This is an excerpt from TV Guide Magazine’s The Beatles on TV Special Collector’s Edition, available for order online now at BeatlesonTV.com and for purchase on newsstands nationwide.
Grammy Award–winning musician Billy Joel: [After seeing the Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964] That one performance changed my life.… I’d never considered playing rock [music] as a career. And when I saw four guys who didn’t look like they’d come out of the Hollywood star mill…and especially because you could see this look in John Lennon’s face — and he looked like he was always saying, “F— you!” I said, “I know these guys, I can relate to these guys, I am these guys. This is what I’m going to do — play in a rock band.”
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Sting, lead singer, the Police: The Beatles were formative in my upbringing, my education. They came from a very similar background: the industrial towns in England, working class. They wrote their own songs, conquered the world. That was the blueprint for lots of other British kids to try to do the same.
Singer-songwriter Bob Dylan: We were driving through Colorado, we had the radio on, and eight of the Top 10 songs were Beatles songs…“I Want to Hold Your Hand,” all those early ones. They were doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were outrageous, just outrageous, and their harmonies made it all valid.… I knew they were pointing the direction of where music had to go.
Gene Simmons, co-lead singer, Kiss: There is no way I’d be doing what I do now if it wasn’t for the Beatles. I was watching The Ed Sullivan Show and I saw them. Those skinny little boys, kind of androgynous, with long hair like girls. It blew me away that these four boys [from] the middle of nowhere could make that music. The Beatles were a band, of course, and I loved their music. But they were also a cultural force that made it OK to be different.
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Country singer-songwriter Emmylou Harris: I fell in love with the Beatles along with everyone else, shortly after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. In America, it was like the end of innocence — a terrible, horrifying thing. There was a blackness, a cloud over everyone. So, when the Beatles came along with their great haircuts and joyful music, it was like the clouds parted, the sun came out and it was all right to be happy and feel innocence again.
Richie Sambora, lead guitarist, Bon Jovi: One of my earliest memories was sitting cross-legged on the floor in the living room of the house I grew up in and looking up at the black-and-white TV set and watching the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. I was 5 years old, and I remember thinking, “Wow! That’s what I want to do.” I know it sounds absurd — most 5-year-old boys want to be firemen or policemen or baseball players or even the president. Not me. I wanted to be one of the Beatles.
Peter Jackson (The Beatles: Get Back and Lord of the Rings director): The Beatles once approached [director] Stanley Kubrick to do The Lord of the Rings before [author J.R.R.] Tolkien sold the rights. I actually spoke about this with Paul McCartney. He confirmed it. I’d heard rumors that it was going to be their next film after Help! John Lennon was going to play Gollum, Paul was going to play Frodo, George was going to play Gandalf, and Ringo was going to play Sam. Paul was very gracious. He said, “It was a good job we never made ours because then you wouldn’t have made yours, and it was great to see yours.”
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Pop star Lady Gaga: When I wrote The Fame, I listened to…Abbey Road obsessively. I had it on repeat for…about six months. It’s so incredibly brilliant — an innate sense of joy. They really had that down. It’s full of joy with [hat tips] to the melancholy.
Dave Grohl, Nirvana, Foo Fighters: The Beatles were the first band I fell in love with.… When I started learning guitar, my mother gave me a chord book with all of the Beatles’ songs in it. And I’d play along with the album. In the music, I started to discover arrangement and composition, melody, and harmony. It was like a puzzle, just fascinating.
Ben Kingsley (Gandhi, Iron Man) on documentary Beatles Stories, 2011: [The Fab Four saw Kingsley perform in the 1966 musical A Smashing Day, directed by Beatles manager Brian Epstein.] Fortunately, I was not aware they were in the audience. It would have been paralyzing. The Beatles were my contemporaries, and we worshipped them when I was a young actor. I remember John saying, “You did the best you could with guitar and mouth organ.” … What praise! … That’s, you know, engraved in my heart.
Apple founder Steve Jobs on 60 Minutes, 2003: My model for business is the Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other, and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. Great things in business are never done by one person; they are done by a team of people.
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Henry Winkler (Happy Days, Barry) to TV Guide Magazine’s West Coast Bureau Chief Jim Halterman, 2021: One of my prized possessions is a picture with John Lennon and his son Julian on the set of Happy Days before ABC let me wear leather. Years after meeting John and Julian on the set, Julian had a hit song that was on the show Solid Gold. There was a knock on my office door on the Paramount lot and it was a 19- or 20-year-old Julian, who said, “I don’t know if you’ll remember me.” I said, “I will never forget you.”
Emma Stone (La La Land) on The Late Show With David Letterman, October 14, 2010: [My mom’s] favorite song is “Blackbird” by Paul McCartney, and it’s my favorite song as well. And she just went through a pretty crazy two years. Two years ago tomorrow, she got diagnosed with breast cancer. And she’s out of the woods now, which is amazing. I wrote a letter to Paul McCartney asking him if he would draw two little bird feet, because he wrote the song, and yesterday he sent them to me. He’s drawn little bird feet — blackbird feet — and so I’m getting a tattoo right there and she’s getting one too. Custom tattoos designed by Paul McCartney! Isn’t that wild?
Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour, Mank) to The Big Issue, January 23, 2018: My happiest memory is the night my sister Jackie took me on the 36 bus to the Odeon. We went to see [The Beatles’ 1964 feature film debut] A Hard Day’s Night. I remember clearly waiting in line, then sitting in the audience in that lovely old cinema singing along to all the Beatles songs.… At one point, Jackie had to shush me because I was singing so loudly.… I was 6. And I didn’t have a care in the world.
Katey Sagal (Rebel) on The Queen Latifah Show, December 9, 2013: There was this garden party in the west side of Los Angeles when I was 12 years old. My best friend and I found out the Beatles were going to be there. So, we snuck down there, and I guess a lot of other people found out too. Before I knew it, they roped it off, and we were all pushed against this line. I was screaming and I had to be escorted home by the police. And I was on the news that night. I was, like, too hysterical. They said, “This kid is in trouble. We’re taking her home.”
Joe Walsh, guitarist, the Eagles: I remember being in high school watching television when I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. I was shaking my head yes, and my parents were shaking their heads no.
Tom Petty to MusicRadar, September 11, 2009: Most magic is a trick, an illusion. But [when the Beatles played The Ed Sullivan Show, that] was real.… You just knew it, sitting in your living room, that everything around you was changing. It was like going from black-and-white to color. I remember earlier that day, a kid on a bike passed me and said, “Hey, the Beatles are on TV tonight.” I didn’t know him, he didn’t know me, and I thought to myself, “This means something.”
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“Little Steven” Van Zandt, E Street Band, The Sopranos: The Beatles and the British Invasion brought over the band. We didn’t have bands. I know this is hard to imagine, but we had individuals, you know, and then vocal groups: doo-wop groups. We just didn’t have that many bands that played and sang. That was a completely different communication to me. This was, like, all about friendship and family and the posse, the gang, the team, and it communicated community, which really hit me.
Oprah Winfrey on The Oprah Winfrey Show, November 24, 1997: I loved me some Paul! … I used to always think, “He should marry me!” But he married Linda instead. He married Linda. But I always knew if he just had met me and known me, he would have wanted to marry me!
Instrumentalist Todd Rundgren: Once you saw A Hard Day’s Night, the lifestyle part of [being in a band like the Beatles] kicked in, like girls chasing you around. Then there were suddenly other reasons for being in a band.
Chrissie Hynde, lead singer and guitarist, the Pretenders: I remember exactly where I was sitting [for The Ed Sullivan Show]. It was amazing. It was like the axis shifted.… It was kind of like an alien invasion.
Sigourney Weaver (Alien) on The Jonathan Ross Show, February 18, 2015: We were all in love with the Beatles. I went to the Hollywood Bowl when I was 12. My parents had just moved to California. I didn’t know anyone, but I thought, “I have to go.” … And I was surrounded by all these girls crying and screaming like the Trojan women. And I didn’t know anyone, so every now and then I would go, “John!” because I didn’t want to not be a screamer, but I couldn’t really take it that seriously.
Mike Myers (Austin Powers) on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, October 31, 2018: All I ever wanted was to just have a sense that the Beatles knew I existed.… I was doing Austin Powers 3, and we’re doing that fake start and it’s like Tom Cruise, Gwyneth Paltrow, Danny DeVito, [even] Steven Spielberg is in it! And I see George Harrison has died. I thought, “This is the worst day of my life.” … We shoot the scene, get a knock on the door, and at the end of it, it’s [security expert] Gavin de Becker, and he says, “Here, this is the last letter George Harrison ever wrote — to you.” … That letter, it burned in my hands. It’s now in a frame in my house like the Constitution. Then I was told by Gavin that when he was in meetings…[George] had lost his voice because he was ill. He had a Dr. Evil doll and he’d pull the cord, and [the doll would] say, “Why must I be surrounded by frickin’ idiots?”
The Beatles: Get Back, Documentary Premiere, November 25–27, Disney+