5 things you never knew about the Beatles on Ed Sullivan
The Fab Four made their American television debut on this day in 1964. Celebrate with behind-the-scenes photos and fascinating facts.
Top image: AP Photo / Associated Press
It's a wonder the microphones did not malfunction. The teenage shrieks were piercing as the Beatles kicked into "All My Loving." It was not just the opening to that evening's Ed Sullivan Show, it was the start of the British Invasion, precisely seven years and five months to the day after Elvis made his debut in that New York theater. The Mop Tops wrapped up their opening set with “Till There Was You" and "She Loves You." Later in the program, the quartet returned to rock “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
The world was not the same after that broadcast on February 9, 1964, broadcast. Certainly not the music world, at least.
Let's take a peek behind the scenes at some fascinating numbers and photos from that historic Ed Sullivan Show.
It all began with a change encounter at a London airport.
Sullivan and his wife Sylvia were traveling in Heathrow Airport when they spotted a crowd of British youngsters standing in the rain to await a plane. They were hoping for a chance to spot the Beatles, who were returning from a jaunt in Sweden. Sullivan noted it was like Elvis all over again and looked to book the band for his own variety show.
The Beatles were paid $10,000.
Beatles manager Brian Epstein brilliantly bargained to have his boys play three episodes of Sullivan, and to perform as the headliner, unlike most musical acts that come later in the show. For the added exposure, he knocked down the price. Still, $10,000 is about $76,000 in today's cash. Not bad.
50,000 seat requests came for an auditorium that held 700.
Beatlemania had already begun in the States, really. Sullivan just ensured it. We'll get to one of the reasons below.
73 million people tuned in.
Let's put this into perspective. Last weekend, about 112 million tuned in for the Super Bowl. Considering the growth of the American population, which grew from approximately 192 million to 320 million from 1964 to today, it is about the same level of tune-in. Sixty percent of American televisions were tuned in to Sullivan that evening
“I Want to Hold Your Hand” was one of the first "record leaks" — long before the Internet.
We have been hearing about albums leaking online since the turn of the millennium. However, premature releases to the public date back half a century. The “I Want to Hold Your Hand” single was leaked to radio in advance of its planned debut late in 1963. Capital Records attempted to legally prevent DJs from spinning the track, but finally relented and dropped the record early. By the time the Beatles played Sullivan, it had sold in the seven figures.