On Feb 18th, 1964, it had just been 11 days that the Beatles had arrived in America, and they had already taken the nation by a storm. With their number one record on the charts, they became the inspiration and the milestone that several others were chasing and catching up to. They happened to appear in the Ed Sullivan show in front of the 73 million awestruck and curious fans. The television broadcast became the highest-rated and received the highest PR in the history up to that point in time. After that, they had a brief party in the Big Apple followed by a concert in Washington D.C. and another two extraordinary concerts at the legendary Carnegie Hall.
The Beatles wish to meet Sonny Liston
The boys of the Beatles were in Florida sunbathing and relaxing after their second appearance in the Ed Sullivan show. There the boys requested to meet the world’s heavyweight champion, Sonny Liston. To which Liston replied in an instant that he had no desire to meet with the band and referring them “the bums.”
But interestingly enough on Feb 16th when the band put up with the second appearance at the Ed Sullivan show Liston was present in the crowd. But he is not exactly ‘fan’ of the band he calls them ‘sissies’ and referring to his dog Ringo he further exclaims that he could play better drums than this guy.
Following the incident, they had to settle for the second-best and meet with the challenger of Liston, a 22-year old Cassius Clay. In the coming week on Feb 25th, Clay and Liston had a heavyweight championship scheduled, and it was also George Harrison’s 21st birthday.
While they casually marched in the Fifth Street gym, Clay was cordial to them at first, and later on, when they were posing for the pictures, it was really fun. Clay was ordering them different poses, and it was all taken in good humor. Clay also posed over the Beatles when the Fab Four lay on the ground fat praying to the to-be legend.
When the Fab four was about to leave, Clay picked up Ringo and swarmed him in the air slightly and then catching. He also recited a trademark poem and wished all of them good luck. On the surface, everything looked great, and perfect in this meeting, deep inside a real change was coming through.
Harry Benson, the famed photographer, later explained that the boys thought they were going to meet some dumb boxer and were caught off guard by the glibness of Clay. Harry was the one who had arranged the meeting. The fab four were stunned by the meeting and glad that someone else had taken over. The Beatles also did not speak to Benson for several days to arrange the meeting with Clay. They thought that Clay had made a fool of them. But looking back at the glorious black and whites snapped off this legendary encounter, one can just see smiling faces all around.
Although after the victory from the tournament, Clay announced his new name to the world, Muhammad Ali.