Where were you in ’64? Forty-seven years ago last night, The Beatles had their debut performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. As a member of the TV generation, I sat along with family members mesmerized by the four lads from Liverpool. Although they had released singles in the US since 1962 on a half a dozen different labels, the band did not get noticed until Capitol Records picked up there option and released the album “Meet The Beatles” and the single “I Want To Hold Your Hand/I Saw Her Standing There.”
While it wasn't their first time on American TV, February 1964 was a big month for the Fab Four and their three consecutive Ed Sullivan performances secured their place in American stardom.
I can remember watching this first performance on KDKA-TV 2 in Pittsburgh. The Ed Sullivan Show was an American staple on Sundays at 8 PM. Remember Topo Gigio, the guy that spun the plates to Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance,” and Bill Dana's José Jiménez? Ah yes, but nothing tops the memory of seeing The Beatles live.
I’m not sure where my mother was that night - I would imagine that she had not yet returned from church. I remember sitting in front of the TV with my 15 year-old brother John and my 79 year-old grandmother who was temporarily living with us as she had recently fallen and had broken her arm.
I should explain that Grandma was not on the floor with John and me, but rather she was comfortably sitting in the swivel rocker we had in the living room. The three of us sat there with rapt attention as John, Paul, George, and Ringo performed “All My Loving,” “’Til There was You,” “She Loves You,” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” I wonder what Grandma thought of this music.
The performance was the talk of Mrs. Beck’s third grade class at Green Valley Elementary School the next day. It was truly fantastic. Their harmonies, which were somewhat different than the recordings, were fabulous. I’m glad I had a chance to see this live. Looking back 47 years and having 20 years broadcasting experience, I can honestly say that the camera shots, the sets, the sound, and the entire production were top notch. Although I’m a day late in getting this up, it is a perfect selection for TV Thursday. Enjoy this trip back to 1964.