9 February 1964: Paul McCartney, right, shows his bass guitar to Ed Sullivan before the Beatles' live television appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in New York along with John Lennon, center, and Ringo Starr, behind McCartney, and Beatles manager Brian Epstein, behind Sullivan. (AP Photo)
On the 9th of February 1964, the screams from New York could almost be heard all the way over in the Beatles' native Liverpool. That was the day the lads first played The Ed Sullivan Show, and a phenomenon was officially born.
The teens of America – tens of millions of whom tuned in to watch – knew they were looking at the future. Sullivan and crew weren't so sure.
Sullivan himself preferred less controversial acts on his show, though he knew the Beatles would bring in viewers and he certainly wasn't opposed to the publicity. As for Sullivan's colleagues – his musical director declared of the Beatles, "I give them a year." Rarely has a prediction been quite so wrong.
Ed Sullivan, a savvy TV host, took note of the desperate screams of the teen girls in the audience, and realized the potential in the power John, Paul, George and Ringo held over their adoring fans. Even if the musical director wasn't on the right page, Sullivan was – he featured The Fab Four on his show three more times over the next year and a half. The Beatles made their final live Ed Sullivan appearance on 12 September 1965.
Even after the live appearances were over, the Beatles continued to be a crucial part of The Ed Sullivan Show, sending in music videos that were recorded specially for the show.
John Lennon would have turned 72 years old today, and later this week marks the 38th anniversary of Ed Sullivan's death. It's amazing to think how many years have passed since that first blush of Beatlemania hit the States – but the music still sounds just as good.
Written by Linnea Crowther