On Feb. 9, 1964, Britain successfully invaded America — culturally invaded, at least. It was on that day that Ed Sullivan delivered the now famous line, “Ladies and gentlemen…The Beatles!” on The Ed Sullivan Show, and an estimated 73 million Americans heard The Beatles live on American soil for the first time. Thus began the British Invasion.
It was the largest live television audience ever to tune in to a single program at that time. The estimated total was three quarters of the entire adult audience in the United States. In return, The Beatles played five songs: “All My Lovin’,” “Til There Was You,” “She Loves You,” “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”
Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison would go on to sell 1.6 billion single records, 177 million albums and spend a total of 132 weeks at the top of the music charts — and that was just in the U.S. Looking back at that first performance, it’s clear that each shot of the screaming and fan-girling teenagers was just a preview of the Beatlemania to come. After Feb. 9, 1964, popular music was changed forever.