The Beatles Perform ‘Paperback Writer’ On ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ On This Date In 1966


In 1966 The Beatles had experienced four long years of Beatlemania. While many aspiring rock stars dream of being that famous, it took its toll on the Fab Four. Their infamous 1966 world tour would be their last culminating in a show at San Francisco’s legendary Candlestick Park on August 29.

But at the beginning of that summer, the band’s old friend Ed Sullivan came calling wanting The Beatles to perform where American Beatlemania had all started in early 1964, The Ed Sullivan Show. Already feeling burned out, The Beatles decided to send promotional videos of them performing their new singles “Paperback Writer and “Rain” instead of being there physically. It was a bold move and heralded the MTV revolution that would take place 15 years later, as George Harrison remarked in The Beatles Anthology documentary:

The idea was that we’d use them in America as well as the UK, because we thought, ‘We can’t go everywhere. We’re stopping touring and we’ll send these films out to promote the record.’ It was too much trouble to go and fight our way through all the screaming hordes of people to mime the latest single on Ready, Steady, Go!. Also, in America, they never saw the footage anyway.

Once we actually went on an Ed Sullivan show with just a clip. I think Ed Sullivan came on and said, ‘The Beatles were here, as you know, and they were wonderful boys, but they can’t be here now so they’ve sent us this clip.’ It was great, because really we conned the Sullivan show into promoting our new single by sending in the film clip. These days obviously everybody does that – it’s part of the promotion for a single – so I suppose in a way we invented MTV.


Today marks 54 years since The Beatles debuted the promotional performance film for “Paperback Writer” on The Ed Sullivan Show along with a greeting from the band. Watch both below via Beatles Random Facts:


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