Music & Fine Arts



Sid Bernstein's Infinite Gift - Bringing The Beatles To America


Sid Bernstein's infinite gift - bringing the Beatles to America, which led to their legendary performances at Carnegie Hall, on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and at Shea Stadium - arose from a vision that was unheard of in show business.

Sid's portentous call to Brian Epstein - the Beatles manager, who was handling all of their bookings himself - came early in 1963. For months, Sid had been following increasingly rapturous reports about the Beatles in an ever-expanding number and variety of British newspapers and music trade publications. What he saw unfolding made him bound and determined to be the first to present the Beatles in America. Sid credits "bashert" (destiny)  and running into his friend Bud Halliwell - who was working for Brian to get Beatles airplay in the U.S. - for getting Brian's number. Beatlemania had not yet broken open in England and the British Isles, leaving Brian at his mother's house in Liverpool and yet to establish a London office. Sid's search for a way to reach Brian had come to a happy and successful conclusion.

A brief, cordial chat with Brian's mother Queenie was followed by what Sid describes as "...the most important phone call of my professional life ..." Brian confirmed that Sid was, indeed, the first to call from the United States with an offer to present the Beatles. Sid offered a 2-show performance for the Beatles at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday,12 February,1964 (Lincoln's Birthday and a weekday school holiday in America) - well over a year into the future. In an industry where bookings of a month to 8 weeks in advance were the standard, Sid's visionary, daring leap went off the scale. Brian accepted Sid's extraordinary proposal, contingent upon airplay for the Beatles in America and 100% full houses.

Sid's tremendous insight - and Brian's excellent faith - set the stage for the greatest phenomenon in entertainment history, with a cultural / intellectual impact that ranks with the Renaissance in scope and significance.

Ed Sullivan - whose Sunday night variety show on CBS was the #1 programme in the nation - soon came to share and understand Sid's vision for the Beatles. Ed and his wife Sylvia were on their way back to New York from Europe when they encountered thousands of Beatles fans who had come to welcome their heroes back to England - at Heathrow Airport / London - from a Continental tour. Informed that the Beatles were England's foremost singing quartet (not a circus or animal act, as Ed had enquired), Ed called Brian upon returning to New York. Brian relayed the news of his arrangements with Sid for Carnegie Hall, to which Ed replied : "I know Sid. I'll talk to him."

Ed's call to Sid led to "The Ed Sullivan Show" booking the Beatles for successive Sunday nights - 9 Feb. and 16/2/1964 - on either side of Sid's presentation at Carnegie Hall on the 12th. Sid's description to Ed of the Beatles as "... a phenomenon - an absolute phenomenon." was more than sufficient for Ed Sullivan to open up all of America to the Beatles.

With national exposure - through Ed Sullivan - now assured, Sid describes events as progressing " ... at warp speed."  In December, 1963 (soon after the tragic loss of President Kennedy late in the previous month), Brian's pleas for airplay in the U.S. were answered. An American stewardess (flight attendant) brought a copy of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" back with her from England. When she dropped the record off with a deejay for a radio station in Washington, D.C., the response to his playing the Beatles single was so massive that the torrent of phone calls coming in burned out the station's switchboard. New York - the #1 radio market in the nation - was next. The Beatles were soon found everywhere on the radio dial. Capitol Records - who had steadfastly refused Brian's heartfelt requests for exposure and promotion in America - had to maintain all their pressing centres running around the clock to begin to keep up with the insatiable demand for Beatles records. The anticipation and excitement preceding the Beatles' arrival in America was exploding by the second.

Tickets for Sid's 2 shows at Carnegie Hall went on sale in late January, selling out so fast that the speed of sales set a record for the 74 year old cultural icon. People were calling Sid from all around the world - at every hour of the day and night - to ask for Beatles tickets.

Pandemonium barely begins to describe the atmosphere in New York as the Beatles arrived in America on 7 Feb.,1964 - 2 days before their first appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Thousands and thousands of weeping, screaming fans - and thousands of others who wanted to be a part of something very charming and new - greeted the Beatles at the newly-renamed John F. Kennedy Airport and surrounded the Plaza Hotel, where the Beatles, Brian and their entourage were staying in Manhattan.

Sid soaked up what he describes as the "party atmosphere" around The Plaza and felt that the Beatles would generate social, cultural and political change with their talent and ability to influence so many young people with such tremendous speed. After meeting Brian, he met the Beatles in their rooms, finding all 4 to be unique, charming and delightful young people. The reception at the hotel was on a huge scale, and Sid passed through before heading home.

The Beatles first appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" is considered to be the most monumentally important event in the history of show business. 73 million people saw the Beatles perform their greatest hits in a sensational live set. (Sid was there at the studio, with a ticket from Ed Sullivan's son in law.) The wave of change was instantaneous. Long hair, questioning authority and an orientation toward fun, freedom and heightened personal and social consciousness began to take root among millions of young people - and many others as well - throughout much of the world.

Sid's pair of shows at Carnegie Hall were a smashing success. Tickets for Beatles concerts were now measured in  multiples. The stunned staff at Carnegie Hall informed Sid that he and the Beatles could have sold out 100 dates / 200 shows at the Hall's 2,500 + capacity - over 500,000 seats. When Sid took Brian to see Madison Square Garden - as a possibility for a future Beatles concert - they were informed by Sid's friends there that the Beatles would easily sell out The Garden (about 15,000 seats) 50 times over - over 750,000 seats. The response to the Beatles had reached cosmic proportions.

Sid's next fantastic vision for the Beatles took form in October, 1964. Brian - by now fully serene with Sid's concepts - readily accepted Sid's proposal that the Beatles play at the brand-new Shea Stadium in Queens - 55,000 seats - the following summer. Sid had smooth sailing with New York City government agencies and administration, and sold every seat for the show by word of mouth. On August 15,1965 - a hot, sultry summer night in New York - Sid introduced Ed Sullivan and Ed introduced the Beatles. The Beatles - now worldwide icons, awarded the Order of the British Empire by the Queen, with their debut film, "A Hard Day's Night", having been been a surprise monster hit the previous summer and their new film, "HELP!", just released - wowed the screaming capacity crowd with a power-packed set. Sid had now crossed the threshold of tremendous crowds for musical events - setting the stage for an explosion of the music industry and - very soon - the Monterey Pop and Woodstock Festivals. Sid had met with Brian and the Beatles at the Warwick Hotel after they had arrived in New York and spent time with them backstage at Shea before they were whisked away at the end of their concert.

Sid's final formal presentation of the Beatles was an encore of a concert at Shea Stadium - 23/8/1966. The Beatles put on another powerhouse performance, but it was becoming obvious to the Beatles, Brian, Sid, many of the Beatles support staff and millions of fans that the days of touring were soon coming to an end. The Beatles were rapidly evolving into a studio band, with their level of talent and sophistication better suited for nuance and repose. Many of their devoted audience were heading in the same direction.

Sid had constantly worked to promote a universe of stars. He followed the Beatles sensation by presenting a wave of many important groups from the British Invasion in New York - including the Rolling Stones, the Moody Blues, the Kinks, the Dave Clark Five and Herman's Hermits. James Brown, Tony Bennett, Judy Garland, Stan Getz, Miles Davis, Pearl Bailey and Count Basie were all people Sid promoted and with whom he shared dear friendships. He passed on such towering talents as Muhammad Ali, Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond and Simon and Garfunkel. Sid remains dedicated - as he has been for years  - to the causes of peace, social and political progress, the environment and human rights.

Words alone could never adequately describe Sid Bernstein's accomplishment. To this day, Sid remains humble, delightfully humourous and quite amazed that people from all over the world continue to regard him as a man who singlehandedly transformed music, social and intellectual values and cultural awareness onto infinity. 













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'60's Wave

Which group best expresses the '60's Wave?
The Beatles
The Beatles
The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones

Total Votes: 83

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