The Beatles’ appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” was “the pop culture equivalent of the Big Bang,” The Times’ Randy Lewis writes. 

Fifty years ago Sunday [today], the Beatles made their U.S. live television debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show” as 73 million people tuned in, the largest audience in history at that time. The English band’s appearance ignited American hysteria over the group and its music on a scale unmatched to this day.

In the shorthand of history, it appears to be a moment of spontaneous combustion. In reality it was the result of musical talent, managerial chutzpah and marketing genius.

But at the time, not even John, Paul, George or Ringo were fully aware of what was to come.

Read Lewis’ full article: Beatles’ road to rock history started before ‘Ed Sullivan Show’

And if it wasn’t clear to the Fab Four, it certainly wasn’t clear to the day’s music critics. The Times’ Cary Schneider has a fun roundup of contemporary criticism of the Beatles (and, boy, was it critical).

An example from the Los Angeles Times, Feb. 11, 1964:

With their bizarre shrubbery, the Beatles are obviously a press agent’s dream combo. Not even their mothers would claim that they sing well. But the hirsute thickets they affect make them rememberable, and they project a certain kittenish charm which drives the immature, shall we say, ape.

From the Washington Post, Feb. 13, 1964:

Just thinking about the Beatles seems to induce mental disturbance. They have a commonplace, rather dull act that hardly seems to merit mentioning, yet people hereabouts have mentioned scarcely anything else for a couple of days.

And William F. Buckley Jr., in the Boston Globe, takes the cake for hyperbole, Sept. 13, 1964:

The Beatles are not merely awful; I would consider it sacrilegious to say anything less than that they are god awful. They are so unbelievably horribly, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art that they qualify as crowned heads of anti-music, even as the imposter popes went down in history as “anti-popes.”

Read the rest: What the critics wrote about the Beatles in 1964

And share your memories about Beatlemania: Readers remember Beatlemania, 50 years later

Matt Ballinger

Photo, published Aug. 26, 1964: The Beatles — from left, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and John Lennon — relax on lawn of their rented Bel-Air mansion. They were enjoying their first “holiday” in weeks. Credit: Larry Sharkey / Los Angeles Times