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Beatles DVD: Anniversary Encore

Before the famed British invasion, the "Ed Sullivan Show" had been an American television institution in it's own right.

But on a fateful Sunday on Feb. 9, 1964, television history was made by the appearance of four mop-topped rockers who called themselves the Beatles.

Now, all four Beatles appearances have been rescued from the vaults, digitally restored and made available on the new DVD, "The Four Ed Sullivan Shows Featuring The Beatles."

At the heart of the Beatles' first U.S. visit were their unprecedented three appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show" on Feb. 9, Feb. 16, and Feb. 23, 1964.

To put it in perspective, Martin Lewis, a Beatles historian and associate producer of the DVD project, points out on The Early Show, "The number of people watching them were 73 million. And in case that doesn't sound like very many in this day of Super Bowls, they just did a big survey and it's in USA Today and it shows that's the equivalent of 116 million people today, because it was 40 percent of the entire U.S. population watching. It's the equivalent of 116 million people watching it in one day."

At the time, Beatle-mania had completely taken over Europe but the rock 'n' roll group didn't have a No.1 hit in the United States. So it was a smart move by Sullivan to book the Beatles for his show.

Lewis says Sullivan found out about them while on vacation in Europe. He says, Sullivan "went to London airport in November of 1963 and his plane was delayed for a couple of hours because of screaming girls. He couldn't understand why. He said, 'What's this about?' They said, 'It's the Beatles.' 'The Beatles, what's that?' And he suddenly realized there was this rock 'n' roll band from Britain and said maybe, I better put them on his show."

It was Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein who convinced Sullivan to book them for three consecutive shows, Lewis says, "He said, 'By the way, my guys have got a headline.' He got away with it and the rest is history."

And it was absolute mania in New York City. Even the Beatles were shocked. They couldn't believe such reaction from the land of Elvis.

Lewis notes, "They said, 'Why would America need us, because you've got rock 'n' roll here'. What they didn't realize in their own modesty is what they had taken when they had been inspired by great American rock 'n' roll but added their own special qualities. In that terrible time after JFK's assassination, there was this enthusiasm and giddy-optimism after the Beatles came back -a healing after tragedy."

In 1965, the Beatles returned to the "Ed Sullivan Show" for what ended up being their last-ever live performance in a television studio, anywhere in the world.

All four original shows had been buried in the archives until recently - with only a few snippets shown periodically on television. Now, all four shows have been rescued from the vaults, digitally-restored and have just been made available on the new DVD "The Four Ed Sullivan Shows Featuring The Beatles."

Lewis says, "Because the shows were in black and white, the network said, 'No one wants to see these again. We're in color now.' They threw them in the vaults and they were forgotten."

The Beatles performed 20 songs on their four television appearances - including seven No. 1 hits. All 20 songs were performed live. Eleven of the performances have not been seen unedited in 40 years.

But their music resonates still today. The DVD contains the largest cache of previously unreleased Beatles material since the release of the Beatles "Anthology" nearly 10 years ago.

Lewis says, "You get this DVD, you get the 20 performances of the Beatles live at the absolutely fantastic period. It's just heaven for Beatles fans and everyone else.

The Early Show showed some of those performances on Wednesday.

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