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Live From New York... Ed Sullivan
February 7, 2009 10:49 PM   Subscribe

He couldn't sing, dance, or tell jokes, but he was television's greatest impresario. He was a stone-faced puritan -- America's arbiter of status quo -- but had a sly sense of humor , and in the segregation-tainted 1950's, welcomed blacks to his stage, and in the 1960's showcased rock n' roll's most anti-establishment acts. His show, the longest-running variety show in history, ran from 1948 to 1971.

“Ladies and gentlemen, tonight, from the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway…the Ed Sullivan Show…and now, live from New York… Ed Sullivan!…”

1956
Elvis Presley, Love Me Tender

1958
Buddy Holly, Oh Boy

1964
The Beatles, All My Loving, Till There Was You, She Loves You, I Want to Hold Your Hand
The Beatles, From Me to You, This Boy, All My Loving
The Beatles, Twist and Shout, Please, Please Me, I Want to Hold Your Hand,
Manfred Mann, Do Wah Diddy
The Animals, House of the Rising Sun
Dusty Springfield, I Only Want to Be With You

1965
Beatles, Yesterday
Petula Clark, I Know a Place
Tom Jones, It's Not Unusual
The Byrds, Mr. Tambourine Man

1966
The Beatles, Paperback Writer/Rain
James Brown, It's a Man's World
Nancy Sinatra, These Boots are Made for Walking

1967
Beatles, Hello, Goodbye
The Doors, Light My Fire
Rolling Stones, Ruby Tuesday
Jefferson Airplane, White Rabbit
Ray Charles, What'd I Say
Paul Revere and the Raiders, Him or Me
The Turtles, She'd Rather Be With Me

1968
Mamas and Papas, California Dreamin'

1969
Janis Joplin, Maybe, Maybe, Maybe
Rolling Stones, Honky Tonk Woman
Diana Ross and the Supremes, Love Child
Jerry Lee Lewis, Whole Lotta Shakin'
Creedence Clearwater Revival, Down on the Corner

1970
Jackson Five, I Want You Back, ABC, The Love You Save
The Carpenters, We've Only Just Begun
posted by terranova (46 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
He also used to invite Bill Dana. I laughed at his act at the time, but now I look back on it and cringe.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:06 PM on February 7, 2009


In the Oliver Stone movie, they make such a big deal out of Morrison saying "girl we couldn't get much higher" on the Sullivan appearance: Val Kilmer gets right up in the camera and blatantly sneers "girl we couldn't get much HIIIIIIGGHER, YEEEEAAH!!", the squares in the control room lose their shit, etc. In the actual clip, he just kind of says it, even slurs it a little like he's hesitant, to the point where you might not even know what he said if you didn't already know the lyrics. Just another of the many inaccuracies in that movie, not that I'm complaining, it's a good movie and I like it even though I hate The Doors' music. At least the ultra-cheesy set consisting of literal doors was faithfully reproduced.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:16 PM on February 7, 2009


Oh, and if you've never seen it before, be sure to watch the Jackson 5 appearance. Pure awesome.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:18 PM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wonderful, thank you.
posted by hypersloth at 12:14 AM on February 8, 2009


It was a really big shoe.
posted by caddis at 12:21 AM on February 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


I remember almost all of these (from the Beatles onward) from the original airings. My grandmother had a reverence for Ed Sullivan similar to that which some of the ladies in her small town had for their church. In our house, you were there, in front of the television, and *quiet* when the Sullivan show started. No exceptions were tolerated.

There was *much* more to the Ed Sullivan show that simply giving television debuts to almost every historic group in the fifties, sixties, and seventies. It was a true variety show, and you were as likely to see a troupe of plate-spinning jugglers as a puppet show.

Johnny Carson really didn't have the variety angle down that Sullivan did. I 'd have to say that Sullivan's show was about as close to the Vaudeville experience as one could have on the small screen. It was pretty damn good, and really gave a larger window into American culture at the time than anything else on television.

It was "The rilly big shew" every week, without fail. Not to darn bad.

Thanks for the post, terranova.
posted by pjern at 12:23 AM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


*too* darn bad. Argh.
posted by pjern at 12:24 AM on February 8, 2009


Here is the complete episode guide for all 24 seasons.

I miss Topo Gigio.
posted by netbros at 1:39 AM on February 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Nice post.. I believe I watched every show... fun to watch these again...
posted by HuronBob at 4:23 AM on February 8, 2009


That first Beatles clip...I remember my mother letting me stay up to watch that when it was first aired-we were both laughing hysterically at how long their hair was. Which in that era, was totally, totally, nonstandard. Oh, how things changed...it is difficult to overestimate what a Big Thing the Beatles were in that timeframe.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:25 AM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


This episode of This American Life had a great interview with two comedians who got their big break, a chance to finally get on the Ed Sullivan show- unfortunately, it was the same night as the beatles. Worth a listen.
posted by jenkinsEar at 5:23 AM on February 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


what I noticed about the first Beatles clip is that, for the first few seconds in the beginning, you can sort of catch these flickers of surprised grins and amused looks on the guys' faces, as if they're reacting to the screaming crowd and thinking, "sweet JESUS, what's gotten INTO them?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:24 AM on February 8, 2009


Wow, they beamed James "Am I Black Enough For You" Brown into white America's living rooms, in 1966?

Well played, Mr. Sullivan.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:50 AM on February 8, 2009


The talent budget for the first show was $375; of that, $200 went to Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. (from here.)
posted by terranova at 9:01 AM on February 8, 2009


Younger people don't really get how influential the Sullivan show was, in an era when most TV watchers had about 5-10 channels. Virtually everyone watched Ed Sullivan on Sunday night.
posted by Sassenach at 9:41 AM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I kind of wish that the variety show format could be revived. There's enough damned channels that somebody could probably give it a shot. As pjern says you did get a pretty good deal, all things considered: a cool band/singer, something high-cultural like an opera singer or classical player, a comedian, a plate spinner and a talking mouse (and as paisley henosis said, the cultural impact could be astounding). The only thing remotely close these days would be the Letterman/Leno/O'Brien late night talk show, which is great but dosen't cover anywhere near the same swath of entertainment. When I was a kid in the 1970's, I caught the butt-end of this stuff. I even remember that some kids shows like Wonderama were kind of Sullivan-esque. Even SNL had a band to go with the sketch comedy, which was a bit of a nod to variety shows.
posted by jonmc at 9:46 AM on February 8, 2009


Your local library might have the DVD set of all the rock performances on the Ed Sullivan. It's pretty incredible.
posted by kozad at 9:54 AM on February 8, 2009


For me, the most heartbreaking moments of the videos are watching a beautiful, talented, happy child named Michael Jackson lead his brothers in an amazing performance. Later, something would go terribly wrong and this child would grow up to reject and brutally eradicate all traces of that young, lovable soul.

Maybe this is why he now is so drawn to children. After he obliterated Michael Jackson, a truly exceptional, gentle boy, he has spent the rest of his life gravitating to other children like him, trying to get him back.

I have much more sympathy for the man now.
posted by terranova at 10:01 AM on February 8, 2009


Is that Julia Sweeney's Pat playing tambourines for the Turtles?

It's interesting to watch the transition from mostly live vocals (1967) to mostly lipsync (1969). By the time I was watching variety shows in the 70s, you would never ever see anyone sing live on TV.
posted by gubo at 10:05 AM on February 8, 2009


One other thing about the 1970's that I have to explain to people who were born after it, is that there was a such a HUGE wave of fifties nostalgia (American Graffitti, Grease, Happy Days, etc etc.) that it was like the youngest of us got absorb a lot of that era's culture all over again. And one byproduct of that was the Sha-Na-Na show (which definitely harkened back to Sullivan, even having Soupy Sales as a cast member), which created this incredible cultural moment, which probably brought a smile and sense of...something or other to a lot of punk fans. This moment on the Grammys in 1989 had a similar impact on me as an 18 year old metalhead (the later stupidity of the Grammy people notwithstanding). The importance is not so much in recieving 'approval' from the 'mainstream' (a term that in today's balkanized society is almost meaningless from a popular culture standpoint) but that your cultural impact has become too big to be ignored, which is why James Brown's (among others) Sullivan appearances were so important.

I'm rambling, but hopefully you get it.
posted by jonmc at 10:12 AM on February 8, 2009


Interesting, TAL just ran a piece about the comedy duo of Mitzi and Charlie, who bombed on the same show as the Beatles first appearance.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:21 AM on February 8, 2009


There was actually a record in the mid-60's called "Please Mr. Sullivan" by a group called (no kidding) the Warner Brothers, they refer to about 20 other popular musical acts of the time, both lyrically and musically (I have an mp3, it's cool). I can't imagine a similar record existing today. Oddly though, in the abscence of such things as Ed Sullivan or Life magazine (yeah, I know it still exists, but it's impact is far less than it used to be), we may have more 'choices' in entertainment, but our culture is somehow more corporate than ever.

Yeah, rambling again.
posted by jonmc at 10:39 AM on February 8, 2009


I can't imagine a similar record existing today.

How about "On the cover of the Rolling Stone" by Dr. Hook?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:59 AM on February 8, 2009


TAL just ran a piece about the comedy duo of Mitzi and Charlie
The only place I'd ever heard of/seen Charlie Brill and Mitzi McCall was on 1970s-era TV game shows (The Match Game, Tattletales) - they seemed to be the catch-all seat fillers when more famous celebs couldn't be rounded up for a taping.

And count me among those who grew up with Ed Sullivan being a regular Sunday night family TV ritual. I was very young when the Beatles appeared, but I still remember my Dad cussing at their girlish hair and finally convincing himself that they were wearing wigs as a publicity stunt. I also recall having to sit through dancing poodles and plate-spinners and Russian circus stars just so I could see Herman's Hermits or The Mamas and the Papas.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:08 AM on February 8, 2009


Chocolate Pickle, that's 36 years from 'today.'
posted by jonmc at 11:09 AM on February 8, 2009


I can't imagine a similar record existing today.

How about "On the cover of the Rolling Stone" by Dr. Hook?


For values of "today" inclusive of "37 years ago", you mean? 1972 falls more or less within the Sullivan era, and is certainly far closer to it than it is to today.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:11 AM on February 8, 2009


Ah. Shoulda previewed.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:11 AM on February 8, 2009


Sullivan was so popular in his day that the broadway show,"Bye Bye Birdie" had a tribute song to him in it. (One can't imagine anything even remotely similar happening today) Excerpt:

Ed Sullivan, Ed Sullivan, we're gonna be on Ed Sullivan!
How could anybody be
half as fortunate as we
Someday we'll recall -- the greatest day of all
(Ed, I love you)
Ed Sullivan!


When it was made into a film in 1963, Ed himself appeared in it, as a key part of the plot, and Ann-Margret, Paul Lynde et al sang the song in choir robes, bathed in ethereal light. Hilarious.

I rememeber one of the comedians of that era saying something like (paraphrasing) "Never has anyone with so little talent brought forth so much talent to the American people."
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 11:26 AM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Ed Sullivan Show was IT.

When it started being broadcast in color, my grandparents bought a color TV, so every Sunday evening we would go upstairs to watch the show in their apartment. The show is what everyone talked about Monday morning.

Besides the musical acts, I loved Senor Wences and Topo Gigio ("Eddie, kiss me goodnight"). When I found a little Topo Gigio at a thrift store once, it made me extremely happy. I have Topo on a window ledge on my stairway so I can relive the joy, daily.

terranova, I got to agree about Michael Jackson. It makes me so sad to see how alive and normal he seemed then. I watched the Louis Theroux, Weird Weekend about Michael Jackson, which was mostly about Joe Jackson pulling a scam where he insists on being paid to give interviews, then just shills his new acts. I wonder if there is truth to the rumors that he had Michael given some kind of hormone therapy to keep his voice in that high register necessary to perform their top hits. In any event Papa Jackson is very creepy.

I loved the Dusty Springfield clip - makes you realize how lipsinced the later performers are.
posted by readery at 11:31 AM on February 8, 2009


The plate spinning used to bore me as a kid and there were never enough bands. So I'd often wander away from the TV during during the Sunday ritual. Hence I got on the school bus one day to be asked: "Wow, did you see The Beatles on Ed Sullivan last night?" Gulp, no, I missed it, I was making Creepy Crawlers or something...
posted by bonefish at 11:33 AM on February 8, 2009


No way were The Beatles on Ed Sullivan in 1967 for HELLO, GOODBYE. That video is from their film MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR.
posted by brianstorms at 11:46 AM on February 8, 2009


No way were The Beatles on Ed Sullivan in 1967 for HELLO, GOODBYE. That video is from their film MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR.

@brainstorms:, Yes, of course, but it the video of that song was released to the Sullivan show by the band. The Beatles released promo clips exclusively at first, to the Sullivan show, beginning with Paperback Writer/Rain in 1966. In fact, for that one, they actually filmed a sort of personalized intro ("Hi, Ed. Sorry we can't be there..." ) just for the show.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 12:01 PM on February 8, 2009


I used to love Topo Gigio, too, and it seems to me that sometimes when he invited "Kees me Eddie," ol' Stoneface would actually soften for a moment.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:45 PM on February 8, 2009


For me, the most heartbreaking moments of the videos are watching a beautiful, talented, happy child named Michael Jackson lead his brothers in an amazing performance. Later, something would go terribly wrong and this child would grow up to reject and brutally eradicate all traces of that young, lovable soul.

In the Martin Bashir interview, Michael and Bashir watch a video of the Sullivan performance, and Michael is visibly upset. He then tells Bashir that watching himself at this age only reminds him of his father, sitting with a belt in his hand during their interminable practicing, ready to beat the living shit out of any of the brothers who would dare to miss a dance step or forget a word. It's really sad.

Maybe this is why he now is so drawn to children. After he obliterated Michael Jackson, a truly exceptional, gentle boy, he has spent the rest of his life gravitating to other children like him, trying to get him back.

I have much more sympathy for the man now.


You'd have to be cold-hearted to not have sympathy for him. It's not his fault he ended up this way. His father absolutely brutalized him. He didn't obliterate that little boy, his father and the pressure of fame did. He's been working almost constantly for most of his life. He's never really had any real friends or romantic relationships. I'm surprised he isn't even more screwed up, really.
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:30 PM on February 8, 2009


And gubo, that isn't Pat, but the fabulous Mark Volman of Flo and Eddie, whose voices were everywhere, most memorably with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.
posted by readery at 2:04 PM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I remember being blown away by seeing the Muppets for the first time on Ed Sullivan.
posted by digsrus at 3:09 PM on February 8, 2009


And count me among those who grew up with Ed Sullivan being a regular Sunday night family TV ritual. I was very young when the Beatles appeared, but I still remember my Dad cussing at their girlish hair and finally convincing himself that they were wearing wigs as a publicity stunt.

Yes, same here--Sunday night ritual, watching the Beatles first time--the long hair plus the fact that they seemed to practically put their mouths on the microphones, were topics the next day in school. Absolutely everyone watched Ed Sullivan on Sunday nights but the Beatles' appearance was enough to have everyone, including the sixth-grade teacher, talking the next day. Sigh.
posted by etaoin at 5:00 PM on February 8, 2009


If you ever go to see Letterman live, there's a great framed pencil sketch of Sullivan in the hallway just before you walk into the theater. Sometimes you catch a glimpse of it on the show when someone runs up through the audience on their way to the lobby.

And yes, I am old enough to remember watching the Ed Sullivan Show. And the Jackie Gleason Show.




aaaaaaaaaaarrrrrgh.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 7:47 PM on February 8, 2009


Having been born in 1975, I'm about one generation removed from the age of Sullivan. Yet even as a young child I knew who he was thanks to his appearing (well, not actually him, but a parody) in animated form on "The Flintstones."

And as for Michael Jackson, my point of reference is not of him as one of the younger members of a musical family, but of that period when he was the biggest star in the world. It seems like eons ago -- eight Grammys for the "Thriller" album, the Motown anniversary special, the Pepsi commercial. But it was all a downhill slide from there.
posted by evilcolonel at 7:59 PM on February 8, 2009


Everyone please stop adding an apostrophe to the decades. It's not "in the roaring 20's", there is no ownership in such a phrase. It is "in the roaring '20s" or "in the roaring 1920s". The only time you use an apostrophe is when there is ownership, like "in 1970's Bullitt". You can add a quote at the beginning, to replace the missing century, but there is rarely an apostrophe after. Thank you.
posted by asfuller at 10:19 AM on February 9, 2009


And with that comment, typos on the Internet cease to bee.

Fuck.
posted by Dr-Baa at 10:43 AM on February 9, 2009


Language Log on Mallard Fillmore, apostrophes in decades, and pedantry for pedantry's sake. Among other things:
But as "a seasoned, rumpled ex-newspaper reporter," Mallard should know that the jury's still out on apostrophizing decade names. The New York Times house style, for instance, keeps the apostrophe in for names of decades; a search on the Times archive finds five examples of "the 80's" in Sunday's paper alone.
Do not blindly ascribe hard-and-fast rules to something as rich and nuanced as the written word, please.

posted by cortex at 11:05 AM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Odd, I've never seen a style sheet or rule that mentions an exception. So I'll take a look...

AP style states "Do not use 's for plurals of numbers or multiple letter combinations, the 1990s, RBIs"
http://www.scribd.com/doc/2664713/Associated-Press-AP-Style-Guide-the-basics

And someone mentions that the NYTimes does not follow the AP style, which makes sense, because many publications have a house style
http://beyondtheelementsofstyle.blogspot.com/2006/06/dreaded-apostrophe.html

Sure you can have your own "style" if you want. Type in free verse or ASCII art or l33t speak if you want, and claim freedom from rules.

Typeset language for "bargain CD's" and "banana's on sale" and "70's dance night" just like many people do, but popular usage does not change the rule. There is no jury. I guarantee that this majority habit is out of ignorance, not from first knowing the rule, and then breaking it.

If you think about it, no apostrophe makes more sense.
posted by asfuller at 4:30 PM on February 9, 2009


"If you think about it, [usage prescription] makes more sense" is a non-argument. In practice, popular usage is usage, and rules invoked as first principles are each, to a one, no more than conventions—at best said conventions are actually factually popular in the form they are described at the time they are being invoked, but often, even perhaps most of the time in this kind of driveby-pedantry context, the lack even that going for them. "This is my habit or preference" is too often misrepresented as "this is correct", for no other reason than to throw weight around.

If you think about it, "it's" as a possessive makes more sense. Ad nauseum. Apostrophes in decades is an open question—there are no bedrock first principles here, no platonic truth in punctuation. You are welcome to prefer no-apostrophes and cite the AP stylebook, but please don't mistake that for anything other than a preference and a favored stylebook.
posted by cortex at 4:50 PM on February 9, 2009


Okay, let me know when the jury reaches a decision.
posted by asfuller at 5:10 PM on February 9, 2009


Also, Tom Jones was recently featured on La Blogothèque Take Away Shows.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 6:05 PM on February 10, 2009


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