On this day in 1964, the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show for the first time, as teenage girls screamed hysterically in the audience and 73 million people watched from home — a record for American television at the time.
I know where I was: about a foot away from our black-and-white console TV in the basement of our quintessentially 60s finished basement with whole family present. The first song they did, “I want to hold your hand” is linked above and I didn’t think their harmonies were very impressive, but I couldn’t take my eyes off them. When they came back out, they did “I saw her standing there” and I did a bit of a scream, if I remember.
Of course, I watched the next three weeks as well and was as obsessed as any other. I think my friend Karen and I watched at least one of them together. In 1964 the Beatles released Seven albums, the first two in January before the Big Arrival to be in Ed Sullivan. I was given “Meet the Beatles” for my birthday that year. “The Beatles Second Album” was released 10 April 1964; it was their third release, but who was counting? In June their movie, “Hard Day’s Night” was released to more screaming fans (including me). In July came “Something New”. The November release was “The Story of the Beatles” with interviews and discussions of Beatlemania”. In December “Beatles 65” was released– perfect Christmas present!
Beatlemania was followed by the British Invasion and Ed Sullivan was bringing them all in, though he did censure Mick Jagger, of course. It was a grand time to be memorizing song lyrics.
“Rubber Soul” came out in December 1965, another Christmas present, but it wasn’t shake-your-hair and scream music. The Beatles were growing up, too. .
By 1966, the Beatles had grown tired of live performance. George Harrison was the first to burn out on Beatlemania, though Paul Thrived on the Adulation. McCartney finally gave in to his band mates’ insistence that the group stop touring toward the end of their August tour of the United States. Afterward, George informed manager Brian Epstein that he was leaving the band. However, he was persuaded to stay on provided there were no more tours
Shortly after the USA tour in 1966 ,the album “Revolver” was released and by that time you could see that The Beatles were definitely moving in a different direction that was more cerebral. They’d been to India and their music showed their journey.
In 1967, June, The Beatles changed the world of music again with the album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. That same year they made another movie, “Magical Mystery Tour” and I missed the whole thing as we were moving around from here to California. I did get Sgt. Pepper for my birthday in 1968, though.
During the second half of the Beatles’ career, the members began to assert individual artistic agendas. Their disunity became most evident on The White Album. Ringo briefly quit the group while it was being made. They were divided over who would be their manager after the death of Brian Epstein and never came to an agreement.
They launched into a multi-media project called “Get Back” that later became “Let it Be” and it was a disaster. The dysfunction of the group, the arrogance and ego of John and Paul are on full display and it’s tough to watch. Yoko is like hiding under the seats, warbling. George briefly left the band during this time. The situation was so bad that the project was not released for several years after the band had already broken up.
Abbey Road, the album that is my favorite, was released in October 1969. They weren’t actually working together, but their producer had a way of making us think they had.
The final time that the four members recorded together collectively was the session for Abbey Road‘s closing track “The End” on 18 August 1969. Lennon privately informed his band mates that he was leaving the Beatles on 20 September, although it was unclear to the other members whether his departure was permanent. On 10 April 1970, McCartney issued a press release that stated he was no longer working with the group, which sparked a widespread media reaction and worsened the tensions between him and his band mates. Legal disputes continued long after, and the dissolution was not formalized until 1974.
The Fab Four who performed on Ed Sullivan lo those many years ago were not the same group who sang me to sleep with the dark “Golden Slumbers” or who surprised me with “Her Majesty”. John’s heroin addiction and Paul’s controlling personality were Bound to Explode. George was always my favorite, anyway, and the Beatles demise freed him to create his own music, many of which have become part of my soundtrack. Ringo? Ya gotta Love Ringo…and he really is a good drummer.
I’m still doing the Dental Dance with frequent appointments, still making the best of it.
Listening to Abbey Road…it’s good medicine.