THE COMPLETE ED SULLIVAN SHOWS STARRING THE BEATLES
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: The Beatles
Host: Ed Sullivan
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio: Sofa Entertainment
Features: See Review
Length: 250 Minutes
Release Date: September 7, 2010
“Ladies and gentlemen, here they are…THE BEATLES!!”
On February 9, 1964, America officially succumbed to the tidal wave known as Beatlemania when four young lads from Liverpool teamed up with the country’s most respected television personalities to make entertainment history.
The Beatles had been building an incredible following in their native England, and the dam was getting ready to burst in the States as well. Ed Sullivan had hosted our country’s most popular variety show for years. Always having a shrewd eye for explosive new talent, he immediately recognized upon seeing the throes of screaming fans waiting at the terminal for the Fab Four’s arrival in the States that this was an act he had to be first in line to present.
The Beatles would have taken America even without Ed’s help, but the combined forces of Britain’s most popular rock band and America’s most popular television host shook up the U.S. from coast to coast. Now, The 4 Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring The Beatles compiles that history and takes fans back to a time when a pop quartet was poised to take over the world and never let it go.
These shows are indeed complete, so you can enjoy them as they aired, even with original commercials. You have the option of just watching The Beatles’ performances too, but there are some extra jewels mixed in, including a couple of true outstanding ones: the impressionistic comedy of the great Frank Gorshin, and the amazing vocal stylings of one Mr. Cab Calloway.
Still, this collection is all about the Fab Four, and you get plenty of great music for your money here. The Beatles were incredible songwriters and singers, but as a rock band, they were second to none, and even despite a segment where John struggled to keep his microphone up, the music was always first rate.
From the first show that really gave us our first look at the musical revolution sweeping the world to the final one on the cusp of their second film Help, you could already witness the evolution in just a year of the band’s sound, confidence and musical ingenuity. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” may be a great classic rock song, but a year later they were doing “Ticket to Ride” and “Yesterday”, and thanks to Ed Sullivan, audiences across America got to experience that amazing musical journey for themselves.
It’s sad that such a wonderful time couldn’t last forever. The Beatles’ musical adventure soon grew too much for continued live performances, including The Ed Sullivan Show (where, in future years, they would submit film clips and videos to Ed in lieu of appearances), and even sadder, as the decade would wind down, so would the greatest rock band in the history of the world.
But these four shows exhibit a time when Beatlemania was still fun for them and for us, and thanks to the intuitive savvy of Ed Sullivan, a moment in history is perfectly captured for all of us to relive time and time again.
These are old television shows, so I didn’t expect much. The age definitely shows, as the footage is grainy and a bit unclean, and very soft throughout. Watchable, but not exemplary.
The box advertises 5.1 sound, but I didn’t notice it if it was. As with the video, you don’t expect miracles with audio for 45 year old TV episodes. Dynamic range is minimal, and with live performances back in the day, not everything is clean. But the songs come through, as does The Beatles’ magic as a performing band.
There are numerous extra clips from The Ed Sullivan Show, relating to The Beatles, including Ed reading some telegrams from the boys, a 1964 London interview he did with the band, and others, with my favorite being the mouse Topo Gigio decked out in full Beatles garb and hair.
When two of the greatest acts in show business got together in 1964, the whole country stood transfixed to their tubes. Ed Sullivan really gave America their first taste of The Beatles, and the love affair with the lads from Liverpool has never gone away.