51 Years Ago
Fifty-one years ago, on a Sunday night, The Beatles performed live in the United States for the first time, on CBS's Ed Sullivan Show. They played five songs: All My Loving, Till There Was You, She Loves You, I Saw Her Standing There, and I Want to Hold Your Hand. About two-fifths (around 73 million people) of the entire nation was tuned in to watch.
"I think the whole world was watching that night. It certainly felt that way. You just knew it, sitting in your living room, that everything around you was changing. It was like going from black-and-white to color. Really. I remember earlier that day, in fact, a kid on a bike passed me and said, ‘Hey, the Beatles are on TV tonight.’ I didn’t know him, he didn’t know me, and I thought to myself, ‘This means something.’ [The Beatles] came out and just flattened me. To hear them on the radio was amazing enough, but to finally see them play, it was electrifying." -- Tom Petty
"Seeing them on TV was akin to a national holiday. Talk about an event. I never saw guys looking so cool. I had already heard some of their songs on the radio, but I wasn’t prepared by how powerful and totally mesmerizing they were to watch. It changed me completely. I knew something was different in the world that night. Next day at school, the Beatles were all anybody could talk about. Us guys had to play it kind of cool, because the girls were so excited and were drawing little hearts on their notebooks — ‘I love Paul’ — that kind of thing. But I think there was an unspoken thing with the guys that we all dug the Beatles, too. We just couldn’t come right out and say it." -- Joe Perry
"I remember exactly where I was sitting. It was amazing. It was like the axis shifted. I remember the first time I saw the 45 in the record bin in the discount house where my parents shopped and held it in my hand. It was kind of like an alien invasion. If you were a little virgin and didn’t want to grow up like I didn’t, didn’t want to enter the adult world like I didn’t, it gave you some kind of new avenue of sexuality. It could be more cerebral. You didn’t have to actually touch the person’s acne. [The day after, the boys] all combed their hair down and made bangs! Me too! I could never set my hair in rollers again. I combed it out straight and cut my bangs. Oh yeah. It was a whole other thing." -- Chrissie Hynde
"This was the main event of my life. It was certainly the major event for many others, whether or not they knew it at the time. For me, it was no less dramatic than aliens landing on the planet. There’s no equivalent of that today, TV shows that literally everybody watched. All ages, all ethnic groups, all in black and white on a 14-inch screen. It was their sound, their looks, their attitudes. It was so many things. A time to look at things differently, question things a little bit. All kinds of things were new." -- 'Little Steven' Van Zandt