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On This Day In Music: The Beatles Debut On "The Ed Sullivan Show," A Big Bang Event For Rock History
The Beatles with Ed Sullivan during the taping of their New York Debut show

Photo: Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

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On This Day In Music: The Beatles Debut On "The Ed Sullivan Show," A Big Bang Event For Rock History

Fifty-eight years ago today, a Chesterfield-suited Fab Four made their American TV debut before a battalion of hysterical girls — and a whole generation of future rockers. Nothing would ever be the same.

GRAMMYs/Feb 9, 2022 - 07:06 pm

The Beatles' debut U.S. performance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" may be permanently burned into the public consciousness, but what happened around it is almost forgotten.

First, the crustaceous Sullivan reports of a wire from Elvis Presley and Colonel Tom Parker "wishing them a tremendous success in our country," which is enough to induce chills — it's the passing of the torch! Then, the wet blanket: to the audible chagrin of the girls in the audience, they've got to run an ad for Aero Shave shaving cream. 

"It keeps drenching your beard while others dry out!" a chipper voiceover reports, oblivious to the Big Bang that's about to transpire. "New shoes? No! New shoe polish!" crows an ad man for Griffin Liquid Wax. Even today, the tension is almost unbearable. And then, with that indelible shout of "Ladies and gentlemen — the Beatles!" — instantly drowned out by shrieks, natch — "All My Loving" comes burbling forth like a freshwater stream.

Fifty-eight years after that debut appearance on Feb. 9, 1964, it's difficult to quantify (especially if you weren't born yet) how consequential this moment was. We've all heard the clichés about the hair, the suits, the bows, the "Sorry Girls, He's Married" caption above John Lennon's head. We're familiar with the refrain that the Beatles’ performance healed the nation after JFK’s assassination, and read the opening pages of a million rock bios comparing it to a lightning storm, a hurricane, an earthquake.

But watching the clip today, one notices the little details. A squinting Lennon, blind as a bat without his glasses, letting loose an approving "Yeah!"; Paul McCartney lapping up the female attention; Ringo Starr in his goofy, loveable glory; George Harrison, the youngest, looking a touch removed. Their individual personalities are immediately apparent — as magnetic as Buddy Holly was on "Ed Sullivan" back in 1957, few were compelled to ponder the inner lives of the Crickets. 

No, each Beatle was as memorable as any other, telegraphing the role they'd play in our lives forevermore. Paul fully inhabits Meredith Wilson's The Music Man show tune "'Til There Was You," which both foreshadows his music-hall-style gems from "When I'm Sixty-Four" to "Your Mother Should Know" and Lennon's future, withering putdowns of McCartney's "granny-music s***."

"She Loves You" follows. If you're among those who never need to hear that song again, consider how its all-hook barrage invented entire power-pop, indie rock and boy band lineages — including everyone from the Hollies to Teenage Fanclub and BTS

And then — good God — imagine being magician Fred Kaps, who had to follow that act with playing card and salt shaker tricks. This isn't the forum to roast him (after all, his performance was pre-taped) but the juxtaposition between the two acts — and the world of kids and adults — is almost unbearable to watch.

The cast of Oliver then arrives to gallivant around and sing "As Long As He Needs Me." Bowtied impressionist Frank Gorshin shows up with over-the-top impersonations of Dean Martin and Anthony Quinn. A feather-boaed Tessie O'Shea tickles banjo strings and chirps a selection from the musical The Girl Who Came to Supper. Mitski McCall and Charli Brill chew the scenery in a dorky comedy skit.

The magic barrels back into the last half of the show, as the Fabs bang out "I Saw Her Standing There" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand." Despite the shoddy video quality — how did this look like it was taped on the moon a mere five years before the events of Get Back? — the lads leap out of your YouTube browser.

"You've been a fine audience," Sullivan says testily at the show's end. "Despite severe provocation." Fifty-eight years later, we are all that audience — and so will our kids, and our kids' kids, and so on. 

Whether or not you're a Beatles fan, take their debut Ed Sullivan appearance out of the closet of history and really sit with it — in all its characterizations and juxtapositions and moments of bliss and awkwardness. Try to envisage a world where it never happened. Spoiler alert: it'd be as dull as salt. This Beatles performance kicked off everything.

There's Not Much Left To Reveal About The Beatles' End. Let's Use The Get Back Doc As A Manual For Moving Forward.

John Lennon, Sting, Alicia Keys: 7 Songs For Starting Over In 2018

John Lennon

Photo: Ron Howard/Redferns

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John Lennon, Sting, Alicia Keys: 7 Songs For Starting Over In 2018

With hits from Leonard Cohen, the Byrds, Nina Simone, and more, find the motivation for a brand-new you this New Year

GRAMMYs/Jan 4, 2018 - 11:12 pm

Each New Year offers the opportunity for a fresh new start, whether you're looking to wash away the sins of the previous year or reinvent a better future that follows your ultimate dreams. Starting over isn't an easy task, but we have one recommendation that will help motivate you: music.

Don't be a fuddy duddy. Kick-start 2018 with this playlist of seven songs all about starting over, including hits from John Lennon, the Byrds, Sting, and Alicia Keys, among others.

1. The Byrds, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"

Starting with its lyrics, "To everything (turn, turn, turn)/There is a season," this GRAMMY Hall Of Fame classic is a great reminder that everything is always changing anyway, so now is as good a time as any to give something new a chance. The composition was written by Pete Seeger in the late 1950s, but the lyrics come almost verbatim from the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. The song didn't hit it big until the Byrds got their turn at it in 1965. Reportedly, it took Roger McGuinn & Co. 78 takes to perfect their folk-rock arrangement.

2. Leonard Cohen, "Anthem"

GRAMMY winner Leonard Cohen had a knack for poetry powerful enough to move mountains, and his "Anthem" is one such gem. This 1992 tune about embracing imperfection and marching forward in the face of adversity contains one of Cohen's most-quoted lines: "Ring the bells that still can ring/Forget your perfect offering/There is a crack, a crack in everything/That's how the light gets in." And we'll leave you with one final line from the master that encapsulates starting over: "The birds they sing, at the break of day/Start again, I heard them say/Don't dwell on what has passed away/Or what is yet to be."

3. Gil Scott-Heron, "I'm New Here"

Taken from his 2010 album of the same name, "I'm New Here" came near the end of Gil Scott-Heron's storied life. The album saw Scott-Heron, according to Drowned In Sound's Robert Ferguson, "pick over the bones of his life, acknowledging the hard times and his own mistakes, but standing proud of all they have led him to become." Embodying this sentiment accompanied only by an acoustic guitar, Scott-Heron's bluesy, semi-spoken "I'm New Here" brings out the poignancy of change. Its key lyric, "No matter how far wrong you've gone/You can always turn around," is something to keep in mind year-round, let alone January.

4. Alicia Keys, "Brand New Me"

Alicia Keys went full bore on the empowering messages of her 2012 album, Girl On Fire —  the Best R&B Album winner at the 56th GRAMMY Awards — including the track, "Brand New Me." Co-written with singer/songwriter Emeli Sandé, the soft pop/R&B ballad describes growing as a person and becoming a brand-new version of yourself. "Brand new me is about the journey it takes to get to a place where you are proud to be a new you," Keys wrote on her website at the time of the song's release.

5. John Lennon, "(Just Like) Starting Over"

A quintessential start-anew song, former Beatle John Lennon included "(Just Like) Starting Over" on his GRAMMY-winning 1980 album, Double Fantasy. "(Just Like) Starting Over" was the album's first single because Lennon felt it best represented his return following a five-year hiatus from music. It's also a love song, but the theme of starting over has a universal resonance "It's time to spread our wings and fly/Don't let another day go by my love/It'll be just like starting over." It became Lennon's second chart-topping single in the U.S., reaching No. 1 after his death on Dec. 8, 1980.

6. Nina Simone, "Feeling Good"

"It's a new dawn/It's a new day/It's a new life for me/I'm feelin' good." Could you ask for better lyrics for embarking on a new journey? Nina Simone recorded her version of "Feeling Good," which was originally written for the musical "The Roar Of The Greasepaint — The Smell Of The Crowd," on her 1965 album I Put A Spell On You. While artists such as Michael Bublé, John Coltrane, George Michael, and Muse subsequently covered it, no alternative is quite as powerful — or soulful — as Simone's.

7. Sting, "Brand New Day"

Sting's "Brand New Day" has a lesson for inspiring motivation to start the New Year with fresh eyes: "Turn the clock to zero, buddy/Don't wanna be no fuddy-duddy/We started up a brand new day." The bright, catchy pop tune and its namesake 1999 album resonated with fans, landing it at No. 9 on the Billboard 200. The track (and album) earned Sting GRAMMYs — Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and Best Pop Album — at the 42nd GRAMMY Awards.

What's Your New Year's Music Resolution?

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We Will, We Will Shock You

A collection of shocking album covers that might make you look twice (or look away)

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

As the baby boomer-fueled market moved from singles to albums in the '60s and '70s, artists began using LP covers as a means to create bold visual statements, occasionally using nudity, sexual imagery or striking graphics. Sometimes the purpose was to create art for the ages, while other times it was to push boundaries. Either way, the most controversial covers were often banned or altered by record companies for fear of public or retail outrage. One of the most famous cases of censorship was one of the first — the Beatles' "butcher" cover for 1966's Yesterday And Today, which featured a grinning Fab Four covered in raw meat and plastic baby doll parts. (The cover was reportedly an anti-Vietnam war commentary by the group.) Capitol Records issued a new cover with a less-shocking photo after the original caused an uproar. In the '70s and '80s, German rock band the Scorpions made a series of albums with disturbing sexual imagery, including 1976's notorious (and quickly banned) Virgin Killer featuring a nude young girl. The cover was replaced by a conventional band portrait.

While shocking album covers do still exist, they have occurred with less frequency since the '90s as CDs, which de-emphasized cover art, replaced LPs and pop culture grew more permissive. Now, as album sales shift from physical to digital, the age of shock album covers is starting to seem like a bygone era. Here are a few other album covers that shocked us, and might shock you too.

Moby Grape
Moby Grape, 1967
Shocking fact: Drummer Don Stevenson's (center) middle finger was airbrushed out on later pressings.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Electric Ladyland, 1968
Shocking fact: The British release featured a bevy of naked women on the cover.

John Lennon & Yoko Ono
Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins, 1968
Shocking fact: Distributors covered the explicit content — nude front and back portraits of Lennon and Ono — in brown paper. Even today, full frontal nudity remains objectionable for many.

The Rolling Stones
Beggars Banquet, 1968
Shocking fact: The band's U.S. and UK labels originally rejected the cover featuring a toilet and graffiti-covered bathroom wall. Today, the cover seems remarkably tame.

Blind Faith
Blind Faith, 1969
Shocking fact: The original cover featured a young nude girl holding a small plane. The replacement cover featured a shot of the band.

David Bowie
Diamond Dogs, 1974
Shocking fact: The cover illustration of Bowie as a (noticeably male) dog had the offending organs edited out.

Ohio Players
Honey, 1975
Shocking fact: The sexually suggestive cover features Playboy Playmate Ester Cordet swallowing honey from a spoon.

Jane's Addiction
Nothing's Shocking, 1988
Shocking fact: An ironic twist to the list. This artsy cover depicts a realistic sculpture, created by frontman Perry Farrell, featuring nude conjoined twins with hair afire.

Millie Jackson
Back To The S***!, 1989
Shocking fact: The take-no-prisoners soul singer poses on a toilet seat with one shoe off while grimacing. Often called the worst album cover ever.

The Black Crowes
Amorica, 1994
Shocking fact: Original cover featured an American flag-printed G-string showing pubic hair.
 

 

Paul McCartney At Frank Erwin Center
Paul McCartney performs at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas

Photo: Rick Kern/Getty Images

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Paul McCartney At Frank Erwin Center

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.

By Lynne Margolis
Austin, Texas

Though Paul McCartney may be 70 in chronological years, we need a new unit of measurement to describe the McCartneys, Mick Jaggers, John Fogertys, and Bruce Springsteens of the world. We should call it rock and roll years, because rock is certainly what's keeping these GRAMMY winners (and women such as Heart's Ann and Nancy Wilson) vital and exciting to watch well into their so-called "golden years."

On May 22 at Austin's Frank Erwin Center, McCartney reaffirmed this truth: Rock and roll keeps you young. In two hours and 45 minutes, he and his band delivered 36 hits and favorites from his Beatles, Wings and solo eras (38 if we count the Abbey Road medley of "Golden Slumbers," "Carry That Weight" and "The End"; he also slipped in a bit of Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady."

With his usual good humor, McCartney told stories, dropped a few clever punch lines and even gave the occasional hip shake and soft-shoe shuffle — though he wore Cuban-heeled Beatle boots below his black jeans and cropped pink jacket. When he removed the jacket and rolled up his shirt sleeves, he joked, "That's the big wardrobe change of the evening."

But the sold-out audience of more than 12,000 didn't come to see fancy outfits and elaborate sets; they came to hear the biggest living icon in pop music history, and perhaps revisit fond moments of their own histories through the musical touchstones he created. The savvy McCartney, in his first-ever performance in Austin, didn't disappoint.

For the most part, he faithfully reproduced beloved versions of hits such as "Eight Days A Week," "Paperback Writer," "Lady Madonna," "Another Day," "Band On The Run," and "Live And Let Die," which brought one big special effects moment during the show — jets of fire and showers of sparks so intense the heat could be felt 15 rows back on the floor.

Nostalgic Beatles montages, artful geometrics and audience shots popped up on massive screens behind him as he switched between various guitars, his Hofner bass and two pianos. He performed several Beatles songs he'd never done live, including "All Together Now," "Lovely Rita," "Your Mother Should Know," and "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!"

Only "My Valentine" was performed from his 2012 GRAMMY-winning album Kisses On The Bottom. But with a catalog that includes some of the most beautiful songs ever written, he knew what mattered: gems such as "And I Love Her," "Blackbird," "All My Loving," and "Maybe I'm Amazed," the latter written for his late wife, Linda. Flubbing the opening, McCartney joked, "It proves we're live!" 

Perhaps the most touching moments were his homages to fellow Beatles — the ukulele-plucked "Something" (written by George Harrison) and a song he wrote for John Lennon, "Here Today." Noting he wished he had conveyed its sentiment to Lennon before it was too late, he added afterward, "The next time you want to say something to someone, just say it." He was answered by a shout of, "I love you, Paul!"

Even if he'd only performed the songs delivered in his second encore — a still-astonishingly beautiful "Yesterday," a rocking "Helter Skelter" and the timeless Abbey Road medley — he still would have earned that love.

To catch Paul McCartney in a city near you, click here for tour dates.

Set List:

"Eight Days A Week"
"Junior's Farm"
"All My Loving"
"Listen To What The Man Said"
"Let Me Roll It"/"Foxy Lady" (Jimi Hendrix cover)
"Paperback Writer"
"My Valentine"
"Nineteen Hundred And Eighty-Five"
"The Long And Winding Road"
"Maybe I'm Amazed"
"I've Just Seen A Face"
"We Can Work It Out"
"Another Day"
"And I Love Her"
"Blackbird"
"Here Today"
"Your Mother Should Know"
"Lady Madonna"
"All Together Now"
"Lovely Rita"
"Mrs. Vanderbilt"
"Eleanor Rigby"
"Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!"
"Something"
"Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da"
"Band On The Run"
"Back In The U.S.S.R."
"Let It Be"
"Live And Let Die"
"Hey Jude"
"Day Tripper"
"Hi, Hi, Hi"
"Get Back"
"Yesterday"
"Helter Skelter"
"Golden Slumbers"/"Carry That Weight"/"The End" 

(Austin-based journalist Lynne Margolis currently contributes to American Songwriter, NPR-affiliate KUTX-FM's "Texas Music Matters," regional and local magazines, including Lone Star Music and Austin Monthly, and newspapers nationwide. She has previously contributed to the Christian Science Monitor (for which she was the "go-to" writer for Beatles stories), Rollingstone.com and Paste magazine. A contributing editor to the encyclopedia, The Ties That Bind: Bruce Springsteen From A To E To Z, she also writes bios for new and established artists.) 

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Jackson Tops Dead Earners List

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

Jackson Tops Dead Earners List
GRAMMY winner and Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Michael Jackson topped Forbes' annual list of top-earning dead celebrities with $275 million, earning more than the combined total of the other 12 celebrities on the list. Elvis Presley ranked second with $60 million, John Lennon placed fifth with $17 million and Jimi Hendrix tied for 11th place with $6 million. Forbes compiled the list based on gross earnings between October 2009 and October 2010. (10/26)

UK Arts Council Announces Budget Cut Plans
Following a previous report, Arts Council England has revealed plans to implement the 30 percent cut to the UK's arts funding budget. The cuts will include a 7 percent cash cut for UK arts organizations in 2011–2012, a 15 percent cut for the regular funding of arts organizations by 2014–2015 and a 50 percent reduction to the council's operating costs. (10/26)

GRAMMY Winners To Perform At World Series
GRAMMY winners Kelly Clarkson, Lady Antebellum and John Legend are scheduled to perform "The Star-Spangled Banner" during Major League Baseball's 2010 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers. Legend and Lady Antebellum will perform at games one and two in San Francisco on Oct. 27 and Oct. 28, respectively, and Clarkson will perform at game three on Oct. 30 in Arlington, Texas. (10/26)