Tag Archives: Ed Sullivan Show

The Ed Sullivan Show Was Not First With The Beatles

Jack Paar Featured The Beatles One Month Before Sullivan

The Beatles with Ed Sullivan 1964

Ed Sullivan, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and John Lennon

With Beatlemania nostalgia peaking this month, it is interesting to take note of something that seems to be a common misperception, that the Beatles made their prime time American TV debut on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964.

In fact the Beatles were noticed by Jack Paar when he was visiting England in the fall of 1963. A film crew captured them performing and the footage was shown on the Jack Paar Program on January 3, 1964, more than one month before the Ed Sullivan Show.

The big difference was for the Ed Sullivan Show the Beatles came to the United States for the first time and performed live on the program. Beatlemania had hit the United States and the impact reverberates to this day.

Many underestimated the staying power of the Beatles. After their first Sullivan appearance, McCandlish Phillips of the New York Times wrote, “At their present peak, the Beatles face an awful prospect of demise. They are a craze. Anyone at the center of a craze finds that everything he touches turns to money. But since a craze is a source of inflation, it may precede a crash.” He could not have been more wrong. Even Jack Paar thought the the Beatles would be a passing fad when he showed them on his program.

Here is Jack Paar reminiscing about the Beatles with a clip from the original 1964 program.

The Doors And A Parody Of The Doors

Light My Fire” And “Reading Rainbow” On The Ed Sullivan Show

Forty-five years ago, on September 17, 1967, The Doors performed for the first and last time on The Ed Sullivan Show. The variety program which had introduced America to The Beatles three years previously, was consistently one of the most watched shows in America and could help establish a successful career for a comedian, singer, band or any entertainer.

Before singing their hit Light My Fire, live on national television, the band was warned by a Sullivan show staff producer not to sing the word “higher” when the phrase “girl we couldn’t get much higher,” came up. It was suggested Morrison the poet, come up with another word; “flier”,  “wire”,  it didn’t matter, just not sing “higher.” The band was told the word “higher,” could imply illegal drug use and was inappropriate for a family program like The Sullivan Show. The Doors were furious and argued their point, but eventually relented and told the producer they would alter the lyric.  As soon as the producer left the room, The Doors lead singer Jim Morrison declared to the rest of the band “We’re not changing a word.”

The Doors first performed “People Are Strange” and then launched into “Light My Fire.” Morrison of course kept the word “higher” in the song.

Sullivan was livid and offstage, a furious staff producer cornered The Doors and chastised the band telling them they would have been on the Sullivan show six more times but now “you will never appear on The Ed Sullivan Show ever again.” They were banned.

Jim Morrison looked at the producer and said, “Hey man, we just did the Sullivan show.”

Classic.

Jimmy Fallon has the ability to imitate a wide range of musicians from Neil Young to Bob Dylan. So give him the chance to reproduce The Doors set from The Sullivan Show; get musicians wearing the exact same costumes and playing the exact same instruments and do a “Doors” version of, what is to me, an obscure PBS TV show theme song, Reading Rainbow, and you have a recipe for brilliance and hilarity.

Here is Jimmy Fallon as Jim Morrison performing a Doors song that never existed, “Reading Rainbow.”

And below is the original song for Reading Rainbow.