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60 Years Later: How The Beatles Met the Moment on Ed Sullivan

Friday, February 09, 2024

On Feb. 9, 1964, Americans witnessed the first truly seismic television event. What stands out most 60 years later, is just how ready The Beatles were for their invasion.

In the days before everyone cut their cable because no one had cable yet, there were these things called networks. Only a handful of these networks existed, which meant that people couldn’t help but watch the same things. Sometimes there was a very big thing, and just about everyone who was able to would sit down to watch.

The Beatles’ debut on The Ed Sullivan Show on Feb. 9, 1964, is the first seismic event in American television history. Americans had been wedded to their sets the previous November in the aftermath of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, but there hadn’t been an event like this, one that people knew was coming.

So people gathered. And gathered. People of all ages. Kids tended to be frenzied with excitement for something novel and new, as kids always have been. Whereas, members of the older crowd seemed determined to practice tolerance for the follies of youth and set the good example, or perhaps conjure an anecdote for how things were better in their day.

Certain things will simply never change. Popular culture, though—and, really, the world—did change on that winter night when most of America met these four young men from Liverpool.

The Beatles had touched down at New York’s Kennedy Airport two days prior. Only one of them—George Harrison—had been to America before. These were guys who worshiped American culture. This was where the gods, in their view, had originated: Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and, most of all, the god of the gods, Elvis Presley.

Source: Colin Fleming/The Daily Beast

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