Fifty years of Beatlemania

Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, are pictured in New York ahead of the Ed Sullivan Show Photo: PA

It was the key moment in the Beatles career.

Fifty years ago today John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr performed live on America's must-see TV hit, the Ed Sullivan Show and Beatlemania swept from coast to coast.

Not only were they conquering one of the biggest markets in the world, but they were in the land where rock'n'roll had originated, which had produced the records which inspired them and more importantly they were selling it back.

They were also pioneers for other UK acts who took the US by storm over the coming weeks, dominating the charts over the course of the next two years with acts such as The Animals, The Dave Clark Five and of course The Rolling Stones among those to make inroads in the British invasion.

The groundwork for the visit had begun months earlier when presenter Ed Sullivan had been passing through Heathrow Airport in October 1963 as the Beatles were due to land from a Swedish visit and he spotted a huge gathering of fans on the roof of the Queen's Building.

By that stage the group had already achieved three UK number ones with Please Please Me, From Me To You and She Loves You.

Sullivan once recalled: "There was the biggest crowd I've ever seen in my life. I asked someone what was going on and he said 'The Beatles'. 'Who the hell are The Beatles?' I asked. But I went back to my hotel, got the name of their manager and arranged for them to do three shows'.

Within a fortnight the group's manager Brian Epstein had headed to New York to seal the deal with Sullivan, accepting 10,000 US dollars for the trio of performances.

Although it was a bargain - the going rate was 7,500 US dollars per appearance - Sullivan later admitted he was nervous because they were still virtual unknowns in his country.

Luckily just days before their US arrival, American audiences had caught up and The Beatles had scored their first number one with I Want To Hold Your Hand, almost 11 months after their first UK chart-topper.

The programme had received 50,000 tickets applications for the 728 seats in the theatre.

The group took the stage at Studio 50 on West 53rd Street to play the first of the Sullivan programmes, with the show's host announcing: "Our city - indeed the country - has never seen anything like these four young men from Liverpool. Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles ..."

In two chunks weighing in at 13 and a half minutes, they played All My Loving,'Till There Was You, She Loves You, I Saw Her Standing There and I Want To Hold Your Hand.

A record audience of what was said to be 73 million people shared the moment - and life would never be the same again.