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What It Was Like to Watch the Beatles Become the Beatles—Nik Cohn Remembers
On February 9, 1964, The Beatles walked onto the stage of the Ed Sullivan Show and changed rock history. Nik Cohn was around to watch their ascendancy, and he didn’t miss much.
“If the Beatles meant a lot in England, they meant very much more in America,” wrote Nik Cohn in his brisk, entertaining history of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Awopbopaloopbop Alopbamboom: Pop from the Beginning. “They changed everything. They happened at a time when American pop was bossed by trash, by dance crazes and slop ballads, and they let all of that bad air out. They were foreign, they talked strange. They played harsh, unsickly, and they weren’t phoney. Just as they’d done in England, they brought back reality.”
The Beatles, Great Britain’s Rock and Roll singing sensations, are shown during their first performance on the Ed Sullivan TV show, February 9th. (Bettmann/Corbis)