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George Harrison Said Nobody Knew How To Sound On ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’

George Harrison said no one knew how to make sound work at The Ed Sullivan Show. However, the Beatles used to not sound great during their concerts.

The Beatles during their appearance on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ | Fred Morgan/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

73 million people tuned in to watch The Beatles perform on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’

Play on The Ed Sullivan Show was a huge honor, especially for emerging artists and foreign artists. However, the Beatles, who already had a No. 1 hit in America, weren’t cheap.

According to Mental Floss, the Beatles “would only agree to appear if the show covered their travel expenses and paid them a $10,000 fee (which would be just under $90,000 in 2022 dollars). Sullivan and its producers agreed, but only if the Beatles committed to making three appearances.They had a deal.

The performance proved mutually beneficial. The Beatles had immense visibility which catapulted them into stardom, and The Ed Sullivan Show attracted more viewers than ever.

According The Ed Sullivan Showa record 73 million people tuned in to watch the Beatles perform that night on February 9. Thus, about 40% of the country’s population watched the show.

A crowd of 700, mostly screaming girls, erupted after Sullivan introduced the Beatles with “Ladies and gentlemen…The Beatles!” The next second, the group launched “All My Loving”.

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George Harrison Said Nobody On The ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ Knew How To Make Sound

The appearance of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show was revolutionary. However, people in the audience couldn’t hear the band playing.

In a 1977 interview with Crawdaddy (per George Harrison on George Harrison: interviews and encounters), George explained that no one The Ed Sullivan Show knew how to make sound.

“Sullivan’s show was funny because I didn’t attend the rehearsal, I got sick somehow during the flight on the first trip to the United States,” George said. “The band did a long rehearsal for the sound people, they kept going into the control room and checking the sound.

“And finally, when they found a balance between the instruments and the vocals, they scored on the boards by control, and then everyone stopped for lunch. Then we came back to record the show and the cleaners had gone around and polished all the marks on the board.

“It was kind of cheesy back then, with the sound. People would put amplifiers on the side of the stage so they wouldn’t mess up the shot, you know.

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The sound during the Beatles performance at Shea Stadium was worse

Sound was a huge issue during the Beatles’ performance at Shea Stadium. This was just another case where the band couldn’t hear themselves playing, or the audience. There was no way an amplifier could match the roar of 55,000 screaming fans.

Still, Vox did their best, making special amplifiers to help with the sound.

In Here Comes The Sun: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison, Joshua M. Greene wrote, “Stadium gigs had never happened before. No singer or band could fill such a big space. Originally designed for baseball, football, and other relatively non-musical events, the acoustics inside Shea Stadium were poor.

“For the Beatles concert, sound company Vox created custom amplifiers with their usual thirty watts of power boosted to a spectacular hundred watts. Nothing helped. The Beatles’ performance was engulfed in an engulfing noise that sent the arena’s two thousand guards to despair. The screams overwhelmed everything that came out of the scene.

“Now we were playing in stadiums!” Ringo Starr explained in Anthology (according to the Beatles Bible). “There were all these people and just a tiny little PA system – they couldn’t get a bigger one. We always used the house sound system.

“It was enough for us, even at Shea Stadium. I never felt like people were coming to listen to our show – I felt like they were coming to see us. As soon as the first number counted down, the volume of shouting drowned out everything else.

No matter what the Beatles did, their sound during performances was never satisfactory. Fans just screamed and screamed. This is one of the reasons the band stopped touring in 1966.

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