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Friday, April 23, 2021

The Beatles performed on Ed Sullivan show in 1964

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CRAIG BROWN/NEW YORK TIMES “The Beatles Live,” 1968. Craig Brown/New York Times

The Beatles had won more than two dozen Grammys and sold an estimated 200 million records. However, on Feb. 9, 1968, a riot broke out at a Liverpool concert. The cancellation sparked rumors that the band was about to disband. That was false, but their surge in popularity was beginning to falter, and they were about to embark on a 43-month farewell tour. Their live performance on the television series “The Ed Sullivan Show” in the United States, Nov. 25, 1964, had been an early triumph. In 1965, they had become Britain’s first ever top-grossing act. The 1965 Rolling Stones tour had stirred a European invasion that was heralded by angry British public broadcasters complaining that the Stones were a violation of an unwritten rule not to have foreign bands compete with British acts. (The Beatles had never sold out a concert until 1964, though these days that rarely happens.) Sullivan was trying to reclaim the cultural and economic glory of television, which he himself felt had been stolen by the radio. The Beatles, in contrast, were the quintessential product of the 1960s. Having single-handedly knocked off the Top 40, they had banked near-bottomless reserves of energy. Beatles fans from all over the globe had lined up for hours and driven for miles. Three hundred and fifty cars got into the street to watch The Beatles perform. The packed audience crammed all the way up the steps to make it to the balcony, where they could hear the Beatles from across the street. Only a few were willing to sit down. Two fans, 22-year-old Robert Rogers and 17-year-old Pete Sabransky, headed to England. Sabransky had never heard of the Beatles. Rogers was a Rolling Stone. “I had read the songs,” he said. “I had seen the pictures.” Rogers was the one who had scouted the band, in the Liverpool Market, as well as their appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” His hand-drawn sketches of The Beatles’ stage outfits were seen on the cover of Rolling Stone. Sabransky said, “The music was the real deal.”

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