When Beatles Landed, Hair Was the Hype

When Beatles Landed, Hair Was the Hype
AP Photo, File

February 9 marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' legendary first performance on the "Ed Sullivan Show." At the time, the band was already wildly successful in Britain—over the previous three years, they'd rapidly become the country's most popular group, and were met by hordes of screaming teenagers at every public appearance—but in the United States, they were known for only a few fast-selling singles released by Capitol Records, along with rumors of the Beatlemania that had struck the U.K.

An estimated 74 million people—a full 38 percent of the American population—tuned into CBS at 8 p.m. to see the band's American debut (they played "She Loves You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand," among other songs). Today, music scholars look back at the performance as a watershed moment, a turning point in the history in American music that inextricably influenced a huge proportion of all the pop and rock that's come since.

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