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Beatlemania: A moment in time never to be repeated

Published February 8, 2014 10:26 pm

Biographer says • "This was a seismic shift in American culture, and it gave the teenagers not only a voice but a way of being."
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Los Angeles • Musical moments that capture the attention of a national audience — and beyond — never seem to be in short supply. Last week, Bruno Mars set a ratings record with 115 million people watching his Super Bowl performance. A few months ago, the talk was about Beyonce's surprise album. But moments that spark a musical revolution? A dramatic altering of the pop culture landscape? A true moment for historians to analyze? Rare indeed, which is what makes the 50th anniversary of what is considered the start of Beatlemania so remarkable — and so unlikely to happen again.

"The media has gotten so fragmented now ... there's 50 things in a marketing plan for an artist today," said Revolt TV President (and former MTV executive) Andy Schuon. "The ability to fan that fire and to give it the kind of intensity that 'The Ed Sullivan Show' could get doesn't exist today."

Sunday marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' performance on "Ed Sullivan," their first appearance in America. Nielsen says 45 percent of all TV sets in use at the time were tuned into the broadcast. The Beatles landed on a trigger point when they hit America. It was a pop culture sonic boom spurred by talent, timing and luck that's still rattling the windows.

"This was a seismic shift in American culture, and it gave the teenagers not only a voice but a way of being, a way of thinking that had never occurred before," Beatles biographer Bob Spitz said. "Previous to the Beatles' arrival here, teenagers were an appendage in the family. After that, the teenager became one of the dominant forces in the family. They became a marketable force and that didn't happen with Elvis. This was pure."

Sunday's TV special "The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles" airs on CBS at 6 p.m. MST.