On February 9, 1964, music history was made when The Beatles made their American television debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. That Sunday night, 73 million people tuned in to see this appearance – the largest TV audience up to that point. The Beatles went on to appear on the show for the next two Sundays and also in September 1965. This DVD contains all four of these shows in their entirety, including commercials, and is a great item to have in your Beatles collection.
There are two discs in this set, and each disc has two complete one-hour shows. The first show, February 9, 1964, was The Beatles’ first appearance on Ed Sullivan. After Ed’s opening, they perform three songs: “All My Loving,” “Till There Was You,” and “She Loves You.” All My Loving is an upbeat number sung by Paul with John and George backing him up. George has a cool guitar solo, and everyone sounds great. The picture looks great for this one, and the sound is excellent.
Next up is a performance of Till There Was You, a slower song with Paul once again singing lead. During this performance, we get to see the guys’ names onscreen. I think they were putting a transparent paper over the camera, though, because the screen gets noticeably darker when their names appear. Interestingly, under John’s name, it says, “Sorry girls, he’s married.”
The upbeat She Loves You follows, featuring John, Paul and George singing. This is one of their most well-known songs, with the simple but insanely catchy “She loves you, yeah yeah yeah” chorus. The guys sound great, and this is a really fun song.
Then there are some other acts before The Beatles return. The first of these acts is magician Fred Kaps, who does some card and salt shaker tricks. Other guests on this show are the Cast of “Oliver,” Frank Gorshin, Terry McDermott, Tessie O’Shea, and McCall & Brill. Then it’s time for The Beatles to return, with two more songs: “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”
During I Saw Her Standing There, John kind of drowns Paul out when he joins in singing, but other than that, the guys sound good. And Ringo really looks like he’s having fun, laughing to himself while he plays the drums.
The Beatles next perform I Want To Hold Your Hand, which was their first number one hit in the U.S. John and Paul sound good when they sing, and all the guys play their instruments well, but that is not the highlight of the performance to me. My favorite part is when the camera slowly pans up to get a view of Ringo on his platform, and George looks up at it then tries to duck out of the way. You just have to see it to understand its humor. After shaking hands with Ed, there is some acrobatic comedy from Wells & The Four Fays and the first show ends.
Once again, on the February 16, 1964 show, The Beatles are the first act. This show is not as good quality as the first show. The picture looks grainier to me, and the sound is definitely worse. Maybe it’s because this show was filmed in Miami instead of the usual New York location, I don’t know.
Anyway, the boys perform “She Loves You,” “This Boy,” and “All My Loving.” She Loves You and All My Loving are the same as before, except they sound worse here. Oh, and it is fun to watch Paul struggle through trying to introduce “All My Loving.” This Boy is a slower song featuring some fantastic three-part harmonies from John, George and Paul. The guys sound amazing, considering they’re all huddled around one microphone and trying to sing and play instruments. Ringo sounds good on the drums, too, but he looks sad and alone back there. Maybe that’s just me, though…
This show features appearances from Sonny Liston, Joe Louis, Allen & Rossi, Mitzi Gaynor, and Myron Cohen. Then it’s back to The Beatles for three more numbers: “I Saw Her Standing There,” “From Me To You,” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”
The performance of I Saw Her Standing There is quite laughable. Highlights include Ed’s weak attempts at making a joke before the song. But the best moments occur throughout the performance. First, John has to ask George to move because his guitar is blocking the way to the microphone. Then John completely drowns Paul out and sounds off-key because the microphones are messed up. Even when John isn’t singing, Paul is still practically inaudible. Then finally, by the end of the song, John’s mic has slipped down so low that he has to crouch to sing into it. Awesome stuff.
From Me To You is a nice upbeat song that doesn’t sound bad at all. Then it’s time for another performance of I Want To Hold Your Hand. Paul introduces it by saying it was recorded by “our favorite American group, Sophie Tucker,” which I think was kind of a running joke with the group. This performance sounds okay, but not as good as the one from the first show. This is the end of the second show and the first disc.
The February 23, 1964 show begins with The Beatles performing “Twist and Shout” and “Please Please Me.” Twist and Shout is a rocking number with John singing lead and Paul and George backing him. This show marks a return to the great sound and picture quality we saw in the first one. Please Please Me again features John singing lead and is a catchy upbeat song.
Other acts in this show include Gloria Bleezarde, Pinky & Perky, Morecambe & Wise, Gordon & Sheila MacRae, and Cab Calloway. The Beatles return to do one more number, another performance of I Want To Hold Your Hand. This features another fun shot of George watching the camera travel to find Ringo.
Then we move ahead to September 12, 1965, after The Beatles had conquered America and much of the world. Soupy Sales, Cilla Black, and Allen & Rossi are some of the other acts there, but most of this show is devoted to the Fab Four. One of my favorite moments is when Ed introduces each Beatle by name, and they all get to come out for a closeup. John’s closeup is just a shot of him running away; all you see is some hair. Luckily, you get to see George, Paul, and Ringo. You have to wait a bit to see Ringo, though, as he enters the stage the wrong way.
The Beatles perform three songs: “I Feel Fine,” “I’m Down,” and “Act Naturally.” I Feel Fine is an upbeat song featuring John singing lead. He messes up a bit, while Paul and George sing the right words. It’s quite humorous. The sound and picture are excellent here.
Then Paul introduces the next song, I’m Down, which was the B-side to “Help!” This is a rocker sung by Paul, and for the first time, George gets his own microphone, as John is playing the organ – with his elbow. Then Ringo finally gets a chance to sing lead with Act Naturally, which is a kind of country western song. When Ringo introduces it, he says that he will be “nervous and out of tune,” but fortunately he isn’t.
There are a few other acts. Cilla Black and Soupy Sales pop up again, then The Beatles finish off the show with performances of “Ticket To Ride,” “Yesterday,” and “Help!” Ticket To Ride features a corny intro with shots of the guys’ faces superimposed on the screen. This fast-paced song sounds great, though, with John and Paul singing and Ringo pounding away at his drums.
George introduces Yesterday for Paul as the stage gets dark, at one point practically pitch black. This is so John and Ringo can hide somewhere, and George can join them, while Paul does his solo number. Luckily, all the guys get to be seen during the last song, Help!. John introduces this one and has a lot of fun with it. This is one of my favorite songs, and it sounds great, although John does mess up pretty badly during one of the verses. Still a fantastic number and close to the fourth show and the second disc.
This DVD set is a fantastic value at around $20-25. I like how the entire shows are included, not just the parts with The Beatles. You even get the commercials that were originally aired. And some of the commercials are hilarious, like the one where the Anacin announcer drones, “Pain… pain…” Then there is the one where a man verbally attacks his wife, then takes Anacin and is refreshed and ready for the PTA meeting within seconds. If you’re a fan of any of the acts I mentioned or corny ’60s commercials, I highly recommend picking this up.