This Day In History: 73 Million Americans See The Beatles Debut Live On TV

The Fab Four on February 9, 1964. BeatlesBible.com

On February 9, 1964, a British culture invasion was on the verge of becoming a full-blown reality. It took a number of factors working in sync with one another for the full on explosion to take place. The Beatles were already well known, but few had seen them perform live until that night when approximately 73 million Americans watched  as the Beatles made their first live television appearance on the Ed Sullivan show.

After Winning a Grammy in 1965. EMI

The musical group were already drowning in deep well of fame. People were hysterically overjoyed to see them play. Ed Sullivan’s introduction the night they debuted on his show was overshadowed by a screaming audience. While overwhelmed, the screams were not outside Sullivan’s hopes. They were exactly what he hoped for and expected.

He had seen the Beatles perform in London the year before. When he witnessed the audience reaction to the Liverpool born rock and rollers, he immediately knew he wanted to feature them on his show. And, right he was. The group was a massive success. Soon, they were widely regarded as the most influential music act of the rock era.

When the group rose to popularity all the more, due — in part — to the added exposure from their Ed Sullivan appearance, the term “Beatlemania,” was coined to encapsulate the massive wave of enthusiasm people expressed for the group. Beatlemania, like the Beatle’s music, changed over time. Eventually, the group was synonymous with the counterculture movement of the 1960’s.

Part of the secret to their long-held success was their inclination and ability to draw from and fuse an array of music styles that included classical, pop ballads, psychedelia and hard rock, and world music. Added to which, they began experimenting with unconventional recording techniques in innovative ways. For instance, compare, “I Want to Hold your Hand” performed that night in 1964 to anything from the White album recorded just four years later.

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