Fifty years ago tonight, on February 9th, 1964, The Beatles performed on the Ed Sullivan Show in CBS Studio 50 to a broadcast audience of 73 million viewers. The largest television audience in history up to that date. CBS received more than 50,000 requests for the 750 seats in Studio 50.
Before their Ed Sullivan appearance, The Beatles had played more than 1,000 live shows. Few people in the general public understand that this is why they were so good by this date. Their electrifying performance on Ed Sullivan was the culmination of almost 8 years of work. They exploded on the American public, fully formed.
This could never happen again. The world is too connected now. When thousands of kids were trying to get into the 250 capacity Cavern Club in Liverpool, years before Ed Sullivan, it would have been Twittered and put on Youtube today. The Beatles had the benefit of being able to grow organically, without hype, into what Eric Clapton would call “The Four Headed beast”.
The Beatles performance on Ed Sullivan was so good and so unique that we are still talking about it 50 years later.
Today’s music industry is largely filled with mediocre talent, saturation marketing, and hype. Some of the horrendous performances on the 2014 Grammys prove this… but on February 9th 1964, America saw a fully formed professional band whose performance and talent has never been equaled, and likely never will be.