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February 9 marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles‘ historic performance on The Ed Sullivan Show on CBS. It was one of the opening salvos of the British Invasion of the mid-1960s, and the broadcast drew 73 million viewers. It is consistently hailed as one of the most influential and biggest (if not the biggest ever) televised moments for rock n’ roll and popular music.
“The Beatles are delightful,” Sullivan said shortly after the performance. “They are the nicest boys I’ve ever met.”
You can watch their 1964 Ed Sullivan performance of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (along with some other gigs) below, via Rolling Stone:
Many tributes and commemorative packages have been prepared for the anniversary. On Sunday, CBS will air a special all-star salute, featuring Stevie Wonder, Gary Clark, Jr., Katy Perry, and ex-Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, among others. The Ed Sullivan appearance was just one of many indicators of The Beatles’ immense popularity and influence. Concert promoters, cultural observers, and screaming teenage girls weren’t the only ones who understood this—British politicians did, too, and they weren’t shy about trying to exploit Beatlemania for electoral gain.