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Beyond Ed Sullivan: The Beatles on American television

By Ron Rodman
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 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 and “She Loves You”: 23 August 1963

By Gordon R. Thompson
As the summer of 1963 drew to a close and students prepared to return to school, the Beatles released what may have been their most successful single. “She Loves You” would top the British charts twice that year, remain near the top for months, and help to launch the band into the American consciousness.

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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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The Beatles record “From Me to You,” Tuesday 5 March 1963

By Gordon R. Thompson
With Northern Songs (their publishing company) established, the Beatles needed a song for their next single and, flushed with the success of “Please Please Me” and the emerging ecstasy at their performances, they again brought together elements from different songs in their repertoire to create something new and fresh. George Martin scheduled a recording session for Tuesday 5 March, towards the end of their first national tour when they served as a warm-up act to British singer Helen Shapiro.

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The Beatles and Northern Songs, 22 February 1963

By Gordon Thompson
Songwriting had gained the Beatles entry into EMI’s studios and songwriting would distinguish them from most other British performers in 1963. Sid Colman at publishers Ardmore and Beechwood had been the first to sense a latent talent, bringing them to the attention of George Martin at Parlophone. Martin in turn had recommended Dick James as a more ambitious exploiter of their potential catalogue.

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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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Charting success: The Beatles, December 1962

By Gordon R. Thompson
The Beatles were unlikely successes on London’s record charts in December 1962. Northerners with schoolboy haircuts who wrote and performed their own songs, their first record “Love Me Do” had risen slowly up British charts, despite lack of significant promotion by their publisher and record company, and without an appearance on national television.

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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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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 begin, Friday, 5 October 1962

By Gordon Thompson
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 at EMI, September 1962

By Gordon R. Thompson
Fifty years ago, the Beatles entered EMI’s recording studios on Abbey Road for their first official recording session. Their June visit had gained them a recording contract, but had cost Pete Best his position when artist-and-repertoire manager George Martin winced at the drummer’s timing. With little ceremony, Lennon, McCartney, and especially Harrison recruited the best drummer in Liverpool — a mate who sometimes subbed for Best — and left the firing of Best to manager Brian Epstein. Thus, Ringo Starr ascended to the drummer’s throne.

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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’ 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’ first visit to EMI, part 1

By Gordon Thompson
Fifty years ago, the Beatles recorded for the first time in a building that would eventually bear the name of their last venture. On Wednesday, 6 June 1962, the most important rock band of the twentieth century auditioned at the EMI Recording Studios in Abbey Road, London.

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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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