On Feb. 9, 1964, the Beatles made history on "The Ed Sullivan Show" when 73 million viewers tuned in to see the British phenoms sing hits like "All My Loving" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand." Comedy team Mitzi McCall and Charlie Brill (and, er, a tumbling act) also took the stage on the TV variety show, but that night was all about John, Paul, George, and Ringo.
Five decades after Beatlemania officially began in the U.S., the Fab Four are being honored with "The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles," a 50th anniversary special airing Sunday on CBS that will include tributes from a mass of musical greats as well as a look back at that iconic performance.
Watch a sneak peek of the "Hey Jude" peformance from the CBS special:
In honor of the 50th anniversary, check out these 50 Beatles TV moments.
1. "The Beatles" cartoon series (ABC, 1965): It didn't take long for the Fab Four to become celluloid heroes. The animated cartoon series "The Beatles" debuted in 1965 on ABC and was a Saturday morning hit. While the band's music was used for the soundtrack, voice actors Paul Frees and Lance Percival provided the characters' voices.
2. Johnny Carson's "The Tonight Show" (1968): John Lennon and Paul McCartney may have missed Johnny Carson, but they did sit down with "Tonight Show" guest host Joe Garagiola and guest Tallulah Bankhead on a 1968 episode of the late night show, just in time to announce their new company, Apple Corps. "Well you see, our accountant came up and said, 'We got this amount of money. Do you want to give it to the government or do something with it?'" Lennon explained. "So we decided to play businessmen for a bit." The rock legend dished that the new company would produce records, films, and electronics.
3. "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" (1968): There's nothing like a Beatle to give a variety show a little variety. In 1968, George Harrison stopped by to help Tommy and Dick Smothers out by cuing the audience to clap. Because, let's face it, who needs a cue card when you can have a Beatle?
4. "The Simpsons" (1993): References to the Beatles turned up in several episodes of the long-running Fox animated series, including Season 4's "Last Exit to Springfield." Lisa Simpson dreamed up a scene inspired by the band's classic film "Yellow Submarine" when she was under wacky gas at the dentist.
5. Paul McCartney on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" (1997): Oprah Winfrey came face-to-face with her teenage crush when Paul McCartney graced her talk show stage in 1997. The queen of talk called the interview a "full circle moment" and said that when she was a teen, "I loved me some Paul."
6. "American Idol," Beatles Night (2008): "American Idol" wannabes are known for churning out Beatles covers, but Season 7 winner David Cook's rendition of "Eleanor Rigby" was a standout performance.
7. The Beetles of "Sesame Street": The PBS children's show featured a parody band, the Beetles. The four musical insects sang songs like "Letter B" (a spoof of "Let It Be") and "Hey Food," and just like the real Fab Four, these Muppet mop tops had plenty of screaming fans.
8. "Powerpuff Girls" (2014): Make way for Fibonacci Sequins! In 2014, Beatles legend Ringo Starr turned up in a special episode of the Cartoon Network animated series, as a flamboyant mathematician who jammed with the girls on a little ditty titled "I Wish I Was a Powerpuff Girl."
9. "The Beatles at Shea Stadium" TV special (1965): The TV documentary highlighted the Beatles' 1965 concert at New York City's Shea Stadium, which boasted a record-breaking crowd of more than 55,000 screaming fans. Ed Sullivan's company produced the special, and Sullivan introduced the band.
10. "Mad Men" (2010): Speaking of Shea Stadium, who says Don Draper isn't a great dad? Beatlemania took over the AMC series in the 2010 episode "Hands and Knees," when the womanizing ad exec (played by Jon Hamm) surprised his daughter Sally (Kiernan Shipka) with tickets to the Beatles' NYC concert.
Check out Sally's reaction:
11. "30 Rock" (2012): Paul McCartney stunned the audience when he made a surprise appearance on a live "30 Rock" episode titled "Live From Studio 6H." While the Beatle's cameo was brief, the look on Alec Baldwin's face was nothing short of priceless.
12. "The Muppet Show" (1980): Musical Muppet Sgt. Floyd Pepper channeled his inner George with a rousing rendition of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on a 1980 episode of "The Muppet Show." The Electric Mayhem bassist's fire escape serenade was a highlight on an episode of the comedy-variety show that featured "Wonder Woman" Lynda Carter.
13. Pizza Hut TV spot (1995): Ringo Starr had commercial success with a Pizza Hut ad that had him reuniting with, well, the wrong lads. While the Beatles drummer was hoping to share a stuffed crust pizza with his former band mates, he had to settle for the Monkees.
14. Beatles Tribute Week on "The Late Show With David Letterman" (2014): The Beatles' 50th anniversary was celebrated with weeklong tributes on David Letterman's late night show. Sting covering "Drive My Car"? Check. Lenny Kravitz rockin' out to "Get Back"? Check. And perhaps the biggest highlight: Sean Lennon and the Flaming lips performing "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds."
15. "Glee," Lea Michele performs "Yesterday" (2013): The Fox musical has featured its share of tearjerkers, but nothing was more poignant than Michele's version of "Yesterday" as she gazed at a pic of her late real-life beau, Cory Monteith, in the Season 5 premiere.
16. "Live Aid" (1985): The concert seen around the world (thanks to MTV's cameras on both sides of the pond) featured Elvis Costello singing the Fab Four classic "All You Need Is Love." The singer introduced the tune as an "old Northern English folk song."
17. "MTV Unplugged" (1991): Paul McCartney took on the MTV generation in 1991 with a stripped-down performance on "MTV Unplugged." He was one of the first musicians to perform on the series.
18. Rock Band TV commercial (2009): In 2009, MTV Games, Harmonix Music, and Electronic Arts introduced a Beatles version of the Rock Band video game. The commercial featured the song "Come Together" as well as a walk across Abbey Road and footage of the band.
19. 56th Grammy Awards (2014): Surviving Beatles Paul and Ringo reunited at the 2014 Grammy Awards, but they went with the McCartney songbook. The duo teamed up to perform Paul's new song "Queenie Eye."
20. "Saturday Night Live" (2010): Paul McCartney crashed Paul Rudd's party during a 2010 "SNL" monologue. As Rudd marveled over his newfound popularity (fans were chanting "Paul! Paul! Paul!" and "Yesterday!" which Rudd assumed was a reference to the NPR interview he'd given the day before), the Beatle came out and praised the actor for his work in "Role Models."
21. "Mad Men" (2012): The "Mad Men" episode "Lady Lazarus" marked the first time a master recording by the Beatles was ever licensed for a TV show. The song "Tomorrow Never Knows," from the "Revolver" album, cost the series a whopping $250,000, according to the Wall Street Journal. Too bad Don Draper didn't even like the song.
22. "The Wonder Years" theme song (1988): Yeah, yeah, we know it's the Joe Cocker version, but the Beatles classic "A Little Help From My Friends" opened every episode of the 1990s nostalgia comedy. The show also referenced the Beatles in the episode "Rock n Roll," when Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) joined a Beatles-inspired band called The Electric Shoes.
23. "Cher" variety show (1975): File this as one of the strangest Beatles renditions of all time. In 1975, Cher, Tina Turner, and radio legend Kate Smith joined forces to belt out a Beatles medley on Cher's glitzy variety show. You have to see it to believe it.
24. 47th Grammy Awards (2005): Talk about a supergroup! In 2005, a lineup of music legends that included Bono, Stevie Wonder, Norah Jones, Brian Wilson, Alicia Keys, Alison Krauss, Scott Weiland, Billie Joe Armstrong, Tim McGraw, Steven Tyler, and Slash took the stage to perform the Beatles classic "Across the Universe." As a bonus, Stevie was on harmonica and Steven played the maracas.
25. "Life Goes On" (1989): The Beatles song "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" was used as the theme song for the ABC series "Life Goes On." The opening version for the show was sung by the show's cast members.
26. MTV Video Music Awards (1995): Bon Jovi took on the Beatles at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards with a performance of "Helter Skelter."
27. "A Beatles Songbook" (1993): The PBS concert honored the band with tribute performances by Dr. John, Kathy Mattea, and Buddy Guy as well as a finale sing-along of "Let It Be." Latin rock band Los Lobos' performance of "Tomorrow Never Knows" was a highlight.
28. "America's Got Talent" (2013): When TV talent shows dare to take on the Beatles, the pressure is on. But "America's Got Talent" contestant Cami Bradley made the song "I Want to Hold Your Hand" her own by putting a modern twist on the tune.
29. "The Voice" (2013): Shakira, Usher, Blake Shelton, and Adam Levine got a little help from each other when they teamed up for a Beatles cover on the Emmy-winning singing competition. The "Voice" mentors performed "With a Little Help From My Friends" on Season 4 of the show.
30. Beatles Tribute on "Glee" (2013): The Fox musical's long-awaited Beatles tribute was a two-parter. Not only did the gang cover classics such as "Let It Be" and "Hey Jude," but Demi Lovato turned up as Santana's new love interest!
31. "American Bandstand" (1967): The Beatles never appeared in person on the teen music show, but Dick Clark introduced videos for "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" on a 1967 episode and then polled his teen audience for their reaction. One appalled girl didn't like the band's longer hair and mustaches, while another said, "They look like grandfathers!"
32. "Full House" (1988): Jesse Katsopolis was an Elvis man, but when John Stamos's character needed a little help from his friends in a 1988 "Full House" episode, what better song to accompany his montage than the Beatles classic "Help"? In the episode "Cutting It Close," the mulleted motorcyclist broke both arms and received aid from his family as a cover of the Beatles tune played.
33. "The Munsters" (1965): The 1960s horror comedy featured a cameo by the Standells, a rock band that was hiding out in the family's macabre mansion to get away from crazed fans. In the episode "Far Out Munsters," the Standells performed a cover of "I Want to Hold Your Hand," and even Grandpa got into the groove.
34. "Family Guy" (2010): Seth McFarlane's adult animated sitcom referenced the Beatles in several episodes, and it wasn't always PC. In the episode "Something, Something, Something, Dark Side," the cartoon version of the band donned space helmets and poked fun at McCartney's ex-wife, Heather Mills.
35. "The Dick Cavett Show" (1971): John Lennon gave peace — and Cavett — a chance during a Sept. 11, 1971, appearance on the late night talk show that also featured his wife, Yoko Ono. The video for the song "Imagine" also debuted on the show.
36. "The Mike Douglas Show" (1972): John Lennon and Yoko Ono co-hosted Mike Douglas's daytime talk show for a week in 1972, introducing guests such as Louis Nye and Ralph Nader. But even with a Beatle in the house, Douglas did his own rendition of "My Michelle."
37. "Saturday Night Live" (1976): "SNL" executive producer Lorne Michaels made a hilarious offer in an attempt to get the Beatles to appear on the late night sketch comedy show. Michaels held up a certified check and made a plea to the band: "The National Broadcasting Company has authorized me to offer you this check to be on our show," he said. "Here it is, right here. A check made out to you, the Beatles, for $3,000. ... Like I said, this is made out to the Beatles — you divide it up any way you want. If you want to give less to Ringo, that's up to you — I'd rather not get involved." When he didn't get a response, Michaels upped the ante to $3,200 — an extra $50 each.
38. "Barbara Walters Special" (1981): Ringo Starr sat down with news legend Barbara Walters for a 1981 interview in which he talked about John Lennon's death. Starr also noted that Lennon and Yoko Ono were a "very happy" couple. "They were two people in one," he said.
39. "Come Together: A Night for John Lennon's Words and Music" (2001): A TV special and benefit concert that aired just weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks paid tribute to John Lennon's music while benefiting NYC relief organizations. Kevin Spacey hosted the event, and performers included Dave Matthews, Moby, Stone Temple Pilots, Alanis Morissette, Cyndi Lauper, Lou Reed, Marc Anthony, and more, delivering performances of Lennon's most loved songs.
40. "Shining Time Station" (1989): Ringo Starr turned a children's show storytelling stint into a starring role on the PBS kids' show "Shining Time Station." Starr played Mr. Conductor for one season, before George Carlin filled his shoes.
41. "Friends" (2004): The biggest snowstorm in two decades didn't put a damper on Phoebe's wedding to Mike. "The One With Phoebe's Wedding" featured an instrumental version of the Beatles' "Here, There and Everywhere," played on steel drums, no less.
42. 13th Grammy Awards (1971): The Beatles won the Grammy Award for best original motion picture score for the song "Let It Be," after the category was introduced by John Wayne! McCartney accepted the award on the band's behalf (he brought wife Linda up on the stage with him) with a quick "Thank you." Looks like songwriting's his forte, not speechwriting.
43. 65th Emmy Awards (2013): Country singer Carrie Underwood performed "Yesterday" during a tribute to JFK and the Beatles at the 65th Emmy Awards, but not everyone loved the rendition. You be the judge:
44. "Saturday Night Live" (1984): The Dec. 8, 1984, "SNL" broadcast featured a Beatles memorabilia auction, and Ringo Starr was one of the items being sold. While a guitar pick used by John Lennon garnered $45,000 and a blue Paul McCartney toothbrush brought $110,000, Ringo was auctioned off for a measly $800.
45. "Laverne and Shirley" (1980): Nothing like a cardboard cameo! When Laverne and Shirley (Penny Marshall, Cindy Williams) lost their Milwaukee brewery jobs and headed to California, they brought the Fab Four with them. The opening theme featured a life-size Beatles cutout, and the cardboard crooners could be seen in the girls' apartment for the remainder of the series.
46. "The Dean Martin Show" (1965): Dean Martin, Allan Sherman, and Vic Damone had a case of Beatles envy during a performance on Martin's variety show. The trio sang "I Hate the Beatles" to the tune of "Pop Goes the Weasel."
47. "Roseanne" (1988): In 1988, Roseanne Barr's sitcom gang burst into song during a backyard barbecue, belting out a cover of the Beatles' "You Really Got a Hold on Me." Hey, who knew Bonnie could sing?
48. "Mad About You" (1995): During an appearance on the 1990s sitcom, guest star Yoko Ono didn't take kindly to a mention that she broke up the Beatles. At the end of this episode, Ono situated herself smack in the middle of Jamie and Paul (Helen Hunt, Paul Reiser) in bed while the song "Give Peace a Chance" played.
49. CBS News segment on the Beatles (1963): Before the Beatles' history-making "Ed Sullivan" performance, the Liverpool lads were featured on a CBS news segment, with a London correspondent describing the band's "dish mop hairstyles" and screaming fans.
According to CBS News, Sullivan was watching the story and called Walter Cronkite immediately after the telecast. Cronkite later revealed his longtime pal asked him about "those kids" he just had on the air. "What do you call them? The bugs or the beetles or something?" Sullivan asked.
The band's iconic performance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" came two months after their "debut" on the "CBS Evening News," and Cronkite later said, "If there's some credit in history for that, I want it."
50. And here's another clip from the best-known Beatles TV moment, on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1964.
- the Beatles
- Paul McCartney
- Paul Frees
- John Lennon and Paul McCartney