The Beatles

The Beatles • The Ed Sullivan Show • February 8, 1964 • No. 2


CBS Studio 50, Broadway and West 53rd Street, New York, NY

Post-rehearsal photo op, CBS' The Ed Sullivan Show, Saturday, February 8, 1964

Left to right: Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, John Lennon

"Now yesterday and today, our theater's been jammed with newspapermen and hundreds of photographers from all over the nation, and these veterans agreed with me that this city never has witnessed the excitement stirred by these youngsters from Liverpool who call themselves The Beatles. Now tonight, you're gonna twice be entertained by them. Right now, and again in the second half of our show. 

Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles! Let's bring them on."  Ed Sullivan, February 9, 1964

*Prints of this image are currently available in three sizes on matte Hahnemühle Museum Etching 350gsm Deckle Edge paper.



The Story

When The Beatles landed at New York's JFK on February 7, few people knew George Harrison was battling a severe case of strep throat and a temperature of 104. Beatles manager Brian Epstein immediately consulted The Plaza Hotel's house doctor, Dr. Jules Gordon, upon the group's arrival. According to Harrison's sister, Louise, after examining Harrison, Dr. Gordon said: "We need to put this guy in the hospital. He's really very ill."

"At that point, Brian Epstein is ready to have a heart attack. He said, 'We can't let anyone know there's anything wrong.'"

Epstein franticly rejects Gordon's follow-up recommendation of getting a nurse for Harrison, declaring, "No, no, no. We don't need anybody!" Gordon then enlisted the help of Louise when he learned of her presence, "Suddenly, I became Florence Nightingale, and I moved into the room with George and looked after him."

Dr. Gordon tasked Louise to ensure that her brother received regular, prescribed medication up to the all-important Sullivan broadcast. While Gordon confined Harrison to his room at The Plaza, the remaining Beatles ('Threetles') proceeded with rehearsals on Friday and Saturday afternoons and a Saturday morning photo op with the press in Central Park.

But by late Saturday afternoon, Sullivan's studio placed an urgent call to The Plaza requesting Harrison's presence for a further photo op following the day's rehearsal.

"(Dr. Gordon) told me, 'OK, but don't stay there any more than an hour because you risk him not being able to stand on his feet tomorrow (for the live performance).'"

Epstein informed Sullivan of Dr. Gordon's strict orders. Sullivan replied by donning a Beatle wig while threatening to become a 4th Beatle if Harrison didn't show up the next day. Within an hour of their arrival, Harrison and Louise returned to The Plaza. Photographer Eve Bowen captured our February 8 images during this brief, 60-minute window.

As Harrison returned to bedrest, John, Paul, and Ringo (along with their producer George Martin) were treated to dinner at New York's legendary 21 Club by representatives of Capitol Records.

The Beatles had a 9:30 am call on Sunday morning for additional camera rehearsals, makeup at 2:00 pm, and a 2:30 taping of three songs ('Twist and Shout,' 'Please Please Me,' and 'I Want to Hold Your Hand') before a live audience for their February 23 Sullivan appearance. By the time of the live 8:00 pm broadcast, Harrison's temperature had gone down — to 102.

"He was swaying on his feet, trying to stand up and sing and everything. A lot of people have asked me over the years if it was exciting. But I don't really remember if it was exciting or not. I was too busy worrying about George. I was so concentrating on hoping he could make it."

"One of the reasons George immediately got a reputation as 'the quiet Beatle' is because he didn't feel like talking much since he was sick." — Louise Harrison, February 6, 2014, New York Post.

Photo by Eve Bowen

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