Fortieth Anniversary of Birth of Beatle Mania

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, Feb. 9, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.


ED SULLIVAN: Ladies and gentlemen, the Beatles!




JOHN GIBSON, HOST: The Beatles, 73 million Americans saw pop music and pop culture change forever exactly 40 years ago tonight. Ed Sullivan (search), some of you don't remember him, Ed Sullivan welcomed the lads from Liverpool onto the stage and into our living rooms, giving birth to Beatle mania.

The Beatles four appearances on the "Ed Sullivan Show" are now out on DVD. Joining me now to talk about the anniversary of the first really big show, George Harrison's (search) sister, Louise, also known as Lou. And Beatles historian Bruce Spizer (search), author of "The Beatles are Coming" and four other big books on the band. Lou, here is the big question. How did the Beatles change music on February 9, 1964?


GIBSON: You were there. You were there in the Ed Sullivan Theater, weren't you?

HARRISON: No, I think — yes, I was there. It was ...

GIBSON: You weren't so shocked. You knew what their music was like. You had been listening to your brother.

HARRISON: Exactly.

GIBSON: Were you blown away at the reaction?

HARRISON: Yes. Although many people have asked me if I was surprised, or shocked or whatever by the whole thing. But in looking back, all I can say is everything that happened just seem to be part of the way my life was supposed to unfold. Nothing ever seemed to be out of whack from how I was going to live my life. So I don't know, my parents even, when the thing first started happening and they were getting hundreds of thousands of letters from all over the world, they just sat down and started answering them. And accepted everybody into our family. They would write letters saying, love from mom and dad Harrison.

GIBSON: Thank you very much for buying my boy's records.

HARRISON: No, they weren't even thinking of it in those terms at all.

GIBSON: Really?


GIBSON: Bruce, maybe the question should have been directed to you. How did they change music?

BRUCE SPIZER, BEATLES HISTORIAN: Well, the thing about it was that music had gotten a little bit stale. There were some great things going on musically. But the Beatles were very much influenced by American music, gave it their own refinement spin. And the other great thing about it was they had terrific song writing between John and Paul, and later on George. And that evening, you not only had the Beatles themselves, but you also have the crowd reaction. And people watching and 73 million people watching this. And it caused a lot of people to rethink what they were doing in music and other people to literally decide, gee, I'd like to do this. This isn't a bad thing. A guy might think, you know, I can't be captain of the football team, but maybe I can learn how to play guitar and the girls will be screaming after me. That's a very noble cause in rock 'n' roll music.

GIBSON: It is. Lou, what were there, 20 songs recorded over those appearances and rehearsals at the "Ed Sullivan Show"?

HARRISON: I don't know. You see you are asking me the wrong questions, because I know absolutely nothing about the details.

GIBSON: How many are on the DVD?

HARRISON: I have no idea. I don't count those things. I just listen to them and enjoy them. And I know absolutely nothing about the details of when, where what, how, what date they did something. All I know is my brother was in a band and they did OK. And I went to see some concerts and then the next thing was people were asking me to do Beatle reports, which I did on radio for about 18 months. They were called, yes, just Beatle reports. And since then, now that my parents no longer are around, I'm now the mum of the Beatle family globally. They call me the flying mum. And that's my job is to be a mum to everybody out there who loves the Beatles.

GIBSON: You know, I'm curious about the stuff that happened before the Beatles showed up in America and we all kind of woke up to them. Were you ever on those trips to Germany? Did you see the very beginning of your brother's band?

HARRISON: No. No. The first time I saw my brother playing was when he came to visit me in Illinois back in September of '63. And he sat in with a little local band for a couple of songs. And the place — it was just a little VFW club in a tiny little town called El Dorado, it probably had a population of about 300 people.

GIBSON: In Illinois?

HARRISON: Illinois, yes. And he happened to get up and sing a couple of songs with the band. Well, the place that had been totally ignoring the band all of a sudden became electrified. And the people were pounding their fists on the table, and stomping their feet on the floor, and whistling and going crazy. And then people came over afterwards to the band leader and they said, wow, that kid that is trying out for your band tonight, you would be crazy if you don't hire him. And then another old man came over on his walker and he said, oh, you know, sir, with the right kind of backing, you could really go places.

GIBSON: Yes, really could.

HARRISON: That was my first seeing of any of the Beatles.

GIBSON: Bruce, what about this DVD? Is it worth going to get?

SPIZER: Absolutely. The great thing about it, you just don't have edits of the performances, you have each song in its entirety and then followed by commercials. The Beatles opened up that first Sullivan show with "All My Love," and then did "'Til There was You," a ballad from the "Music Man," that even mom and dad to enjoy. And then to hammer home what the big beat excitement was about they did "She Loves You." And this was followed by a commercial for Anacin pain reliever and they kept repeating the word "headache" over and over again, which I guess many of the adults in the audience were sensing that at a time. So it's a wonderful time capsule.

GIBSON: Louise Harrison, Lou Harrison, the sister ...

HARRISON: It's short for loony.

GIBSON: Looney. And Bruce Spizer, Bruce, of course, the author of the "Beatles are Coming," and four other books on the band. And the DVD is out. You can see those glory years of the "Ed Sullivan" appearances.

HARRISON: The DVD is very, very good. In fact, I took one up to President Clinton's office for him today.

GIBSON: Oh, I bet he liked it. He's the same age as me. I know what he was watching. Lou and Bruce, thanks you very much.

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