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The Beatles’ career was full of major milestones so for any of the Fab Four to name one as the biggest must be monumental. That’s exactly what Beatles drummer Ringo Starr did, though. Starr continues to have a solo career decades after The Beatles disbanded, but this Beatles moment remains on top.

The Beatles: Ringo Starr, George Harrison and John Lennon watch Paul McCartney hold a balloon
L-R: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison | Mark and Colleen Hayward/Redferns

Starr was a guest on the Broken Record with Rick Rubin podcast on Sept. 21, 2021 to promote his pandemic EP Zoom In. The drummer pinpointed the biggest moment in his life. 

Ringo Starr: ‘There was no bigger moment’ than The Beatles arriving in New York for ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’

The British Invasion kicked off proper when The Beatles played The Ed Sullivan Show in February of 1964. Beatlemania was already kicking off in Europe with their first album, but New York took The Beatles to the next level. 

“When we landed in New York, there was no bigger moment in my life than that,” Starr said on Broken Record. “We’re actually in America, all the music we love is from America and America is big. Talk about coincidences, we got off the plane from Sweden at Heathrow. Ed Sullivan got off a plane from New York, didn’t know anything about us. We didn’t know him either and he sort of booked us.”

The Beatles U.S. tour didn’t just happen organically 

Starr credited Beatles manager Brian Epstein with orchestrating that monumental moment for them. Epstein was working hard behind the scenes to prime America for The Beatles. By the time The Beatles played Ed Sullivan, Epstein made sure Americans knew the songs.

“But on the way to that show, Brian had gone to Capitol [Records] that he wanted more promotion and we landed with a No. 1,” Starr said. “You can’t work that out. We landed with a number one thanks to Murray the K and all those DJs. Far out because we were worried.”

Ringo Starr was prepared to bomb in the U.S. 

The Beatles never expected to become a worldwide phenomenon. Prior to Epstein’s plan, George Harrison visited the U.S. There was a palpable difference before and after 1964.

“You must have heard the story that George, his sister lived in America and he went on holiday,” Starr said. “So he’d be going around the record stores, ‘Have you got the Beatles record?’ ‘Never heard of them.’ I think we were on the Swan [Records] label then and he came back and said, ‘Oh, they don’t know us there.’ We were used to it now, Spain, Denmark, Holland, wherever we played it was crowded. He said, ‘They don’t know us’ and we were a bit worried but anyway, we’re going to America and that’s what we did.’”