By Christopher Scapelliti
As milestones go, the 50-year mark is a pretty big one.
So as the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first performance on The Ed Sullivan Show approached in 2014, organizers put together a celebration to herald the moment that presented the Beatles to America.
Called The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles, the tribute was a celebration of both the Beatles’ impact on music and their debut appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. The tribute was filmed on January 27, 2014 at the Los Angeles Convention Center and first broadcast on February 9, 2014, 50 years to the day the Beatles first appeared on Sullivan’s show.
Featuring a house band that included Steve Lukather and Peter Frampton on guitars and Don Was on bass, the show offered musical tributes from Stevie Wonder, Maroon 5, John Mayer and Keith Urban, as well as performances from former Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. The broadcast also featured clips of the Beatles performing on The Ed Sullivan Show and an interview with McCartney and Starr by David Letterman in Studio 50, the Ed Sullivan Theater.
The standout moment for many was the evening’s performance of the George Harrison song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which featured Joe Walsh and Gary Clark Jr. on guitars and Dave Grohl on drums. Both Walsh and Clark turn in some fiery guitar work, while Grohl rocks the drum kit as if he’s playing a Nirvana tribute. (Mute the sound and you just might think he is.)
We invite you to compare and contrast this performance with one that is arguably more famous: the 2004 performance of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” performed for Harrison’s posthumous 2004 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That performance includes appearances by Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood and Harrison’s son Dhani, as well as—most notably—a blistering extended solo from Prince. See which you prefer.