On November 18, 1963, almost three months before The Beatles’ auspicious arrival in New York for an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show before an estimated 73 million curious viewers, NBC’s top-rated Huntley-Brinkley Report featured correspondent Edwin Newman offering a jaundiced view of Beatlemania as it was then unfolding in England in what was the group’s first appearance on American television. The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite was preparing a more balanced appraisal of the burgeoning pop phenomenon for broadcast on November 22—and did air it that morning, to a considerably smaller audience, on the morning news with Mike Wallace—but the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on that day and subsequent coverage of his funeral bumped the piece back to December. As other news outlets scrambled to cover the Beatles’ ascendance, NBC found itself in good company, as newspapers and TV newscasts fell into lockstep with the dismissive Edwin Newman and tossed their own brickbats at the latest rage in teen idols. Nevertheless, Messrs. Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr enjoyed a most hearty last laugh.
A copy of the November 18 broadcast no longer exists in the NBC archives, but an audio-only recording has been discovered in the Library of Congress and made public for the first time since its initial airing half a century ago.
The Beatles had been gathering momentum in the U.K. for several years ahead of their big breakout in January 1963 with the release of their debut album, Please Please Me, along with the three successive #1 singles it yielded in the title track, “From Me to You” and “She Loves You.” On October 31, upon returning from their first overseas tour, to Sweden, the band was greeted by more than one thousand rabid fans at London’s Heathrow Airport. One attendee was hardly a rabid fan but he did recognize something big when he saw it: that would be Ed Sullivan, who made his first overtures to band manager Brian Epstein about having the Beatles appear on his popular Sunday night variety show on CBS. (It’s a long, involved story, not as clear-cut as Sullivan seeing the Heathrow madness and taking the lead in negotiating for the Beatles’ American debut on his show. See Beatles authority Bruce Spizer’s two-part report, “The Story Behind The Beatles on Ed Sullivan” at The Internet Beatles Album.)
The first American news report about the Beatles’ breakout, from The Huntley-Brinkley Report, November 18,1963, by correspondent Edwin Newman.
American print media began sniffing out the frenzy across the pond and reporting on it. “Thousands of Britons ‘Riot’; Liverpool Sound Stirs up Frenzy,” trumpeted a Washington Post headline. Time magazine described Beatlemania in vivid detail in an article headlined “The New Madness.” (Time was going to put the Beatles on its cover but the musicians bailed on the cover shoot.) Variety ran a story headlined “Beatle Bug Bites Britain.” The New York Times Magazine weighed in with “Britons Succumb to Beatlemania.” Life magazine ran a photo of the Beatles meeting Prince Margaret.
The week after the band’s rousing return from Sweden, NBC, CBS and ABC dispatched crews to cover the Beatles November 16 show at the Winter Gardens Theater in Bournemouth. NBC was the first on the air the following Monday with its report by Edwin Newman. At CBS News, London correspondent Alexander Kendrick decided to investigate the flowering cultural phenomenon. He came back with a far more sympathetic portrait than Edwin Newman proffered on NBC, including letting the musicians speak for themselves in a brief backstage interview with CBS News reporter John Darsa.
Trailer for the official DVD release of the Beatles’ four complete appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show
The Philadelphia-born Kendrick, who preceded Dan Rather as the network’s London bureau chief, was perhaps the least likely correspondent to be covering the rise of a pop group, after distinguishing himself covering the Russian front in World War II. Unsurprisingly, his Beatles’ report reflected the sensibility and skepticism of an older generation without being dismissive or condescending: “Besides being merely the latest objects of adolescent adulation and culturally the modern manifestation of compulsive tribal singing and dancing, the Beatles are said by sociologists to have a deeper meaning. Some say they are the authentic voice of the proletariat…”
Reporting from what he called “Beatleland”—actually the band’s office bustling with the incessant click-clack of typewriters and overflowing with bags full of fan mail—Kendrick likened to an “epidemic” the fans’ adulation for the Fab Four, whose music, he said, had “seized the population, especially female.” Footage shows the quartet performing “She Loves You” before a screaming crowd at the Winter Gardens venue in Bournemouth. In the interview with John Darsa, the Beatles are reserved but polite and philosophical in discussing their outsized acclaim. Asked how their music was different than any other rock ‘n’ roll, George and Paul indicated it wasn’t in fact a radical departure from the genre’s earliest form. And to the question as to whether they worried about the fans soon tiring of them and shifting their allegiance elsewhere, they collectively shrugged and said no. “It’s not worth missing your sleep for, is it?” said George, the most loquacious of the four in this particular interview.
The Beatles on The CBS Morning News, November 21, 1963
The piece debuted on the CBS Morning News with Mike Wallace on Nov. 22, 1963. Slated to run again that night on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, it was preempted by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Weeks later, on Dec. 10, Cronkite re-aired Kendrick’s report. Come February Cronkite would use his connections at the Sullivan show to get his teenage daughters Kathy and Nancy admitted to the dress rehearsal. “I don’t think up ’til that time they really cared very much what their father did,” Cronkite later recalled, “but I suddenly was a hero in their eyes.”
After the NBC and CBS news reports had aired, the popular but moody television host Jack Paar also featured the Beatles on his show of January 3, 1964. Sullivan may have been in the surging crowd at Heathrow Airport, but Paar had been in attendance when the Beatles played the Royal Variety Show in London on November 4, that being the infamous occasion when John Lennon requested the rich people in the crowd “just rattle your jewelry” instead of applauding. Part bought some film from the BBC showing screaming girls and the Beatles performing “She Loves You,” intending, as he later admitted, to poke fun at the band. “I didn’t know they were going to change the culture of the country with music,” he said. “I thought they were funny. I brought them here as a joke.” On the air he assured his viewers his interest in the Beatles was purely as “a psychological, sociological phenomenon,” then ran the footage of the screamers, interjecting his own condescending commentary along the way. This, after he had concluded his introduction with: “I understand science is working on a cure for this. These guys have these crazy hairdos and when they wiggle their heads and the hair goes, the girls go out of their minds. Does it bother you to realize that in a few years these girls will vote, raise children and drive cars? I just show you this in case you’re going to England and want to have a fun evening. Now here are The Beatles.” Afterwards, Paar took another shot, not at the Beatles in particular but at their homeland, with a weary, “It’s nice to know that England has finally risen to our cultural level.” Clearly, Paar had learned nothing from Steve Allen embarrassing himself in the ‘50s trying to humiliate Elvis Presley on his show.
Unfortunately, Cronkite’s CBS Evening News, the Beatles and assassination would again intersect. On Dec. 8, 1980. Cronkite announced John Lennon’s murder by announcing, “The death of a man who sang and played the guitar overshadows the news from Poland, Iran and Washington tonight…”
The PowerPuff Girls Meet the Beat Alls, and…
First aired on February 9, 2001, The PowerPuff Girls Meet the Beat Alls employs numerous Beatles references in its dialogue and snippets of Beatles music in its soundtrack. The plot: When Mojo Jojo, Him, Princess Morbucks, and Fuzzy Lumpkins become tired of the girls, they all meet each other and start arguing over at the girls’ house. When they are about to go back to bed, they are zapped by three lasers coming from Mojo Jojo, Him and Princess Morbucks; finally they are crushed by Fuzzy’s boulder. While standing there looking at where the rock landed, in utter disbelief over what has transpired, they form the quartet villain group “The Beat-Alls.” Will this evil quartet last forever, or can the girls break up the band?
In this Beatles-centric episode, some 65 Beatles songs and events (such as Yoko Ono’s presence) are referenced throughout this episode.
The Beatles themselves appear twice in their different animated forms, first when The Beat-Alls are literally beating up the “Dennis Marks” Beatles on stage (Dennis Marks was, of course, an original member of The Beach Boys), and the second being the “George Dunning” Beatles from “Yellow Submarine” in the middle of the scene in which Mojo screams to Moko Jono. Ringo Starr and John Lennon with Yoko Ono show up in the last two scenes.
•The Beat-Alls are in a Wanted Poster that emulates the album cover art for the A Hard Day’s Night soundtrack.
•The Beat-Alls survey the girls defeated in an emulation of the cover of their debut album, Please Please Me.
•The Beat-Alls walk down a zebra crossing in a nod to the Abbey Road album cover.
•The title card references the With the Beatles album cover.
•The Professor Utonium references Beatles songs ‘Yesterday,’ ‘Get Back,’ ‘Eight Days a Week,’ ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,’ ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’ and ‘I’m Only Sleeping.’ The Narrator also references ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ and ‘Ticket to Ride,’ and Mojo Jojo references the John Lennon song ‘Imagine.’ The reporter references ‘A Day in the Life.’ Mojo Jojo references ‘Revolution #9’ in which the words ‘number nine’ are repeated several times.
•Unlike in the episode “Telephonies,” in which Him led the group of villains, Mojo Jojo was the leader of the Beat-Alls.
•Jojo’s first love, Moko Jono, is a reference to John Lennon’s wife, Yoko Ono. The shouting scene, showing how the Beat-Alls broke up, is a reference to the actual breakup of the Beatles.
•Production on this episode finished on December 8, 2000, the 20th anniversary of John Lennon’s death. This episode, along with “Moral Decay,” aired on February 9, 2001, the 37th anniversary of the Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. An unplanned re-run of this episode (excluding “Moral Decay”) aired on November 30, 2001 (the day after George Harrison died), possibly as a tribute to George.
Ringo Returns to the Cast
Ringo Starr, ‘I Wish I Was a PowerPull Girl’ from the ‘Dance Pantsed’ episode
Ringo Starr makes a guest appearance on a new PowerPuff Girls episode that made its debut on January 20. In “Dance Pantsed,” the animated Ringo plays drums and sings “Wish I Was a PowerPuff Girl” and voices the character named Fibonacci Sequins (a droll reference to the Fibonacci Sequence, for you math majors), whose main accomplishment in the episode it to get kidnapped. But in keeping with the frenetic PowerPuff pace, much more seems to be going on. The episode does make a couple of references to the Beatles along the way.
The PowerPuff Girls, ‘Dance Pantsed,’ full episode