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The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today : Sunday, February 9, 1964

Studio 50, New York City, USA

In the morning there was another Studio 50 rehearsal for The Ed Sullivan Show. George was unwell and did not participate, in his stead, the cameras rehearsed their positioning with a stand-in, the Beatle's assistant Neil Aspinall.

During the afternoon, before their celebrated live Sullivan debut that evening, the Beatles - with George - taped the appearance, ostensibly their third, that would be screened after their departure from America, on Sunday, February 23rd (8:00-9:00 pm EST). For this, before a different audience from that which would attend the evening performance, they played three numbers: first "Twist And Shout" and "Please Please Me" and then, in a different setting for inclusion later in the program, "I Want To Hold Your Hand". Before any of this happened, though, Sullivan claimed the spotlight and delivered one of his haughty pronouncements that summed up a US reaction to this first Beatle visit: "All of us on the show are so darned sorry, and sincerely sorry, that this is the third and thus our last current show with the Beatles, because these youngsters from Liverpool, England, and their conduct over here, not only as fine professional singers but as a group of fine youngsters, will leave an imprint of everyone over here who's met them".....

Along with the Beatles, this edition featured Cab Calloway and Gordon and Sheila MacRae, and the program was repeated on Sunday, August 23, 1964.

The first and most famous of the Beatle's two live Sullivan transmissions was performed in front of a Studio 50 audience of 728, and an estimated 73 million people in 23,240,000 homes across the United States, tuning in from 8:00 to 9:00 pm, EST. It was easily the highest US TV audience figure amassed to that time.

The Beatles performed five songs, three at the beginning of the show, "All My Loving", "Till There Was You" and "She Loves You", and two in the second half in a different setting. "I Saw Her Standing There" and "I Want To Hold Your Hand". It was a daunting yet remarkably confident performance, marred only slightly by an awkward sound balance. During "Till There Was You", each of the Beatles came in for individual camera attention, at which point his christian name appeared on screen. When it came to John, an additional caption read, "Sorry Girls, He's Married".

As it transpired, this edition of the "Ed Sullivan Show" had a pronounced British slant, for apart from the Beatles it also featured singer/banjoist Tessie O'Shea and the New York cast of Lionel Bart's London musical, Oliver, starring Georgia Brown and -as the artful Dodger - Davy Jones, the future member of the Monkees. (Another guest act was the American impressionist Frank Gorshin, later to appear as The Riddler in the Batman TV Series.)

This celebrated edition of The Ed Sullivan Show was repeated on Sunday, July 12, 1964 (8:00 to 9:00 pm, EST) while highlights from the Beatles' sequences went into The Ed Sullivan Show: The Swinging Soulful Sixties, a retrospective of musical moments from Sullivan's shows throughout the decade, broadcast by CBS on Sunday, December 21, 1969.

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