Thursday 5 November 2015


On Nov. 23, 1965, the Beatles entered Twickenham Film Studios, on the outskirts of London, for a marathon session. But the biggest band in the world wasn’t recording music — it was making promotional films for five of its singles.

Straight through until the early morning hours, George, John, Paul and Ringo Starr shot 10 different clips with the young television director Joe McGrath. The era’s standard format showcased a band miming a performance of its latest hit; the setups at Twickenham were more unusual. For “Help!,” the four Beatles sat single-file on a sawhorse and Mr. Starr held up an umbrella to protect them from fake snow. In “I Feel Fine,” Mr. Starr was riding a stationary bicycle. In another take for that song, Mr. Lennon lip-synced the lyrics in between bites of fish and chips.

“Back then, you did lots of TV and sometimes they would have a slightly bizarre set,” Mr. McCartney said in a recent telephone interview. “And there were lots of photo sessions where the photographer came up with strange ideas. We were used to being plonked in the middle of something, so you just got on with it. And we were happy when someone came up with a good idea, because you might get something unusual, and we appreciated that.”

Filming so many clips with diverse configurations at once was a novel idea. The Beatles had essentially created the modern music video machine. Now, eight of those clips — along with various live performances, footage captured in the studio and other promotional mini-movies — are included on the new video collection “1,” out Friday, Nov. 6, on Apple Corps Ltd./UMG. It remains to be seen how much of a market there is for a physical DVD release today, but conventional rules don’t seem to apply to Beatles projects; the set is a companion to the 2000 album that collected 27 of the group’s No. 1 singles, which went on to become the biggest-selling CD of the decade and continues to sell 1,000 copies a week.
The two-disc “1+” edition adds another 23 videos, encompassing the Beatles’ entire history, from their first single, “Love Me Do” (footage taken from a 1963 BBC-TV documentary), up to the two “reunion” songs they recorded for the 1995 “Anthology” project. The Apple team has been working on the set for years — many of the videos were never seen publicly after their initial broadcast, so the Apple group contacted collectors and archives around the world to locate copies, which were then cleaned and restored frame by frame and given improved audio mixes. (Between the various CD, DVD and Blu-ray combinations, there are seven different versions of the “1” discs.)

Ringo pointed out that the videos were initially a business decision, at a time when the demand for the band was so great and Beatlemania was making touring difficult; they played their last concert in August 1966. “We did come to the solid thought, Well, we can’t be everywhere, so we made these little movies and sent them out,” the drummer said over coffee in the lounge of a Midtown Manhattan hotel.
Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who directed the videos for eight songs on the “1+” collection, noted that it took a band as popular as the Beatles to really kick-start the video revolution. “Before, a band would have to go on all these different television shows and it was really time-intensive,” he said, adding that the Beatles were powerful enough that the band’s manager Brian Epstein could say, “ ‘If you want the Beatles, you’ll take this film clip.’ ”
Saul Austerlitz, the author of “Money for Nothing: A History of Music Video From the Beatles to the White Stripes,” noted that promotional clips date back to the 1930s, but said it is telling that people consider the Beatles such pioneers of the form. “They were the first and most significant artists of the rock era to embrace the idea of having a visual component to their work,” he said. “They showed that a video doesn’t just have to be a camera focused on a person at a microphone or with a guitar, or a set story or theme — it was more about the quality of the visuals. That really lay the groundwork for what came in the next decade.”
As the Beatles’ music grew increasingly psychedelic, so did their imagery. By 1967, the director Peter Goldmann had them throwing paint on a piano in the middle of a meadow for “Strawberry Fields Forever” and riding horses though city streets in “Penny Lane.” (Ringo, who had never been on horseback before, had to be rounded up and returned to the set several times.)

“We were fans of filmmakers,” said Paul, “so meeting up with this Swedish, quite surreal director was very exciting. It felt like we were in a Bergman movie!”
The 50 videos on the “1+” compilation include several early live Beatles performances from European television, a taste of footage that collectors have long clamored for the band to release. It also includes the few later clips — “All You Need Is Love” from the 1967 “Our World” international television special; the 1970 rooftop concert for the “Let It Be” movie — that marked the Beatles’ only live appearances after they stopped touring.
Ringo singled out a 1968 performance of “Hey Jude” on a David Frost show as a highlight. “That was great, because we had the audience with us again,” he said. “They were up on the back rostrum with me, lolling about. We were always great with audiences — we started like that, you had to get the audience on your side, and we did.”
Mr. Lindsay-Hogg recalled the band jamming on Motown songs in between takes of “Hey Jude.” He said that they enjoyed the experience so much that a few months later, Paul called him to see if he would be interested in directing a live Beatles television special, which later transformed into the emotionally fraught “Let It Be” film, from which four songs on “1+” are taken.

“One thing about the Beatles,” said Paul, “the bottom line always was, whether we were arguing or fed up with what we were doing, when we played, it all came through. The rooftop was a bizarre time — there were lots of arguments making ‘Let It Be,’ it was quite intense — but the minute we started playing, the skies were blue. Coming together and making music was always a good, healing thing, no matter what was going on.”
Some of the “1” material may seem slight, but Mr. Lindsay-Hogg emphasized how the visuals connect these monumental songs back to their creators. “Sitting in your car, you hear ‘Please Please Me’ or ‘A Day in the Life,’ and it conjures up whatever it does in your own life,” he said. “Seeing these videos, you actually see the Beatles, as they were — it’s a record of how they did it, what they were thinking. I think this is as big a part of their legacy as the recordings.”
Ringo said he enjoys watching these clips, but he remains most proud of the band’s music. “We put visuals to some of the music, and that was what that was, but the music is still valid today, kids are still listening to those records,” he said. “That’s what blows me away, and I’m on the damn things!”
To Paul, the “1” collection was a chance to revisit the friendships at the heart of the Beatles. “It’s a reminder of the great times we had,” he said. “All the humor, it’s heartwarming, like Oh, my God, that’s how we were — there we are being the Beatles! And even for me, that’s fun.”

THE BEATLES 1 is The Beatles, as you’ve never seen them before.
It’s The Beatles, as you’ve never seen them before.
Explore The Beatles 1 at AMAZON :

Available to pre-order on Amazon :



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