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McCartney to Letterman: Being on Sullivan stage like 'going back to old school'

In excerpts released by CBS Feb. 7 in advance of the network's prime-time special “The Night They Changed America: The Grammy Salute to the Beatles” to air Sunday, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney were humbled and nostalgic about being back on the stage of the Ed Sullivan Theater where the Beatles played 50 years ago this Sunday.

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr return to the Ed Sullivan Theater.
Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr return to the Ed Sullivan Theater.
Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved
Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and David Letterman back in the Ed Sullivan Theater.
Jay Johnson/Worldwide Pants Inc. ©2014 Worldwide Pants Inc. All Rights Reserved

“I mean, even coming back yesterday, I've been back 100 times,” said Ringo Starr in one clip. “I've done the show with you. But it's like, 'Ah, I'm getting involved in like the excitement of it all then. It's not like we go around saying, 'Oh that day.' Now I'm here. I'm looking out the window. I'm in the plaza. And, oh, the kids were down there. And now we're back on this stage again. The memory I have of Sunday is that it was four times bigger than this. You know what I mean. There was thousands of them.”

“Well there was another balcony. There was a third level of about 150 more seats. So it wasn't that many more, but enough to make a difference,” Letterman said.

“Like going back to your old school, isn't it?,” McCartney quietly replied.

In a separate interview, McCartney talked about playing “Yesterday” on the Sullivan stage in a later appearance in 1965.

“So it was decided that I would do 'Yesterday.' But I never worked out without the band. So I'm now going to be working solo on 'The Ed Sullivan Show.' So I agree to do it. So I'm standing there ready to go on, never having worked without the band, a little bit nervous. And there were curtains. And there was a Teamster on the inside of the curtain so they won't catch. So I'm standing there all prepared with my guitar ready to go on. And he says, 'Are you nervous?' I said, 'No, not really,' lying. He says, 'You should be. There's 73 million people watching.' (Makes gesture to show curtains parting.) 'Yesterday, ….'”

The full interviews will be broadcast Sunday in the 2½ hour special that begins at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS. The network returned the theater to its 1964 look Thursday by covering the David Letterman show logo with a look of the exact marquee that was there the night the Beatles debuted on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

The Beatles' appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show" are available on DVD.

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