Beatles’ Road to Rock History Started Before ‘Ed Sullivan Show’

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It was the pop culture equivalent of the Big Bang, a televised moment that changed music for decades to come.

 

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The Beatles, from left, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr on drums, and John Lennon perform on the CBS “Ed Sullivan Show” in New York. (Credit: Associated Press / December 31, 1969)

Fifty years ago Sunday, the Beatles made their U.S. live television debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show” as 73 million people tuned in, the largest audience in history at that time. The English band’s appearance ignited American hysteria over the group and its music on a scale unmatched to this day.

In the shorthand of history, it appears to be a moment of spontaneous combustion. In reality it was the result of musical talent, managerial chutzpah and marketing genius.

But at the time, not even John, Paul, George or Ringo were fully aware of what was to come.

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