For me, Friday, February 7, 1964 will forever occupy a special place in my music history heart as it marked the first ever television appearance of The Kinks (performing “Long Tall Sally”) as part of the Ready Steady Go series in the UK.
For most of the rest of the world, however, the date of February 9, 1964 holds just a wee bit of a bigger place in the overall annals of music history as it marked the beginning of the 60s British Invasion in the U.S. and the start of the Beatles American tour!
On this date, five simple words that changed not only the music world but the world forever going forward were spoken by Ed Sullivan 59 years ago on Sunday, 9 February 1964…“Ladies and gentleman, the Beatles!“
More than 73 million Americans (almost 50% of television households at the time) 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.
So, whether you are with me on the importance of February 7, 1964 or you’re with the rest of the world who recognizes the cultural significance of February 9, 1964 as the day that changed music history forever, take a moment, put on some vinyl and say a big thank you for the greatness of both The Kinks and the Beatles and for those two fateful days in February 1964.