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Rock Flashback: The Beatles at the London Palladium

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PETER SKINGLEY/AFP/Getty Images

PETER SKINGLEY/AFP/Getty Images

In the United States, Beatlemania exploded on February 9, 1964, the night the band played to an enthralled audience of millions on The Ed Sullivan Show, a Sunday-night TV variety show. In the UK, a similar explosion occurred on October 13, 1963.

What Sullivan was in the States, Sunday Night at the London Palladium was in Britain. The show ran on the ITV channel from 1955 to 1967 from a theater in London’s West End. Like Sullivan, the show drew huge audiences on the biggest TV night of the week. It’s estimated that 15 million Britons watched the night [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]the Beatles[/lastfm] appeared — oddly enough, not the biggest audience in the show’s history. That had come in 1960 when [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Cliff Richard[/lastfm] and [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]the Shadows[/lastfm] appeared.

The Beatles opened the hour-long broadcast playing “From Me to You,” “I’ll Get You,” and “She Loves You.” The audience then waited through performances by American singer [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Brook Benton[/lastfm] and British singer/comedian Des O’Connor before the Beatles returned at the end to perform “Twist and Shout.” The rapturous response of the audience inside the theater and fans outside led ITV to cover the performance as a news story, but so did other British media — the Beatles and their fans were front-page news on the morning after, throughout the empire.

The band’s popularity had been climbing steadily in Britain throughout 1963, but the London Palladium show catapulted them to megastar status. There’s nothing from the show available at YouTube, although video of the performance does exist. Here’s “Twist and Shout,” as performed at the theater three weeks later during a Royal Command Performance, introduced by [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]John Lennon[/lastfm] with a famous wisecrack.

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