On this date in music history, The Beatles rocked Ed Sullivan

On Feb. 9, 1964, The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and the music world was never the same.

The first music column I wrote for the St. Cloud Times three years ago addressed the anniversary of The Beatles’ appearance on Sullivan’s program. Over the 2.5 years I wrote for the Times, I gave The Beatles the spotlight on a handful of occasions. The group was my first musical love, and remains one of my absolute favorite bands to this day.

I was born too late to be one of the 73 million people who tuned in to watch The Fab Four perform on Sullivan’s stage, but I’ve certainly watched the footage enough to feel almost like I was there. (Almost.)

Over the years, I’ve read things about how people can remember where they were when President Kennedy was shot, or when The Beatles performed on Ed Sullivan. Obviously, epic occasions (for very different reasons).

I remember when the space shuttles Challenger and Columbia ended in tragedy. I remember where I was when the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks occurred. I remember the fall of the Berlin Wall.

But I can’t say that I have too many “I remember when” memories attached to televised music performances. I was born in 1980, so you’d think maybe MTV would have given me some big memories. But my folks didn’t have cable until my mid-teens, and by then MTV had begun its decrease of music in order to plug in its reality shows, animated programs and other materials.

I was too young to appreciate Live Aid. Live 8 was pretty cool, though (I especially loved the Pink Floyd reunion segment). The concerts done after 9/11 had some memorable moments, too. But there was nothing that you’d really commune over. I doubt there’ll be too many people asking each other, “Where were you when Jagger and Richards sang “Salt of the Earth” after Sept. 11?”

Some Super Bowl halftime shows might rise to the occasion. I remember where I was during the Justin Timberlake / Janet Jackson halftime show. But that’s more memorable for the infamous exposure than for its musical merits. I do remember watching (and being impressed by) Prince during his performance. And I remember watching The Black Eyed Peas and thinking it was an atrocious spectacle, canned and lifeless. Still, I’m not sure there’s a lot of historical merit to these examples, either. At least nothing quite as monumental as The Beatles on Ed Sullivan.

The closest I can come on a personal level is when The Beatles’ “Anthology” project was broadcast on the ABC network. That had all the hype, and I was right at the peak of my teenage fandom. Every commercial promotion leading up to the first episode had me drooling in anticipation. And the three televised episodes were family events, with my father and I excitedly pointing out things or adding on to stories, while my mom and brother watched with us.

Ah well. It’s not really important to remember where you were when something historic happened. And it’s not terribly vital to have been around / alive / aware of things when they happened, either. As long as you learn about it and appreciate it, the history can be almost (yes, almost) as real to you as it is to anyone else (you just can’t beat the first-hand experience).

So I didn’t see John, Paul, George and Ringo on Sullivan’s show back in 1964. That doesn’t mean I can’t rewatch it tonight. And it really doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the music, or what it meant to the world. And my age won’t stop me from loving their music for the rest of my life.

I figure that’s what counts.

Thanks, Ed, for bringing the band on your show. You helped open the country to Beatlemania, and my life has certainly been enriched by their music and legacy. I hope you, John and George are swapping good stories and memories upstairs at the pearly gates.

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4 thoughts on “On this date in music history, The Beatles rocked Ed Sullivan

  1. I was just a little guy when the show aired, but there were only three major networks to choose from at the time. My parents tuned in, mainly because my mother was still a subject of the british crown, having been born and raised in Northern Ireland. She would later become a U.S. citizen.
    Nothing was the same after that night. I remember some of my classmates wearing Beatle boots to school and seeing “mop top wigs” for sale in local stores.
    I also recall watching President Kennedy’s funeral procession on television. All three networks carried it, so you really didn’t have a choice. I wasn’t pleased. It interrupted my cartoons. The new space program was receiving a lot of attention, too. Each mission was a landmark event.
    The country was proud and united in those days. Then, Vietnam came along and nothing’s been the same since. Unfortunately, it may never be, again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think the Beatles Anthology in its own way introduced the Beatles to a new generation. I was in a high school in when the show aired on ABC in 1995 and it had a huge influence on me – the Beatles helped shape my world view. I’ve encountered a few others around my age who had the very same experience. I recall going out and buying Pepper and the White Album shortly followed (the one that really blew my mind).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It really kind of was our “Ed Sullivan” moment, for those of us born after their heyday.

      I already owned most of their albums (on CD) by that point … but not all of them. And I remember the great anticipation for the Anthology CDs. I was just listening to “Anthology 1” tonight.

      Liked by 2 people

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