Millions of people can vividly remember where they were and what chair they were sitting in at exactly the same time on February 9, 1964.
If you ask my dad about seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, he’ll say that it was like the black and white world was suddenly in vibrant color. There’s before The Beatles, he says, and then there’s after The Beatles.
On three Sunday evenings in February 1964, The Beatles made their first live television appearance in America. Over 70 million people tuned in that first night.
The performance is mesmerizing. The four lads from Liverpool are stylish in mod, slim cut suits and shaggy mop top haircuts as they rip into “All My Loving” to a crowd of screaming girls. But the look of the group, even the onstage symmetry of Paul’s left-handed Höfner bass with the right-handed guitars of John and George, is just part of the equation. They’re already polished, confident performers who have been touring around Europe for the better part of four years. The vocals, the harmonies, brief guitar solos, everything is impeccable.
A few seconds into the performance, the camera catches Ringo looking up from his drum set with a huge smile that seems to say, “I can’t believe this is happening.” And during the next song, “Till There was You,” four words hover and fade over each band member: Paul, Ringo, George and John.
After they finish the last song of night, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” The Beatles bow to the audience in unison. Music and American life would never be the same.
We’d love to know if you have a story to share about that performance. Maybe you watched the live broadcast in your family’s living room, or maybe you’ve heard your parents or grandparents talk about that moment (the haircuts! the horror!). Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!