The Beatles' Feb. 9, 1964, appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" was the group's most formative introduction to the U.S., and the first blast of the youth culture explosion of the 1960s. Fifty years and millions of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" replays later, there are still a few things you might not know about the historic appearance.
So fab, Ed Sullivan was rattledWhen Capitol did decide to sign the band, they threw a lot of money into promotional efforts, one of which was having disc jockeys announce the Beatles' whereabouts. This, along with the unexpected success of "I Want to Hold Your Hand," created mass teenage hysteria in New York.
According to Vince Calandra, who was a stage producer for "The Ed Sullivan Show," fear of out-of-control teens worried Sullivan enough that he showed up at the Saturday rehearsal -- something he never did -- to lecture the audience.
"He was saying things to the audience like. 'Kids, you have to be respectful to our other performers, and if you're not, I'm gonna come out into the audience and take everyone's name and address and report you to your mothers and fathers.' Silly stuff like that," Calendra told TODAY.
The (humble) Beatles went the extra mile"It was the first time I can remember that anyone ever wanted to go into the control room to hear a playback," recalled Calandra, who also stood in during rehearsals for an ailing George Harrison. "Usually the sound people would play the stuff back to the performers when they were on the floor. But the Beatles wanted to hear the playback and make comments to our audio guy. With most acts, they'd put the vocals out front; the Beatles supposedly wanted an equal blend of music and vocals."
TV and vending machines wowed the bandJohn Lennon might have famously told Rolling Stone magazine in 1971 he was unimpressed with American culture, but Calandra said the group was wowed by some elements of the country, including television (which Ringo Starr continuously watched backstage) and Coca-Cola vending machines (which especially intrigued Lennon). "John came around and bugged me for change," Calandra recalled. "He was like 'Hey mate ...' I could hardly understand him!"
'Sullivan' scored them their big U.S. record contractThe Beatles' breakout U.S. single, "I Want to Hold Your Hand," preceded the "Ed Sullivan" gig, so it's easy to assume the Beatles' contract with the company that released it, Capitol Records, also came first. Not quite. According to promoter and Beatles expert Martin Lawrence, in 1963 Fab Four manager Brian Epstein couldn't persuade Capitol — the U.S. arm of the Beatles' record company — to release any Beatles records.
"So Brian asked (Capitol president) Alan Livingston, 'If I could get them an appearance on a major U.S. television show, would that make a difference?'" Lawrence told TODAY. "Alan said yes, thinking it would never happen. But Epstein persuaded Sullivan and that's what ultimately convinced Alan. He was impressed."