Everyone knows The Beatles’ debut appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 established the band in the United States. They matched their European fame in North America and became the most popular band on both sides of the Atlantic. But that groundbreaking show wasn’t The Beatles’ first time on American TV. Eagle-eyed fans saw John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr on TV long before George shared that the pleasure of touring wore off for the group.
The Beatles broke through in the United States because of ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’
It was only a matter of time before The Beatles made it big in the U.S. Ed Sullivan just helped the process.
The band had three No. 1 singles (“From Me to You,” “She Loves You,” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand”), a No. 2 in “Please Please Me,” (per the Official Charts Company) and throngs of screaming fans in England before Sullivan gave them what Ringo said was The Beatles’ lucky break.
They more or less cemented their hold on the U.S. when more than 70 million people watched Sullivan’s Feb. 9, 1964, show. Still, The Beatles’ first TV appearance in the U.S. came nearly four months earlier.
The Beatles’ first TV appearance in the U.S. happened in 1963 via a news broadcast
Teenage music fans comprised a large part of The Beatles’ fan base. The news magazine show The Huntley-Brinkley Report likely didn’t register with them. But anyone watching the show on Nov. 18, 1963, saw The Beatles’ first TV appearance in the U.S.
Edwin Newman reported on the wave of Beatlemania spreading across England at the time, according to The Trivia Book of The Beatles.
In his report, Newman mentions rabid fans camping out for tickets from Coventry to Newcastle. He describes a near-riot at a Beatles’ concert in Bournemouth and says, “Those who study such things say that, at last, the British juvenile has someone immediate to identify with, not some distant American rock and roll hero.” That comment hit the mark, but Newman’s retort that one reason the Fab Four were so popular at the time was because no one could hear them perform over the screaming fans didn’t age well.
The Beatles showed up on American TV again a few weeks before their first live TV appearance in the U.S. On Jan. 3. 1964, talk show host Jack Paar aired clips of the Fab Four performing live versions of “From Me to You” and “She Loves You” to the ever-present audiences of screaming teenagers, per The Trivia Book of The Beatles.
The Fab Four cracked America in 1964 but walked away from playing live less than three years later
The Fab Four’s blend of infectious songs and fun personalities almost had them destined to conquer the world. It wasn’t The Beatles’ first TV appearance in the U.S., but The Ed Sullivan Show helped them dominate America. The band notched 18 of their Billboard No. 1 singles after the Sullivan appearance.
Just over two-a-half years later, The Beatles gave up live performances altogether.
Yes, their incredible final performance on the Apple Corps. rooftop is legendary, but the quartet never played another ticketed concert. The final time The Beatles’ played in front of a paying crowd came at an Aug. 29, 1966, show at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park.
Between death threats against Ringo, the throngs of screaming that made it impossible for the band to hear their own music, and would-be stage crashers running at them, playing live lost its charm for the band. It’s little wonder The Beatles never played another concert after they concluded that 1966 U.S. tour.
Yet we’ll always have that that Sullivan performance, and now the knowledge that The Beatles’ first TV appearance in the U.S. happened a few months earlier.
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