We’re speeding toward Feb. 9, “the” date when the Beatles first appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964. If you’re 57 or older, you probably know where you were that evening.
Sullivan, CBS’s Sunday-night mainstay, was a must for entertainers breaking into the American market. The band’s live performance launched one of popular music’s most remarkable eras: the British Invasion.
By April of that year, the mop tops from Liverpool had scored #1 hits for three months straight. As of April 1, a phenomenal 14 Beatle songs placed on the Billboard Top 100 at one time. In fact, all top five hits that week were recorded by the Beatles.
In their wake came a cadre of British acts: The Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits, The Dave Clark Five, The Kinks, The Hollies, Tom Jones, Petula Clark, Peter & Gordon, Chad & Jeremy and many more.
I came across a book recently that should be on any pop music fan’s reading list: Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years Volume I. The London-born Lewisjohn has fuzzy memories of the early Beatles. He was only six when they conquered America in 1964, but he is one of the world’s authorities on the band and has worked on many projects for them. His book offers stories behind the stories of how John, Paul, George and Ringo came world icons before that momentous appearance on “Sullivan.” But the thick, doorstop-weight tome covers only the starting-out years, closing with New Year’s Eve 1962. More to follow.
To illustrate how stunning the Beatles were, Lewisjohn suggests this exercise: Listen to Bobby Vinton’s “There! I’ve Said it Again,” the #1 song in American throughout January 1964. Now follow it with “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” that held #1 from Feb. 1 to March 14.
Those two songs split time like a fissure in the earth’s crust. Popular culture has never been the same since.
Where were you on Feb. 9, 1964? Why not write it down for posterity? If you weren’t around at that time, ask older relatives and write their story. If they were watching Ed Sullivan that night, they’ll remember. If they weren’t, they’ll remember what they missed.