The Beatles’ Popularity Before Ed Sullivan Show
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Believe it or not, The Beatles were already stars in America before their iconic appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. On Sunday, we celebrated 50 years since the Beatles punched America in the face with great music.
However, their road wasn’t an easy one, and the variables that fell into place to make Beatlemania happen were sometimes all but miraculous, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The Beatles themselves didn’t even have a clue as to what their future held in America.
“We were busy — it was crazy at home,” Beatles’ drummer Ringo Starr, who is now 73, said in a recent interview. “We thought we were just coming to do some TV show. We were like, ‘We’re going to America!’ — that’s all I could think, we’re going to America where all the music I ever loved came from. That was the big news for me.”
The band owes much of its popularity explosion to manager, Brian Epstein, who was immovable in his vision of what the Beatles could be in America.
“His conviction in the Beatles’ qualities was unshakable from the start,” said Mark Lewisohn, author of a new biography “Tune In: The Beatles — All These Years, Vol. 1.” “He believed … that they would be the greatest.”
And he was right.
It did take a lot of convincing of Capitol Records’ president to spend the money to market The Beatles on American soil after many attempts and failures to bring the U.S. something from across the pond.
“I would occasionally take an EMI record, English in particular, and release it in the United States with no success whatsoever,” Capitol’s then-president, Alan Livingston, said. “There was just no interest in English artists here.”
Well, that quickly changed when the deal with The Ed Sullivan Show was solidified. Then Livingston had the confidence he needed to release “I Want To Hold Your Hand” in America. Capitol slated it for mid-January release, ahead of the Feb. 9 Sullivan show debut, but the release was pushed up, thanks to 15-year-old Marcia Albert of Silver Springs, Md.
After seeing them perform “She Loves You” on a newscast, she contacted her local radio station, WWDC in Washington, DC to ask why America couldn’t have Beatles music. The DJ, Carroll James, invited Albert to the station to introduce “I Want To Hold Your Hand” before he played it for the first time in the U.S. on Dec. 17, 1963, way ahead of the release date.
With the cat, or Beatle, out of the bag, and after other stations around the country began playing the single, Capitol Records pushed up the release date of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” to Dec. 26, prompting the quick sale of 1 million copies in just 3 weeks. This pre-Sullivan popularity is what resulted in the 3,000 plus screaming teenagers greeting The Beatles on their arrival to America.
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