In early November 1963, Brian Epstein's persuaded Ed Sullivan to commit to presenting The Beatles on three editions of his show in February, and parlayed this guaranteed exposure into a record deal with Capitol Records. Capitol committed to a mid-January release for I Want To Hold Your Hand,  A series of unplanned circumstances triggered premature airplay of an imported copy of the single on a Washington DC radio station in mid-December. Capitol brought forward release of the record to December 26, 1963.
Several New York radio stations - first WMCA, then WINS and WABC - began playing I Want to Hold Your Hand on its release day, and the Beatlemania that had started in Washington was duplicated in New York and quickly spread to other markets. The record sold one million copies in just 10 days, and by January 16, Cashbox Magazine had certified The Beatles record #1 (in the edition published with the cover-date January 23).
This contributed to the hysterical fan reaction at JFK Airport on February 7, 1964. A record-breaking 73 million viewers — approximately 40% of the US population at the time — tuned in to the first Sullivan appearance on February 9. During the week of April 4, The Beatles held the top five places on the Billboard Hot 100, a feat that has never been repeated.
In mid-1964 the band undertook their first appearances outside of Europe and North America, touring Australia and New Zealand. When they arrived in Adelaide, The Beatles were greeted by what is reputed to be the largest crowd of their touring career, when over 300,000 people — about one-third of the population of the city — turned out to see them. In September of that year, baseball owner Charles O. Finley paid the band the unheard of sum of $150,000 to play in Kansas City, Missouri.
In 1965, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II bestowed upon them the MBE, a civic honour nominated by Prime Minister Harold Wilson. The award, at that time primarily given to military veterans and civic leaders, sparked some conservative MBE recipients to return their awards in protest.
On August 15 of that year, The Beatles performed the first stadium concert in modern rock, playing at Shea Stadium in New York to a crowd of 55,600.  . The band later admitted that they had been totally unable to hear themselves play or sing, due to the intense level of audience screaming and cheering. Indeed, they found the experience so creatively soul-destroying that this concert is often marked as the point at which their disenchantment with performing live began.