- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 25, 2000

NEW YORK Feb. 9, 1964. A British band from Liverpool takes "The Ed Sullivan Show" stage and sends waves of teen-agers into screaming convulsions across America, bewildering millions of parents.

What's rock 'n' roll's biggest TV moment?

A new top 100 list from VH1 and Entertainment Weekly magazine says that was it the day Beatlemania hit the States and stayed.

The Beatles' U.S. debut even topped Elvis Presley's 1968 comeback.

An estimated 73 million people were watching that night in 1964 about three times the audience of an episode of this summer's TV blockbuster "Survivor." John Lennon was so nervous he taped song lyrics to the back of his guitar.

As Ringo Starr explained, the band didn't realize until it arrived in America how important Mr. Sullivan's Sunday night showcase was.

For a generation of rock 'n' rollers, that was the moment when they knew they wanted to be stars. "I remember thinking, 'This can be done. I can do that,' " singer Billy Joel says.

Presley's comeback special four years later, his return to radio after years of B movies, was No. 2 and was deemed more important than his 1956 debut. The 1968 return at least showed those swiveling hips; in 1956, the camera only shot him from the waist up.

Several selections were more important as historical movements than memorable moments, such as the premieres of MTV, "Saturday Night Live" and "American Bandstand."

Other moments in VH1's top 10 included Michael Jackson's first moonwalk on the 1983 "Motown 25" special, the Live Aid telecast in 1985, Madonna's "Like a Virgin" performance on the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards and the Who's appearance on "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" in 1967.

The most bizarre selection: No. 17, the man who crashed Bob Dylan's 1998 Grammy Awards performance with "Soy Bomb" written on his bare chest.

The most recent: Ricky Martin's performance at the 1999 Grammy Awards, one of 28 events from the 1990s.

The list also includes three performances of the national anthem: by Marvin Gaye at the 1982 NBA All-Star Game in Detroit, by Whitney Houston at the 1991 Super Bowl and by a crotch-grabbing Roseanne at a 1990 San Diego Padres game.

The Beatles made the list seven times; Madonna and Michael Jackson are both on it five times.

VH1 plans to air selections from the list in a series of five one-hour specials on VH1 starting Monday.

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