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Rock Hall Anniversary: The Beatles’ Ed Sullivan Performance

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On February 7th, 1964, at a time where America was still reeling from the death of President John F. Kennedy, a musical sensation hit the airwaves, and would have a profound effect of the musical landscape, as well as pop culture.

It was around this time that the Beatles arrived in New York City’s Kennedy International Airport to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show. Prior to their arrival on U.S. soil, they were already a sensation in the country, as they would already have yielded two number one singles on the U.S. charts, “Love Me Do” and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”. The band was greeted with an estimated three thousand screaming fans, as it was reported on the CBS Evening News. On February 9th, they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, where they shatter viewers records, as the show was watched by an estimated 73 million viewers (an hugely impressive record in the 1960s).

Being a pivotal moment in pop culture history, the Beatles’ Ed Sullivan performance began the phenomenon that would be titled “the British Invasion”. Following the performance, the Beatles would top the American charts for seven consecutive years up until their 1970 breakup, and then a few more times in subsequent years, including in 1995 with Anthology 1. But most of all, it began the wave of British musicians, who would began to have an impact on American pop culture including Dusty Springfield, the Who, the Rolling Stones, and the Yardbirds.