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It was sixty years ago today... Celebrating The Beatles' first appearance on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW



February 9, 2024


"Ed said the words 'the Beatles' better than anybody else in the world. He’d wind up on the 'the,' quickly punch and emphasize the 'Beat,' and then he was outta there on the 'les.' All rushing by me while jolting my system with ten thousand watts of high-voltage anticipation. I sat there, heart pounding, waiting for the first real look at my new saviors, waiting to hear the first redemptive notes come peeling off the Rickenbacker, Hofner and Gibson guitars in their hands. The Beatles... The Beatles... The Beatles... The Beatles... The Beatles... The Beatles... an 'it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive' mantra and simultaneously the worst and most glorious band name in all of rock ’n’ roll history."

-Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run


On the evening of this date in 1964, which was a Sunday night back then, The Beatles made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. More than 40% of the U.S. population was watching. Sixty years later, there still has been no single musical act's television appearance - including Super Bowl halftime performances - that has gotten a larger percentage of U.S. viewers than The Beatles' initial Sullivan Show appearance. It launched the "British Invasion" of the 1960s, when The Beatles and a deluge of other English bands that followed them - including The Dave Clark Five, Gerry and The Pacemakers, Manfred Mann, The Animals, The Rolling Stones, Herman's Hermits, and The Kinks - dominated and transformed U.S. airwaves with their hit records and television appearances. Thousands of U.S. teenagers were inspired to form their own bands and conduct their own British-influenced musical experiments in garages and basements across the land, as well. Some of those teenagers grew up to become Bruce Springsteen and key members of the E Street Band, including Stevie Van Zandt and Max Weinberg. (For more from Springsteen, Van Zandt, and Weinberg on The Beatles' enduring E Street influence, click here and scroll down to read the archived February 7, 2014 50th-anniversary Backstreets feature.)


Last Saturday, The Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music at Monmouth University got a jump-start on the celebration with its day-long symposium in the University's Great Hall, entitled Get Back to 1964... The Beatles Come to America. Panelists included authors Ken Campbell (The Beatles and the 1960s,) Rob Sheffield (Dreaming The Beatles,) Bruce Spizer (The Beatles Please Please Me to With The Beatles,) and Ken Womack (Living the Beatles Legend); May Pang (The Lost Weekend: A Love Story); radio personalities Dennis Elsas and Tom Frangione of SiriusXM's The Beatles Channel; and musicians Jim Babjak of The Smithereens, and Bob Burger and Glen Burtnik of The Weeklings. The Archives' Executive Director Bob Santelli, Director Eileen Chapman, and Curator Melissa Ziobro served as panel moderators throughout the day, with each discussion including questions and comments from audience-members, as well.


Topics explored included the American music scene in the midst of The Beatles' arrival to U.S. shores, Beatlemania, the importance of The Ed Sullivan Show in reaching and building a U.S. audience, and the greatness and lasting impact of The Beatles' music. The entire February 9, 1964 episode of The Ed Sullivan Show - including commercials - was screened, too. (What a great time-capsule; seeing all of that kitschiness surrounding The Beatles' segments made it even clearer just how significant and joyous their U.S. arrival was.)


Finally, the day ended appropriately with Beatles music - and lots of it - performed expertly by Burger and Burtnik on two acoustic guitars and the occasional harmonica, while the audience eagerly clapped, sang, and even sometimes danced along in support. A splendid time was guaranteed for all, and the entire symposium was filmed for future viewing by visitors to the Springsteen Archives' new building, anticipated to open in 2026.


Check out our contributing photographer Jo Arlow's record of the day below. Beatles forever, baby!


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Jo Arlow - used with permission


photo by Shawn Poole




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