 1963 visit to London in which he witnessed the response of fans at Heathrow Airport as they welcomed the Fab Four home from a visit to Stockholm.
It was actually Epstein’s brainchild idea to book them for the three consecutive appearances for a nominal fee as opposed to top dollar for just one appearance in exchange for top billing and the guarantee of opening and closing each show. The Beatles performed “All My Loving”, “Till There Was You”, “She Loves You”, “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand”.
An odd but awesome fact regarding that first show appearance — also performing on the show was a future member of The Monkees, Davy Jones, who appeared as part of the cast of Oliver. Jones had been cast as the Artful Dodger in the hit Broadway play. During that performance Jones sang “I’d Do Anything” with the entire cast. The following week’s show on February 16 was broadcast from Miami Beach where a young boxer later to be known as Muhammad Ali, Cassius Clay, was in training for his first title bout with Sonny Liston which quickly became a publicity opportunity made in heaven.
Let’s all take a brief moment of silence to remember February 9, 1964 as the day that changed music history forever.