Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

5 things to know about Beatlemania

By Todd Leopold, CNN
updated 10:20 AM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
The Beatles arrived in the United States 50 years ago and embarked on a history-making path of pop culture dominance. <a href='http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/us/the-sixties'>Check out coverage of "The Sixties: The British Invasion,"</a> a look at how the Fab Four's influence persists. Click through the gallery for more images of the Beatles' first American tour. The Beatles arrived in the United States 50 years ago and embarked on a history-making path of pop culture dominance. Check out coverage of "The Sixties: The British Invasion," a look at how the Fab Four's influence persists. Click through the gallery for more images of the Beatles' first American tour.
HIDE CAPTION
America falls in love with the Beatles
America falls in love with the Beatles
America falls in love with the Beatles
America falls in love with the Beatles
America falls in love with the Beatles
America falls in love with the Beatles
America falls in love with the Beatles
America falls in love with the Beatles
America falls in love with the Beatles
America falls in love with the Beatles
America falls in love with the Beatles
America falls in love with the Beatles
America falls in love with the Beatles
America falls in love with the Beatles
America falls in love with the Beatles
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • It's been 50 years since the Beatles appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show"
  • A few months later, "Hard Day's Night" was released in theaters
  • It's considered the start of "Beatlemania" in the U.S.
  • Beatles were on Sullivan three straight weeks

How did The Beatles' appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" change America? Check out "The Sixties: The British Invasion" Thursday, July 10, at 9 p.m.

(CNN) -- It's been 50 years since the Beatles appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" on February 9, 1964, the apex of the so-called "British Invasion" of the United States. A few months later, the Fab Four starred in "A Hard Day's Night" -- which film critic Gene Seymour calls "the best summer movie ever made."

Here are five things you need to know about Beatlemania and the significance of the Beatles' performance on Ed Sullivan's show:

1. Who was Ed Sullivan?

Edward Vincent Sullivan was not what you think of as a TV personality. He was a baggy-eyed, malaprop-mouthed, stiff-bodied former newspaper columnist who looked like Richard Nixon. A wall had more charisma.

Could Beatlemania happen today?

50th Anniversary of Beatlemania

But he was the perfect host. He said his introductions and got out of the way. His guests were the stars -- and he could book almost everybody, thanks to his deep contacts. You might compare his show to an hour of Web-surfing. It featured everybody from plate-spinners to comedians to theatrical performances to pop stars, all in one place. Animal acts, too.

"The Ed Sullivan Show," originally called "Toast of the Town," went on the air in 1948 and lasted for 23 years.

2. Were The Beatles really unknown in America?

Not completely. In Britain, they'd had No. 1 singles for several months, starting with "Please Please Me" in February 1963, and by fall Beatlemania was in full swing. (The word "Beatlemania" first gained wide currency in October after the band's performance on a major UK TV show, "Sunday Night at the London Palladium.")

Sullivan first encountered the band by accident -- he was stuck at London's Heathrow Airport when they returned from Sweden to thousands of fans on October 31 -- but the group was on the show's radar before then, Sullivan staffer Vince Calandra says. The show put out a press release about The Beatles' three-show booking in mid-December, and The New Yorker ran a small item in its December 28, 1963, issue. The Beatles had also appeared in several U.S. news reports.

Did you get swept up in Beatlemania? Share your memories here

In December, the band's U.S. label, Capitol Records, started a marketing blitz -- "The Beatles Are Coming!" -- and by January their songs were all over the radio. "I Want to Hold Your Hand" hit No. 1 in the United States on February 1, dethroning balladeer Bobby Vinton's "There! I've Said It Again."

But for all that, The Beatles hadn't performed in America. With the Sullivan show, they had one of the biggest stages in the country.

Rita Stamp was one of many young people around the world who were caught up in "Beatlemania" when the famous band first visited the United States in February 1964. Stamp, now 67, will never forget finding this photo of the Beatles (complete with facsimile autograph by George Harrison) in a pack of bubble gum. "This photo is my earliest memory of the Beatles because, at least, I was able to see what they looked like and that gave me the ability to connect with their music."
Rita Stamp was one of many young people around the world who were caught up in "Beatlemania" when the famous band first visited the United States in February 1964. Stamp, now 67, will never forget finding this photo of the Beatles (complete with facsimile autograph by George Harrison) in a pack of bubble gum. "This photo is my earliest memory of the Beatles because, at least, I was able to see what they looked like and that gave me the ability to connect with their music."
50 years on, the effects of 'Beatlemania'
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
>
>>
Beatlemania 50 years on Beatlemania 50 years on

3. Who was there?

CBS received 50,000 requests for the 728 seats in New York's CBS Studio 50, since renamed the Ed Sullivan Theater and now home to "The Late Show with David Letterman." Among the celebrities who attended either the live show or the dress rehearsal: Kathy and Nancy Cronkite (Walter's daughters) Randy Paar (talk-show host Jack's daughter) and Julie and Tricia Nixon (Richard's daughters, invited by Randy Paar). Also there: future Monkee Davy Jones, who performed with the cast of "Oliver!"

4. Wait. It wasn't just The Beatles?

No. The band played two sets, opening the show with "All My Loving," "Till There Was You" and "She Loves You" and returning with "I Saw Her Standing There" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand." In between, acts included magician Fred Kaps, impressionist (and future "Batman" Riddler) Frank Gorshin, comedians Charlie Brill & Mitzi McCall, Welsh singer Tessie O'Shea, Broadway star Georgia Brown and the "Oliver!" cast, and acrobats Wells & the Four Fays.

5. What happened after the show?

Watch 'The Sixties'

Screaming fans, funny accents, and amazing music: nothing would be the same after the Beatles and other British musicians came on the U.S. scene in the 1960s. Go inside "The British Invasion" on this week's episode of "The Sixties," Thursday night at 9 p.m. on CNN.

Though the audience loved them and millions of new fans were created that night, some reviewers were less enthusiastic. "The cynical turnover in teen-age trauma received recognition last night in the businesslike appearance of The Beatles on the 'Ed Sullivan Show,' " wrote the unimpressed New York Times TV critic Jack Gould. The ratings, however, were spectactular: 45.3% of U.S. TV households tuned in, representing 73 million people -- a record for an entertainment program up to that time.

From New York, The Beatles took a train to the nation's capital, where they played at the Washington Coliseum on February 11, then returned to New York for two Carnegie Hall concerts on February 12. Then it was off to Florida for the group's second Sullivan appearance -- a performance at Miami Beach's Deauville Hotel on February 16. The ratings for the second Sullivan show were almost as good as the first.

On February 22, The Beatles returned to Britain, where they were greeted by 10,000 fans at Heathrow Airport. The third Sullivan appearance, taped before the February 9 show, aired the next day.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:20 AM EST, Fri January 31, 2014
When the Beatles landed in the U.S., they earned an unequaled fan dedication and a place in American cultural DNA.
updated 6:52 AM EST, Thu January 30, 2014
Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr will accept the Grammy® Lifetime Achievement Award, 50 years after landing in the U.S.
updated 10:20 AM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
Here are five things you need to know to understand Beatlemania and the significance of The Beatles' performance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" 50 years ago.
updated 2:01 PM EST, Tue January 28, 2014
Ben Fong-Torres formerly of Rolling Stone magazine tells CNN's Piers Morgan why The Beatles made it in America.
updated 10:25 AM EST, Fri January 31, 2014
For Rebecca James, the onset of "Beatlemania" meant one thing: a lot of waiting.
updated 10:29 AM EST, Fri January 31, 2014
Images of The Beatles first trip to the United States, 50 years later.
updated 9:27 AM EDT, Mon March 31, 2014
Penn Jillette explains how a bootleg Beatles record that the band never wanted released changed his life.
updated 10:34 AM EST, Mon January 27, 2014
On the red carpet at the Grammy Awards, the Beatles' very own Ringo Starr gives a shout-out to our Wolf Blitzer.
updated 4:17 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
A gallery of some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding the legendary Fab Four.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the two surviving members of the Beatles, will get back together to play the star-studded "The Night That Changed America: A Grammys Salute to The Beatles," Starr said Monday.
updated 6:07 PM EST, Tue December 17, 2013
VH1's Jim Shearer examines the possible reasons behind the release and tells us what to expect next.
updated 9:19 AM EST, Fri January 31, 2014
Facts and key dates about the life of Ringo Starr, British musician and founding member of The Beatles.
updated 1:42 PM EST, Mon January 27, 2014
Images of Paul McCartney, a founding member of The Beatles and considered to be the "most successful composer and recording artist of all time."
updated 8:52 AM EST, Fri January 31, 2014
Key dates and facts about the life of musician Paul McCartney.
ADVERTISEMENT