When I first started reading the following newsgroup post, I assumed it was a straight review of the Beatles on Sullivan (2-DVD set). However, I started wondering when he dissed Ed ... and then it gradually started getting wackier ...
don freeman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Shaw Residential Internet
Monday, February 21, 2005 12:05 PM
Beatles on Ed Sullivan Shows
I hesitated at first when I saw, for sale, a used copy of the 2dvd set of the complete Ed Sullivan Shows with the Beatles, but it turns out to be one of the most interesting concert dvds I've ever purchased. Not only are the Beatles' performances well worth a close look, the rest of the shows are amazingly insightful.
I remember always thinking that Ed Sullivan was just a stiff, useless tv host, but I don't remember him slurring his words and acting like a man on methedrine. Perhaps he was just excited at pulling off his tv coup of getting the Beatles on his show. Anyway, Ed introduces the Beatles right at the start of the show, and there they are, for the first time for an American tv audience, the Beatles with a capital "T."
And at first, it's all Paul being cute. It's interesting that they start with two soft numbers, the countryesque All My Loving and the shlocky Till There Was You, all featuring Paul shaking his head a lot. The most animated Beatle, however, is George, who is having one hell of a time bouncing around, playing some very good guitar. We don't get to see John sing at all until the third song, She Loves You. Meanwhile, there are all those wonderful screaming teeny bopper girls. What ever happened to them.? Surely someone has followed the life history of some of those screamers?
And then, the largest tv audience in American history, is suddenly watching the most astounding Anacin advertisement. What is in this Anacin drug? All they tell us is it has a pain reliever, another ingredient for extra relief, and a third ingredient. But look what Anacin does. It not only cures headache and fatigue, it wipes out depression and anxiety. Considering the complicated drug cocktails Americans now need to deal with clinical depression and anxiety, this Anacin was a true miracle. The commercial seems straight out of the Twilight zone with it's pounding pendulum and the way it wipes the inner tumours of fatigue-headache-depression-anxiety from the man in bed who then, can rise up, robot-like, and get ready for work.
Back to the show. Who does Ed Sullivan have to follow the greatest new musical act in history? Some poor slob of a magician, Fred Kaps, who does some silly card trick that looks like it belongs at a ten year old's birthday party. At least the next act has some class, the cast of Oliver featuring a very young Davy Jones from the Monkees, who sings circles around McCartney.
Next up is the impressionist, Frank Gorshin, making some prescient routine about actors becoming politicians. He is terrible, nowhere near the quality of his performances as the Riddler in the Batman movies. We then get, from the audience, the only American athlete to win a Winter Olympics medal. What, American didn't have steroids back then? Next up is Tessie O'Shea, a talented, female version of Dame Edna Evans.
And after some interminable Pillsbury Dough commercials ( do they still sell that stuff?) and some very bad comedy, we get two more Beatles' performances, Paul, again, singing I Saw Her Standing There and finally some serious John singing, with I Want to Hold Your Hand, where he actually changes the melody a bit with the second chorus. But now, among all the screaming young teeny boppers is a blonde woman, standing and screaming, and seeming to be mouthing "Fuck me, John." Anyway, the Beatles finish, and then we get Wells & the Four Fays doing some ridiculous acrobatic stuff. This act must have been filler that was only needed when the show went faster than Ed anticipated
For the next week, the show moved to Miami, and everything looks different. Ed looks seedier and greasier, as if he's on different drugs this time. Before we get the Beatles, we are introduced to George Femiman, who proceeds to show us this amazing incident that happened with him and Lipton Tea. George is sitting by the pool when he asks the pretty blonde at the table next to him what she is drinking. "Why coffee, of course," she says. This blonde looks strangely like the sex crazed blonde we saw in the show last week writhing to I Want to Hold Your Hand. Anyway, George points out to her that it's too bad she's drinking coffee and he pours her a cup of Lipton Tea. Clearly she has never heard of date rape drugs, as she drinks down the tea and seems very pleased.
Back to the Beatles. They don't look as good this time, as they're wearing fancier suits, and the sound is rougher as they plunge into She Loves You. They're place closer together this time as well, and Paul & John seem to be consciously edging George out of the limelight. The next song is This Boy, an odd choice with its flat harmonies. It's not until the third song, All My Loving, that we get the heavy dose of Paul that the first show started with.
One thing different about this Beatles' performance is we get Paul talking, introducing the songs, and he's already smarmy. John soon joins in and he's irreverent and cheeky.
But what's happened to the teenyboppers? The Miami girls are applauding but they aren't going wild like the New York audience. Is it the presence of Sonny Liston in the audience? It seems the whole audience is older, richer, and more sedate. No wonder they get, for the rest of the show, awful dreck like Myron Cohen and Mitzi Gaynor.
Finally, we get the Beatles again, after Ed makes a very strange joke about how the song I Want to Hold Your Hand would fit for Cassius Clay. Is this some joke about Muhammad Ali being effeminate? It's hard to remember back in the days when Sonny Liston was the good guy and Ali the schmuck.
The first song they sing is I Saw Her Standing There, and in keeping with the More John movement, Paul's microphone isn't working properly and John's harmony is way too loud and off key. And now, they're dancing around during the song. The next two songs, From Me to You and I Want to Hold Your Hand are fine and the show is over.
The third show is back in New York and the Beatles look good again in their simpler black suits. We finally get Twist and Shout and Please Please Me, though the show ends with them once again, singing I Want to Hold Your Hand. This time Ed goes right up to the Beatles on stage before they sing it, for some reflected glory.
The fourth show is from September of the next year, almost 20 months later, and everything is different. The Beatles have longer hair, look druggier, and are singing songs from Help. Ringo gets to sing Act Naturally. John is introducing songs. The filming is almost psychedelic, and after the last number, Help, we get the song again during the credits, but with different camera angles. Cilla Black, who was on the Beatles tour, gets to sing a few songs, though it's unclear what exactly her talent is. Soupy Sales is also on the show, but like Cab Calloway on the third show, his great talent is submerged by the deadly Ed Sullivan vibe.
The real highlight is the final Anacin commercial that ends the last show. We see the happy housewife making dinner, with her lovely young daughter in the kitchen, and the husband coming home from work. As she reminds him of the PTA meeting that night, the husband screams out, "Helen,please, I just came home, DON'T RUSH ME!!!" His inner voice tells him to control himself and take some Anacin. Soon he is incredibly happy, dancing joyfully around with his family.
But where is his inner voice telling him to beware of his mood swings? Where is the therapist who needs to stop him from this spousal abuse where he bullies his wife with his screaming? Life was so much simpler back then, before the Beatles messed everything up by psychedelizing the 60s.
I can't recommend this dvd set more highly. Those Ed Sullivan shows are so much more than the Beatles. It makes me wonder what the later Ed Sullivan shows would be like to watch again, the ones where Ed has grown his hair long.
A little something for ya: The AbsoluteElsewhere.net -- Beatles Ed Sullivan Show -- Pictures!
And even MORE -- On a Brazilian site -- Pictures!