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Beyond Ed Sullivan: The Beatles on American television

Sunday, February 9, 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the American television broadcast of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. For many writers on pop music, the appearance on the Sullivan show not only marked the debut of the Beatles in the United States, but also launched their career as international pop music superstars.

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The Beatles at EMI: The Contract, 18 June 1962

By Gordon Thompson
Perhaps the most significant unresolved controversy surrounding the recording of the Beatles first single “Love Me Do” rests on the question of whether or not EMI had finalized a contract with them. To wit: on 6 June 1962, were the Beatles auditioning or were they already under contract? Documentation and personal memories conflict such that no single answer can claim to be definitive, even as the evidence suggests a nuanced social interplay between Parlophone’s George Martin and Beatles manager Brian Epstein.

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The Beatles and New York, February 1964

By Gordon R. Thompson
When Pan Am flight 101, the “Jet Clipper Defiance,” touched down at the recently renamed John F. Kennedy Airport on 7 February 1964, the grieving angst that had gripped the Western world lifted, if just a little. What emerged from the darkness of the Boeing 707’s doorway was something so joyful, so deliciously irreverent that we forgot for a moment the tensions of the Berlin wall, the Cuban missile crisis, and the assassination of a young president. The sigh that North America released felt so deep that it sounded as one big exuberant scream of delight.

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The Beatles’ first visit to EMI, part 2

By Gordon Thompson
For the Beatles first visit to EMI, George Martin (the director of Parlophone Records) asked his associate Ron Richards to serve as the artist-and-repertoire manager, which involved rehearsing the band and running their session. Pop groups represented a normal part of Richards’ portfolio and clearly the Beatles didn’t rank high enough on Martin’s list of responsibilities to warrant his presence. That would eventually change, but on 6 June 1962, the Beatles presented only a blip on his radar.

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The Beatles Are Dead. Long Live the Beatles

For Beatles fans, it was like watching mortality embrace a loved one. The spring of 1970 brought news of the dissolution of the Beatles and, with the release of Michael Lindsey-Hogg’s Let It Be in May, fans could see the disestablishment for themselves.

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John Lennon and Jesus, 4 March 1966

Forty-five years ago, in the spring of 1966, as swinging London and its colorful denizens attracted the attention of ‘Time’, the publishers of an American teen magazine found part of a recent interview with John Lennon to be of particular interest. A rapid disintegration ensued of the complex identity that the Beatles management, the media, the fans, and even the musicians themselves had constructed, setting in motion a number of dark forces.

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The Beatles and “Please Please Me,” 11 January 1963

By Gordon R. Thompson
Although “Love Me Do” had been the Beatles’ induction into Britain’s recording industry, “Please Please Me” would bring them prominently into the nation’s consciousness. The songwriters, the band, the producer, and the manager all thought that they had finally found a winning formula. An advertisement in the New Musical Express proclaimed that the disc would be the “record of the year,” even as it raised a chuckle among industry insiders; but the hyperbole would prove prophetic.

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The Beatles and “Please Please Me,” November 1962

By Gordon Thompson
Fifty years ago, the Beatles recorded their arrangement of “Please Please Me,” a lilting lover’s complaint transformed into a burst of adolescent adrenaline. On 26 November 1962, after repeated attempts to capture just the right balance of frustration and anticipation, George Martin informed them over the studio intercom that they had just recorded their first number-one disc. But the path to the top of the charts would not be easy.

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The Beatles at the Cavern Club, 9 February 1961

By Gordon Thompson

Fifty years ago, one of the great stories in pop music began when the Beatles debuted in a dank arched subterranean Liverpool club dedicated to music. Located in the narrow lane called Mathew Street, just of North John Street, the Cavern Club had opened as a jazz haven that enfolded blues and skiffle, which was how the Quarry Men, John Lennon’s precursor to the Beatles, had first descended the steps and climbed the tiny stage in August 1957. Three-and-a-half years later, the Beatles had evolved into a

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The Beatles begin, Friday, 5 October 1962

The Beatles’ dream of releasing a record came to fruition fifty years ago today when Parlophone issued the band’s first disc, “Love Me Do.” That night, EMI played the song on its own London-produced weekly radio program Friday Spectacular, broadcast on Radio Luxembourg. In the Beatles’ Anthology, George Harrison recalled that, “First hearing ‘Love Me Do’ on the radio sent me shivery all over.

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The Beatles Get a Second Chance, 9 May 1962

By Gordon Thompson
On this spring morning fifty years ago, Brian Epstein climbed the front steps and passed through the simple entrance of the EMI Recording Studios in St. John’s Wood, London, placing him on the other side of the looking glass. As a retailer, he had sold recordings made in these studios by Sir Edward Elgar, Sir Thomas Beecham, and, more recently, Cliff Richard and the Shadows. The neophyte manager of the Beatles now eagerly anticipated the possibility of watching through the control room window as his “boys” joined that exclusive club.

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The Beatles, the Watts Riots, and America in transition, August 1965

Fifty years ago during their North American tour, The Beatles played to the largest audience in their career against the backdrop of a nation shattering along economic, ethnic, and political lines. Although on the surface the events of August 1965 would seem unconnected, they nevertheless illustrate how the world was changing and how music reflected that chaotic cultural evolution.

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Selling the Beatles, 1962

By Gordon R. Thompson
As a regional businessman and a fledgling band manager, Brian Epstein presumed that the Beatles’ record company (EMI’s Parlophone) and Lennon and McCartney’s publisher (Ardmore and Beechwood) would support the record. This presumption would prove false, however, and Epstein would need to draw on all of the resources he could spare if he were to make the disc a success.

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From Me (the Beatles) to You (the Stones): April 1963

By Gordon R. Thompson
After the success of the single “Please Please Me” and the release of the album Please Please Me, British fans and the press eagerly anticipated “From Me to You.” Fans had pre-ordered so many copies of the disk that when Parlophone did release R 5015 on 11 April 1963, the single immediately appeared in pop charts where it would stay for an amazing 21 weeks.

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