On this day in 1964, The Beatles make their first of three appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, marking the opening salvo of the British Invasion. The Fab Four performed five numbers, including “All My Loving,” “Till There Was You,” She Loves You,” “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
In late 1963, Sullivan and his entourage had witnessed Beatlemania passing through Heathrow Airport, looking on as frenzied fans greeted the group on their return from Stockholm. Sullivan was intrigued, telling his entourage it was the same thing as Elvis all over again. He initially offered Beatles manager Brian Epstein top dollar for a single show but the Beatles manager had a better idea– he wanted exposure for his clients: the Beatles would instead appear three times on the show, at bottom dollar, but receive top billing and two spots (opening and closing) on each show.
The following week’s show was broadcast from Miami Beach where Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) was in training for his first title bout with Sonny Liston. The occasion was used by both camps for publicity. On the evening of the television show (February 16) a crush of people nearly prevented the band from making it onstage. A wedge of policemen were needed and the band began playing “She Loves You” only seconds after reaching their instruments. They continued with “This Boy” and “All My Loving,” and returned later to close the show with “I Saw Her Standing There,” “From Me to You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
They were shown on tape February 23 (this appearance had been taped earlier in the day on February 9 before their first live appearance). They followed Ed’s intro with “Twist and Shout” and “Please Please Me,” and closed the show once again with “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
The broadcasts drew US television record of 73 million viewers, cemented the lads’ place in the musical pantheon and began a love affair for the young, old and dearly departed which persists to this day.
And here our ditty and lesson endeth.