The Peculiar Truth about Rock Bands on The Ed Sullivan Show
- The Ed Sullivan Show was famous for introducing rock and roll performers to American television audiences, most notably Elvis Presley and the Beatles.
- But not all musicians were thrilled with Ed Sullivan. His show and network had a reputation for censorship.
- May 1963: Bob Dylan was all set to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show to promote his second album.
- He had rehearsed a tune — Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues — and got approval from Sullivan to play it on the show.
- A network executive said the song was too political and asked him to play something else.
- Dylan refused and walked away before airtime.
- As a result, Dylan got even more publicity than he might’ve received by appearing on the show.
- Dylan was never invited back.
- The Ed Sullivan Show’s producer made a similar request with the Doors.
- He asked that the words in Light My Fire be changed from “Girl we couldn’t get much higher” to “Girl we couldn’t get much better.”
- The Doors refused but didn’t cancel their appearance.
- Morrison sang the original lyrics on television, and the Doors were banished from the Ed Sullivan Show.
- By contrast, The Rolling Stones appeared on Sullivan’s highly influential Sunday night program six times.
- For their fifth appearance in 1967, the band was asked to change their provocative lyrics.
- The bad boys of rock and roll reluctantly agreed.
- Instead of “let’s spend the night together,” Jagger sang “let’s spend some time together.”
- The Stones made only one more Sullivan appearance after that in 1969.
Dan is the author of over a dozen novels. His latest is Tight Five.