Friday, February 7, 2014

50 Years Ago This Weekend (2/7, 2/8 and 2/9)

50 Years Ago Today, The Beatles landed on our shores for the very first time.  Two nights later, 73 Million Americans would watch their first live televised performance on The Ed Sullivan Show and the rest, as they say, is history.

They single-handedly launched what's become forever known as The British Invasion ... but it was really more of a musical revolution ... each week this year we've been looking back at the evolution of The American Charts to see again what a tremendous impact these sounds from across the ocean had on the music scene here in The States.

In fact, here's what the national Billboard Chart ... and our own Chicagoland WLS Silver Dollar Survey looked like 50 Years Ago This Weekend:

I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND is in its second week at #1 in Billboard Magazine … meanwhile, SHE LOVES YOU has joined it in The Top Ten, sitting at #7 this week.  PLEASE PLEASE ME has climbed to #57 and I SAW HER STANDING THERE, the B-Side of their #1 Hit, has hit the charts for the very first time at #68.  DUSTY SPRINGFIELD is now sitting at #54 with I ONLY WANT TO BE WITH YOU, nearly a 20-point jump from the week before.

The Beatles hold down two of the top three positions this week in Chicago on the WLS Silver Dollar Survey with "I Want To Hold Your Hand" holding on to the #1 Spot and "She Loves You" right behind it at #3.  Cliff Richard premiers this week at #34 with his version of the 1950's classic "It's All In The Game".

And of course February 9th was the biggie ... The Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.  With an estimated audience of about 73 MILLION People, virtually a third of the entire U.S. Population was tuned in to CBS that night ... and watched history in the making.  (This Sunday Night ... at exactly the same time .. and in exactly the same theater ... CBS will broadcast what has now been expanded to a two and a half hour television special they're calling "The Night That Changed America" ... featuring a number of contemporary artists performing Beatles classics on stage, joined at the end by the two surviving Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, who will perform together in honor of this monumental anniversary.

History has long since documented that The Beatles' big breakthrough here in The States came thanks to their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show ... and there is NO question that this event propelled them into the stratosphere ... anybody who hadn't heard of them before February 9th, 1964, certainly knew who they were now ... but as we have seen in our weekly 50th Anniversary updates, their music had already caught on with the fans.  By the night of their first appearance, The Fab Four already had FOUR titles charting on The Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles Chart.

Truth be told, it was actually Late Night Talk Show Jack Paar who first introduced the band (and the mass hysteria surrounding them) to an American audience several months before.  Without a best-selling record on the market, however, any possible momentum that this hysteria may have generated just went nowhere.

This is meant to in no way diminish the impact that this Sullivan appearance had on their career.  Conquering America was the final step ... Beatlemania was now a full-blown, world-wide epidemic ... it was unlike anything else we'd ever seen ... even bigger than Elvis ... and NOTHING was bigger than Elvis!!!

The Beatles weren't the first British Act to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show ... Sullivan had been booking British talent for years.  Coincidently, during that very same February 9th appearance, a young Davy Jones (two years away from Monkees stardom) appeared as part of the Broadway Cast of "Oliver".  (Word has it that after Jones saw the reaction of the audience to The Fab Four, he muttered to himself "I've gotta get me some of THAT!!!" and switched over from Broadway Show Tunes to Pop.) 


Six months earlier Cliff Richard (a HUGE star in the U.K. ... despite the fact that he wouldn't really enjoy chart success here in The States for another decade) appeared on Ed's program.   (We featured Cliff's big U.S. Hit from 50 Years Ago Today above ... a version of "It's All In The Game" that missed our GAME DAY Celebration last weekend on Super Bowl Sunday.  [We opted instead to go with the Tommy Edwards original version.])

Sullivan first caught sight of The Beatles and the surrounding pandemonium while he and his wife were waiting to board a plane at London's Heathrow Airport.  They witnessed THOUSANDS of fans who had shown up to welcome their pop heroes home from a recent concert tour.  Always the showman and talent scout, Ed did some quick checking and tracked down their manager, Brian Epstein.  After some lengthy negotiations, he signed the band to THREE appearances on his Sunday Night mainstay.  (It was a deal very similar to the one he had made with Colonel Tom Parker several years earlier when Sullivan signed Elvis Presley to do his program.) 

A then record-breaking audience of about 73 Million tuned in that night ... February 9th, 1964 ... to watch The Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.  They made two separate appearances on the program that night ... and sang a total of five songs, including their current #1 Hit "I Want To Hold Your Hand", as well as "All My Lovin'", "Till There Was You", "She Loves You" and "I Saw Her Standing There".


Lou Simon will be playing ALL the British Invasion artists who charted in 1964, in order, based on their chart performance for the year, based on information collected from Dann Isbell's book "Ranking the '60s." 
This Very Special British Invasion Anniversary Countdown runs exclusively on Sirius / XM's 60's Channel, airing at 2 pm on Saturday, February 8th, at 10 am on Sunday, February 9th and again on Wednesday, February 12th at 9 pm ... all times Eastern.

Scott Shannon will be celebrating "Beatlemania" all weekend long on The True Oldies Channel, too!  You can "Listen Live" here: Click here: True Oldies Channel


Just about three years ago I had the enormous pleasure of interviewing Andrew Solt for Forgotten Hits. 

For those of you who don't know, Andrew owns the rights to EVERY Ed Sullivan Show ever broadcast on CBS television. 

Naturally, the subject of The Beatles' first appearance came up in our conversation.  (The show was watched by about 73 million viewers ... how could it NOT come up?!?!?)  

kk:  I'm sure I watched Ed Sullivan before 1964, but the night The Beatles first appeared on his program is still as clear in my mind as it can be, all these years later. (Watching the now-available DVD rebroadcasts of these appearance only confirms how truly vivid these memories really are!) I'll never forget going to school the next day and having The Beatles being the ONLY topic of discussion anyone wanted to spend time on! (In fact, the night after The Beatles' first television appearance, my Dad took us three boys to the barber shop to get haircuts. The running joke that night was whether or not the three of us basically flat top / crew cut boys wanted new "Beatle cuts" or not! A vivid memory to be sure ... of not only an IMMEDIATE fashion style-impact The Fab For had on America ... but also of the day when barber shops were still open on Mondays!!! lol)   
AS:  So you remember that very first Beatles appearance? So many of us do ... it was a life-changing moment for many of us. By then, early 1964, we had heard the records but we had never SEEN The Beatles. You had the record album covers to look at, of course ... but we had never seen them perform live ... and witnessed their wit and charm and charisma. The Beatles' first performance drew nearly 73 million viewers ... it's a mind-boggling statistic ... that THAT many people would tune in to see one act perform ... and a relatively unknown, unproven act at that!  But you have to understand that Ed's program regularly drew 30-35 million viewers, each and every week. That's almost unheard of in television today. Today the only programs that generate that kind of an audience ... 30 million viewers ... would be something like a major sporting event like The Super Bowl ... or perhaps the season finale of "American Idol" ... but Ed Sullivan delivered those kinds of ratings on a regular basis back then when there were less than half as many Americans.  Now consider that there were far fewer televisions in homes back then ... and the numbers become truly staggering.  

kk:  And the way he found these acts was sometimes amazing, too. Had he not been at the airport in London at the exact moment The Beatles were landing, he may never have even booked the lads on his television program!   

AS:  You're right ... Ed was landing at London's Heathrow Airport when he and his wife saw literally THOUSANDS of screaming girls ... and a few boys ... waiting for The Beatles' plane to come in from Scotland. Ed asked what all the fuss was about ... at first he thought perhaps this crowd had turned out to see The Royal Family! When he learned that they were all there to see a pop group called The Beatles, he immediately started seeking out their manager when he got to his hotel. Now this was in November of 1963 ... The Beatles weren’t even dominating the charts in America yet ... in fact, they had yet to have their first U.S. hit record ... but he made Brian Epstein a standing offer on the spot that whenever they were ready, he would book The Beatles on his program ... same deal he had given Colonel Parker and Elvis Presley in 1956 ... three separate appearances. And The Beatles were smart to wait ... as part of the negotiation, Brian Epstein insisted on three things that had previously been decided upon by John and Paul: that The Beatles would not come to America until they had a #1 Record ... that they would have their first major concert appearance at Carnegie Hall in New York City ... and that they would receive top billing on Ed's program ... again, a VERY bold move for an act that had no proven history with an American audience up to this point. The Beatles themselves were unsure as to just how well they would go over here in America ... no British act had ever really had this type of blow-out success before here in The States ... but Brian Epstein believed in his band and negotiated a pretty remarkable deal that Ed Sullivan whole-heartedly agreed to. The Beatles' appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show proved to be ultimately more popular than those of Elvis Presley some eight years earlier!  It was seen by over 72 million people and had an 82% share of the audience.  Amazing!  

kk:  In hindsight it seems to be a rather bold move, insisting that they wouldn't come to America until they had a #1 Record here ... but The Beatles had already had ENORMOUS success all over Europe at this point ... in a way, America was the last land to conquer.  And in hindsight, it seems they needn't have worried ... at one point The Beatles had FOURTEEN of The Top 100 Singles in America!!!   

AS:  You know some people say that The Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show was NOT their first American television appearance ... and they'll site a short clip that aired on The Jack Paar Show two weeks before ... but that clip didn't really show The Beatles performing ... it showed the fans turning up at the airport to greet The Beatles and made fun of their unusual hairstyles. In fact, right before their Sullivan appearance, Walter Cronkite had run a short newsreel clip of the pandemonium of Beatlemania at a European appearance ... but The Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show was their first LIVE appearance on American television ... and this is the one that we all know gave rise to Beatlemania here in full-blown fashion. The Beatles only made four live appearances on Ed Sullivan ... the original three as stipulated by their contract signed in 1963 and a fourth appearance in 1965 that aired just prior to their appearance at Shea Stadium.