New York

The Beatles in New York
The Beatles in New York

“They reached immortality in New York”

New York was destined to become a port from before history. The glacial melt from the last Ice Age left a channel that became the lower Hudson River, actually making it a tidal estuary; the land that was ground up and then surrendered by the retreating glaciers placed Long Island and Staten Island at the river’s mouth as a natural flood barrier system long before anything comparable could be built by people.

John Lennon and New York

Two quotes attributed to John Lennon himself have captured what it was that drew not only him, but everyone who has ever come to New York:

“If I’d lived in Roman times, I’d have lived in Rome. Where else? Today America is the Roman Empire and New York is Rome itself.” 

“I regret profoundly that I was not an American and not born in Greenwich Village. It might be dying, and there might be a lot of dirt in the air you breathe, but this is where it’s happening.” 

American Music Before The Beatles

There’s an impression that before The Beatles had come over that the American music scene was in need of inspiration, that having lost Elvis to the Army and MGM and Buddy Holly to a plane crash the sleepy scene needed the jump start that the band provided.

This, like a lot of legends, is not entirely accurate.

The scene in the United States was actually quite vibrant. In New Orleans, Allen Toussaint was producing such hits as “Mother In-Law” and “I Like It Like That” with artists on the Mint Records label, while in Detroit, Barry Gordy had just bought a third house on West Grand Boulevard for his Motown Records empire to expand into. Chicago had Chess Records, and Memphis’ Stax Records were still releasing popular hits, such as Jan Bradley’s “Mama Didn’t Lie” and Otis Redding’s “Pain in My Heart”. And Los Angeles was just starting to make its impact on the music scene, with the Beach Boys’ “Little Deuce Coup” from October of 1963 at the vanguard of the surf music genre.

Ed Sullivan Theater – 1697 Broadway (at West 53rd Street)

The Ed Sullivan Theater is located in the Theater District of Manhattan. It has been used for live and taped broadcasts on the CBS Network since 1936, and is currently the home to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The theater was known as CBS Studio 50 until it was named for Ed Sullivan in 1967.  

Ed Sullivan was a newspaper columnist who hosted the most popular variety show in the United States. Initially called Toast of the Town, the show later became The Ed Sullivan Show and aired from 1948 to 1971; the longest-running variety program in television history. By the time The Beatles appeared on the show for the first time on February 9, 1964, Sullivan already had a reputation for presenting new and diverse acts to American audiences, such as Elvis Presley in 1956.

Approximately 73 million people watched The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, a record number of viewers. It is said that during the one-hour program, so many people were busy watching The Beatles that there was literally no crime in America! Whether or not that is true, the fans who watched do say that the appearance made an indelible impression on them and ushered in Beatlemania in America. The night The Beatles were on the show also featured a variety of other British performers, including the cast of the musical Oliver!, which was on Broadway at the time. Among the performers was a young man who was playing the role of the Artful Dodger named Davy Jones – the same Davy Jones who become one of the Monkees.

Discover more about The Beatles and John Lennon in New York in The Beatles Fab Four Cities.

Susan Ryan