Paul McCartney plays outdoor show on the Ed Sullivan Theater

Forty-five years after The Beatles’ triumphant appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, Sir Paul McCartney performed an outdoor show above the studio’s marquee for thousands of fans.

The performance took place after McCartney’s first appearance on CBS’s Late Show With David Letterman, which is filmed at the Ed Sullivan Theater. The Beatles’ historic first show at the studio took place on 9 February 1964.

During the Letterman interview McCartney discussed The Beatles, his friendship with Michael Jackson, and reminisced about performing on the Ed Sullivan Show.

You know, I was just thinking today when we first came here, we’d never seen this kind of thing. TV studios in England were kind of all on one floor, the makeup was next door to this… But here, it’s like an apartment block, you know, you go to makeup and you take an elevator five floors, then you go to wardrobe and you come here. But, yeah, just the memory of being here is great. It was kind of scary the first time.

He also recalled waiting to sing ‘Yesterday’ solo on the show in 1965.

The audience was out there, and we were kind of very new to America – loving it, but a little bit scared, and I had to do Yesterday, my song, on my own, and I’d never done this, I’d always had the band with me, but suddenly they said, ‘You’re doing ‘Yesterday’,’ so I said, ‘OK’. So I was standing there – ‘come on, get it together, it’s OK’ – and the floor manager, the guy on the curtain, came up to me and said, ‘You nervous?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘You should be, there’s 73 million people watching.’

They discussed the history of The Beatles, in Liverpool and Hamburg, then McCartney spoke about the Paul Is Dead rumours which began in 1969.

What happened was we did a cover for a record called Abbey Road, and the idea was to walk across the crossing and I showed up that day with sandals, flip-flops and so it was so hot that I kicked them off and walked across barefooted. So this started some rumour that because he was barefooted, he’s dead. I couldn’t see the connection myself.

I just laughed at it and knew it was just because of the fame and the craziness. It was American DJs, so you guys are to blame. Not you personally, but no, the thing is you know, I just laughed it off, but it was a little bit strange ’cause people did start looking at me like, ‘Is it, is it him or a very good double?’

McCartney was then asked about his working relationship with Michael Jackson.

It was great, you know, we had a great time. It was Christmas and I was at home and my phone rang and, you know, a little voice talked to me and I said, ‘Who’s this?’, you know, kind of guarding my privacy, private number. I said, ‘Who’s this?’ ‘It’s Michael.’ ‘Michael who?’ because I thought it was, you know, a little bit sort of dodgy, but anyway, he said ‘Michael Jackson’ and he said, ‘You want to make some hits?’ So I said, ‘Yeah, sure,’ so, you know, being of the hitmaking variety.

So we did, and it was really nice. You know, he came to my house and we got to know the family and stuff, and he had a great guy who used to come with him, a guy called Billy, so it was very nice. We had a really good time. We made a couple of records together, did a video and were very good friends. It actually kind of fell apart a little bit later because he was talking to me and asking my business advice, and one of the things I said to him was, ‘Think about getting into music publishing.’ And he looked at me, and I thought he was joking, he said, ‘I’m going to get yours.’ So, you know, I kind of thought, ‘Oh, you!’ But it turned out to be true, which was, you know, that was cool, somebody had to get it, I suppose.

But, and what happened actually is then I started to ring him up, ’cause I thought, OK, here’s the guy historically placed to give Lennon-McCartney a good deal at last, because we’d got signed when we were 21 or something in a back alley in Liverpool and the deal had remained the same even though we made this company the most famous – hugely successful. So I kept thinking it was time for a raise, you know. Well, you would, you know? And, so it was great. But I did talk to him about it, but he kind of blanked me on it. He kept saying, ‘That’s just business, Paul, you know,’ so I went, ‘Yeah, it is,’ and waited for a reply. But we never kind of got to it and I thought, ‘Mmm,’ so we kind of drifted apart. It was no big bust-up. We kind of drifted apart after that. But he was a lovely man, massively talented and we miss him.

Following the interview McCartney and his band took to the marquee of the theatre, where he performed to crowds assembled on Broadway.

During the outdoor show he performed seven songs: ‘Get Back’, ‘Sing The Changes’, ‘Coming Up’, ‘Band On The Run’, ‘Let Me Roll It’, ‘Helter Skelter’/‘Purple Haze’, and ‘Back In The USSR’.

McCartney opens a US tour on Friday at Citi Field, the New York Mets stadium that opened this year. The team’s previous home, Shea Stadium, was also where the Beatles performed for a sold-out crowd of screaming fans in 1965.

Last updated: 6 June 2023
Paul McCartney live: Halifax Common, Nova Scotia, Canada
Paul McCartney live: Citi Field, New York City
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