NEW YORK, January 26, 2013 — Fifty years ago, as the new rock and roll music group, the Beatles, flew across the pond to New York to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show, the members, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon and George Harrison wondered aloud to reporters if they would succeed in America.
Little did they know they had nothing to fear as an estimated 73, 700 Americans tuned in to watch when there were only 23, 400 TV sets in the U.S.A. In an age of TV and radio as the only two aural mediums, this was an historic event.
The song “I want to Hold Your Hand” became number one in America, and the Beatles were already on their way to hold the first five slots in the top ten recordings in Rock and Roll. It is a feat never before accomplished or since duplicated. The sales of over 600 million recordings are a world record.
The music was a new genre of rock and roll. Even the lineup of a lead guitar, rhythm guitar and bass guitar out front and the drummer behind them was new. This line up remains the choice of rockers today.
The Ed Sullivan Show premiered the Beatles on February ninth, 1663 with the Beatles performing the songs “She Loves You (yeah, yeah, yeah)”, “All My Loving”, “Till There Was You” and “I Saw Her Standing There” as the young girls in the Audience practiced the new wave of what became known as “Beatlemania” by screaming, pulling hair, jumping around and crying.
Having watched the Ed Sullivan Show and being a Beatles fan, this author was privileged to have an offer to watch the Beatles perform at the long-gone D.C. Stadium in 1966.
The Beatles was the first concert this 12-year-old had ever attended, perhaps ruining all future concert experiences for a lifetime. Once one sees the Beatles live, it’s all downhill from there.
The concert was held August 15, 1966, the last year the Beatles toured. Many ticket holders did not attend the shows because earlier in the year, John Lennon made a casual remark to a friend that the Beatles may be “bigger than Jesus” and this friend was a reporter. The off the cuff remark was blown out of proportion and the Beatles were heavily criticized globally.
The no-shows were fine with everyone who did attend because the Beatles could be heard and with a five dollar ticket, seen up close.
Some of the opening acts that evening were Cyrcle, who played their hit “Red Rubber Ball”, Bobby Hebb who performed “Sonny” and others lost to memory.
The Beatles came in by helicopter which landed by the baseball dugout and when their turn came, they came on the field carrying their guitars and drumsticks and ran up onto the stage. Paul McCartney announced they would play their new hit “Day Tripper” followed by a string of hits such as “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, “She Loves You”, Twist and Shout” and others.
At one point, a male fan broke free of the 400 policeman assigned to the concert and ran onstage, touching McCartney first, Harrison then Lennon before he was apprehended.
The Beatles were fronted by Paul McCartney as spokesman who introduced every song and the Beatles politely bowed to the audience after each song.
The fury of females engaging in Beatlemania was a surreal sight for a 12 year old, and upon walking down the concrete ramps after the short concert was over, someone yelled ‘they’re down here” and pandemonium broke out as people ran down the ramp in full force, knocking folks over and behaving as if they were escaping a raging fire.
Turns out the Beatles were not “down here.”
Some 20 years later when the Hard Rock Café’ opened in WashingtonD.C., the guitar George Harrison played on the Ed Sullivan Show was brought in as an attraction for the grand opening. It was uncrated but not yet on display. As a guitarist, this author was intrigued by the historic relevance of Harrison’s guitar and when no one was around, picked it up and played it.
It was a Rickenbacker and guitars from that era were not the fine- tuned instruments of today leaving to wonder how on earth did Harrison generate the sounds form such a relatively primitive instrument? Harrison, as we know, was a far ahead of his time and quite the six string genius.
Several years ago, a popular Beatles tribute group played in Maryland and this author attended the show with a skeptical eye. When the aging fans attending the concert learned I actually saw the Beatles in person, I was a star for my 15 minutes of fame as I answered many questions from 50 something’s who were there to capture what they missed 45 years earlier.
The group did a fantastic job of imitating the sights and sounds of the early 60’s Beatles. The only thing missing was Beatlemania and, of course, the Beatles.
Paul Mountjoy is a Virginia based psychotherapist, writer and Beatle fan.