On Sunday, February 9, 1964, it is estimated that 73 million Americans were watching The Ed Sullivan Show. Why? The Beatles made their live U.S. television debut when Ed Sullivan gave his now-famous intro, “Ladies and gentlemen…the Beatles!”and after a few seconds of rapturous cheering from the audience, the band kicked into “All My Lovin’.” Fifty seconds in, the first audience-reaction shot of the performance shows a teenage girl beaming and possibly hyperventilating. Two minutes later, Paul is singing another pretty, mid-tempo number: “Til There Was You,” from the Broadway musical Music Man. There’s screaming at the end of every phrase in the lyrics, of course, but to view the broadcast today, it seems driven more by anticipation than by the relatively low-key performance itself. And then came “She Loves You,” and the place seems to explode. What followed was perhaps the most important two minutes and 16 seconds of music ever broadcast on American television—a sequence that still sends chills down the spine almost half a century later. I think a video says it all.
The Beatles would return later in the show to perform “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” as the audience remained at the same fever pitch it had reached during “She Loves You.”
Since Ed Sullivan was a variety show, the Beatles were not the only act scheduled that evening. Unfortunately for the acts that had to follow each of the Beatles two sets, the evening was a total loss as the audience was in a fever pitch over the Beatles. These acts were Fred Kaps, a magician and a troupe of comic acrobats, Wells and the Four Fays.
Wells and The Four Fays
The only act outside the Beatles that didn’t consider the evening a total loss, was a British actor starring in Oliver on Broadway. He sang “I’d Do Anything” as the Artful Dodger. That young actor was none other than Davy Jones who a few years later will experience the hysteria similar to the Beatles as part of The Monkees.