Wednesday, October 6, 2010


You can see what they saw, but you can't really feel what they felt. I can't imagine any cultural happening that could equal the excitement of that very first Beatles performance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. The world was a different place, most people had never seen a rock band. There were three or four channels (which signed off at the end of the night). It's been said before, but The Beatles weren't just a band, they were a cultural revolution. And by the way, I'm saying this as someone who was born five years after the fact. But ask anyone who was, say, seven years old or older when The Beatles played Sullivan, they'll probably not only remember it, but how it changed everything.

I was glad to find out that Universal (not Apple Corp) was putting out a 2 DVD set including all four episodes that The Beatles appeared on: February 4, 16 and 23 1964 and September 12, 1965. It doesn't just include The Beatles' performances, it includes the entire broadcasts for all four shows, commericals included.  In a way, I just want to see The Beatles. On the other hand, it is so interesting to see what else passed as entertainment back then: acrobats, magicians, puppets.  It's quaint, but you watch it and realize just how radical The Beatles were (which is easy to forget these days, when they are still so ubiquitous, 40 years after their breakup. Some of the other performances are of note: comedian Soupy Sales (whose sons, Hunt and Tony, would years later play in Iggy Pop's backing band, and then join David Bowie in Tin Machine), Frank Gorshin (who went on to play The Riddler on the Batman TV kitch-fest) and Cab Calloway.

But of course The Beatles' performances are what you want to watch for, and they aren't just intersting as a historical document, you can feel the joy and excitement, even now. A couple of weeks ago, after a blackout, we had power but not cable. Instead of watching whatever was on TV that night, I popped in disc 1 and watched the performance that I'd seen clips of umpteen times and was blown away.  Maybe not blown away like those lucky 73 million people who watched live in 1964, but blown away nonetheless.

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