Top Rock TV Moment A Really Big Show

beatles AP

Feb. 9, 1964: A British band from Liverpool takes The Ed Sullivan Show stage and sends waves of teen-agers into screaming convulsions across America, bewildering millions of parents.

What's rock 'n' roll's biggest TV moment?

A new top 100 list from VH1 and Entertainment Weekly magazine says that was it — the day Beatlemania hit the states and stayed.

The List

  1. The Beatles' debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, 1964

  2. Elvis Presley's comeback special on NBC, 1968.

  3. MTV launches with first video, Video Killed the Radio Star by the Buggles, 1981.

  4. Saturday Night Live premieres, showcasing musical acts each week, 1975.

  5. Motown 25 special featuring Michael Jackson's first moonwalk, 1983.

  6. Dick Clark's American Bandstand series premieres, 1957.

  7. Live Aid aired by ABC and MTV, 1985.

  8. Madonna rolls around the stage in a wedding gown singing Like a Virgin on the MTV Video Awards, 1984.

  9. Elvis Presley performs on The Ed Sullivan Show, shown only from the waist up, 1956.

  10. The Who's use of too much explosives ending their performance on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967.

  11. Michael Jackson's Thriller video debuts on MTV, 1983.

  12. Elton John performs his Candle in the Wind remake at Princess Diana's funeral, 1997.

  13. The Monkees TV series premieres, 1966.

  14. John Lennon and Yoko Ono co-host a week of The Mike Douglas Show, 1972.

  15. The Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, Chuck Berry and James Brown perform on The T.A.M.I. Show on ABC, 1964.
The Beatles U.S. debut even topped the 1968 comeback of the King.

An estimated 73 million people were watching that night in '64 — about three times the audience of an episode of this summer's TV blockbuster Survivor. John Lennon was so nervous he taped song lyrics to the back of his guitar.

As Ringo Starr explained, the band didn't realize until it arrived in America how important Sullivan's Sunday night showcase was.

For a generation of rock 'n' rollers, it was the moment they knew they wanted to be stars. "I remember thinking, 'this can be done. I can do that,'" singer Billy Joel said.

Elvis Presley's comeback special four years later, his return to radio after years of B movies, waNo. 2, and deemed more important than the King's 1956 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. (His TV debut was earlier that year on Tommy Dorsey's show.) The 1968 return at least showed those swiveling hips; in 1956, the camera only shot him from the waist up.

Several selections were more important in retrospect as historical movements rather than memorable moments, such as the premieres of MTV, Saturday Night Live and American Bandstand.

Other moments in VH1's top 10 included Michael Jackson's first moonwalk on the 1983 Motown 25 special, the Live Aid telecast in 1985, Madonna's Like a Virgin performance on the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards, and The Who's appearance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967.

The most bizarre selection: No. 17, the man who crashed Bob Dylan's 1998 Grammy Awards performance with Soy Bomb written on his bare chest.

The most recent: Ricky Martin's performance at the 1999 Grammy Awards, one of 28 events from the 1990s.

The list also includes three performances of the national anthem: by Marvin Gaye at the 1982 NBA All-Star Game in Detroit, by Whitney Houston at the 1991 Super Bowl, and by a crotch-grabbing Roseanne at a 1990 San Diego Padres game.

The Beatles made the list seven times, Madonna and Michael Jackson are each on it five times.

VH1, which, like CBS, is owned by Viacom, plans to air selections from the list in a series of five one-hour specials, starting July 31.


©2000 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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