It was 50 years to the day, date, time, and television network, CBS, when the Beatles made their first iconic appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” “The Night That Changed America” A Grammy Salute to The Beatles” Sunday night opened with a rare retro CBS eye promo teaser.
This was to alert viewers the Ed Sullivan show is coming up. They mentioned the Beatles as an English rock and roll group from Liverpool. That was a bit strange hearing them introduced like that after all these decades. It gave viewers a perspective of that era when it was all very new.
Ed Sullivan then makes his famous introduction…Ladies and Gentleman…The Beatles. LL Cool J acted as host for this two and a half hour musical tribute special. A clip is shown of the Beatles opening with “All My Loving,” then it segued to Maroon 5 in L.A. singing their version of the early Beatles hit.
The Grammy salute special was a combination of looking back with brief clips of the Beatles appearance, audience members and Ed Sullivan show staffer recollections, David Letterman’s interview with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, and the musical tribute with some of today’s artists and classic rockers.
Surprisingly the full performances of the Beatles on Ed Sullivan were not shown in its entirety. They performed a total of five songs that ended up as quick clips at best. There were other excellent highlights. Fans of the Beatles who were lucky to be there in the audience that night were interviewed. You saw a clip of them 50 years ago screaming away. Many of those are recognizable in Beatle documentaries and other TV specials.
Interviews with the set designer, assistant director, and production assistant shared some fascinating anecdotes. Two sets were made for the February 9 show, one with the arrows pointing to the band members, and a black background with the words The Beatles in white. The latter one was going to be used, except Ed Sullivan disliked it, because everyone would know it’s the Beatles. It was the arrow set that was later chosen.
Throughout this special the concert segment was front and center. Obviously it was the classic rockers, and other artists from that era, who shined in their Beatle songs. Stevie Wonder wowed those with “We Can Work It Out.”
Dave Grohl gave a passionate speech on how much the Beatles meant to him while growing up on their music. He performed with the former Traveling Wilbury, Jeff Lynne, on “Hey Bulldog” that rocked the house.
Jeff Lynne also joined Eagles, Joe Walsh, and Dhani Harrison, the son of George Harrison, on “Something” that was both powerful and emotional.
The best part of the night was the finale with Ringo and Paul. First up were Ringo’s three solo performances that got the entire audience on their feet. Paul’s “Sgt. Pepper” brought back Ringo for “A Little Help from My Friends.” Closing out was Ringo on drums and McCartney on piano with “Hey Jude.”