Ed Sullivan Show’s Music Exec, Robert Arthur, Dies

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Robert Arthur with Ed Sullivan (Photo: Robert Arthur archives via Colgate Scene)

Robert Arthur, the music coordinator for The Ed Sullivan Show, and was intimately involved with well known performances by The Beatles and the Rolling Stones on the program, has died. His death on Jan. 21 was reported today (Jan. 27) by The Hollywood Reporter. Arthur’s widow, Jeanne, revealed the news of the 89-year-old’s passing at his Los Angeles home.

When the Stones were booked to perform on Sullivan on January 15, 1967, to sing “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” the CBS censors insisted that the lyric be changed. It was Arthur, a songwriter, who famously came up with the substitution of “time” for “night.”

As reported in the Colgate Scene, the quarterly publication of his alma mater (Class of ’49): “The Stones would sing ‘Let’s Spend Some Time Together,’ words that were similar enough to be barely noticed by the screaming audience. ‘The Stones wanted to capture America and it wouldn’t help them to challenge CBS, so it was a solution that made everyone happy,’ said Arthur.”

The change elicited an eye-roll from Jagger when he sang the revised lyric.

Related: The Stones spend some “time” on Sullivan

Three years earlier, while prepping for The Beatles’ first Sullivan appearance on February 9, 1964, Arthur recognized that the group’s vocals wouldn’t be heard over the audience’s screaming.

“It soon became clear that with boom mikes we weren’t going to hear any of the Beatles singing,” Arthur told the Colgate Scene in 2014. He told his boss that they’d have to place microphones in front of the musical guests — an idea that Sullivan “didn’t take to kindly.”

“He finally relented after the technical people backed me up, and we used stand mikes,” Arthur said. “And that’s how America heard the words to ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand.’”

Watch The Beatles’ performance

That performance was seen by 73 million television viewers.

Arthur was born on May 10, 1928 in the New York City borough of Queens. After graduating from Colgate, he worked as an accompanist, conductor and arranger. After serving in the Korean War as a bayonet instructor, he ended up working for the Sullivan Show precursor Toast of the Town. He continued with Sullivan until the program ended in 1971.

Arthur moved to Los Angeles and worked with Dick Clark Productions on the American Music Awards and then many other music awards shows.

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  1. Ed Sullivan
    #1 Ed Sullivan 30 January, 2018, 12:34

    Doubtful that it was “his” idea to use floor stands. The Beatles had always used them, but it may have seemed like a radical idea at the time, because the U.S. was far behind the Europeans in sound technology.

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  2. Nick
    #2 Nick 3 February, 2018, 18:24

    nice

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