The Fab Four meet the Big Four 

21 January 2016



The history of the world’s biggest pop group and Independent Television are intertwined. ITV was at its height at the point that Beatlemania swept the UK and then the world and the Fab Four were therefore to be seen often throughout the network. The collapse of the group across 1969 and 1970 was also reflected in the decline of ITV following the 1968 franchise changes and the financial state of London Weekend Television.




Pre-dating the Beatles’ years, there was a possibility that John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison could have made an appearance in 1959 on Carroll Levis’ Discoveries – they auditioned for, and appeared in ABC’s TV Star Search shows sometime during October 1959 and on 15 November 1959. Looking back at this, it sounds like the X Factor of its day, producing a few winners and quite a few losers, but that is not to deny the quality of the acts – Billy Fury didn’t get through the heats either.

At the time, the entertainment business was largely centred around London, with the largest population, greater amount of theatres and show business agencies. Northern acts, and particularly Liverpool artistes did become well-known and established – Arthur Askey, Robb Wilton, Tommy Handley, Lita Roza – but it was because they were brought to London and represented and managed from there. Representation of this by way of the BBC, in particular radio, was sparse, because the booking agents were predominantly interested in acts located in and around the capital – Wilton, Askey and Handley were amongst the first Mersey acts regularly heard on the BBC (and in Askey’s case, seen – he was one of the first to appear on the fledgling 30-line television service).


Brian Epstein in 1965

Brian Epstein in 1965


Singers from the city were few and far between too. Lita Roza had a hit, “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?” (a song, incidentally, that she disliked so much that she said she would only do one take to record it, and no more). Billy Fury’s ascendance was because he was managed by Larry Parnes, and was promoted as one of his “stable of stars” alongside Duffy Power, Dickie Pride, Tommy Steele and Marty Wilde on TV shows such as ABC’s Oh Boy! in 1959. Incidentally, one of a handful of the surviving shows has a performance from Tony Sheridan, “I Like Love” which has a familiar energy, and it wouldn’t be long before he met and befriended a young Mersey Beat group playing in Hamburg who, as well as being in thrall to his stagecraft, would also be working and recording with him.

The spread of commercial television from 1955 had a seismic effect on many levels through British society. All of a sudden, it never mattered where anyone came from: if there was a TV company serving an area, local entertainers were booked whenever possible. Cost may have had a lot to do with it, of course – to book anyone out of the area entailed overnight hotel stays, and special conditions such as provision of transport, meal allowances and so on. One famous ABC trade advert made much play of the company’s attempts to get Jack Benny to appear on the Eamonn Andrews Show, and discloses how much ABC were willing to pay to secure Benny’s services.




Brian-epstein1Brian Epstein had sent a form for a BBC radio audition for the Beatles, which, after a successful trial before producer Peter Pilbeam, resulted in an booking for Teenagers Turn on 8 March 1962. Many more radio appearances on programmes such as Saturday Club and Easy Beat were to follow, and of course the Fabs had their own series and specials over the years 1963-5.

As regards ITV, a number of letters were sent by fans which stimulated some interest in the band. Granada producers went to see John, Paul, George and Pete in the Cambridge Hall, Southport (16 July) and then the Cavern (1 August), and were impressed by the atmosphere created by the fans and the group, so much so that a film crew were due to attend the Cavern three weeks later on 22 August, during the lunchtime session.



A slight aside here: John, Paul and George had felt that Pete Best never fitted into the band: he always went off by himself, and was very aloof. George Martin, at the EMI audition, felt that Pete’s drumming was not up to scratch, although he offered the Beatles a contract. Most of all Best had his own fan following, who actually regarded the group as “Pete Best and the Beatles”. The fact that Brian Epstein sacked Best on 16 August could, in hindsight, be viewed as deliberate, given that the filming date was in six days time and that the band would have a new drummer by then.

On Wednesday 22 August 1962 the Beatles, with their new drummer Ringo Starr, were filmed in the Cavern for the Granada TV’s Know The North that lunchtime doing two songs, “Some Other Guy” and “Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey Hey”. The second of these was not shown, but the first performance was, and is a remarkably high-octane one, although grainy and murkily filmed. Technically poor, the film was shelved and unfit for use: a year later, when the Beatles’ fame had flowered, Scene at 6.30 (6 November 1963) showed “Some Other Guy” at last, with shouts from the audience of “We Want Pete” at the end.


Abbey Road, London by m.caimary on Flickr. CC-BY-2.0

Abbey Road, London by m.caimary on Flickr. CC-BY-2.0


Brian Epstein, noting a great reaction from fans to the appearance, had a number of discs cut of an alternate version of “Some Other Guy” recorded by Granada and sold them at his record store chain NEMS. It isn’t known how many copies were pressed, but they do turn up at auction from time to time. Recently, a tape reel of the Beatles from that filming session was found in a desk drawer by Johnny Hamp.

In spite of, or because of, the problems with the film, Granada booked the four onto the local magazine programme People and Places, where they made their debut on 17 October 1962 singing “Some Other Guy” and their first single “Love Me Do”. Unfortunately, this appearance has long since been wiped (although audio recordings are rumoured to exist). Another People and Places booking followed on 29 October 1962 (recorded that day and transmitted on 2 November 1962, by which time they had gone to Hamburg). On that occasion, they sang “A Taste Of Honey” and “Love Me Do”. Granada producers were now sitting up and taking notice of what was happening 38 miles away.

BBCtv invited them to an audition on 23 November, but it was basically a turn-down. They would not appear on BBCtv until they had a number one single. ITV was picking up on the group though, and they appeared on TWW’s Discs a Go Go (3 December 1962) and Associated-Rediffusion’s Tuesday Rendezvous a day later, mainly to promote “Love Me Do” – and a third booking for Granada’s People and Places a couple of weeks later also featured that debut 45 along with an early stage favourite “Twist And Shout”. All of this activity, along with radio plays, enabled “Love Me Do” to climb to number 17.




1963 was to be a crucial year. The first major TV appearance came about as a result of Beatle business. The song “Love Me Do” was originally published by Ardmore and Beechwood (an EMI music publishing company), but Brian Epstein offered “Please Please Me”, the follow up, to other publishers as he felt Ardmore and Beechwood hadn’t really pushed the song enough to make it a hit.

Epstein visited many Tin Pan Alley publishers, eventually making his way to the office of Dick James, the well-known singer of the “Robin Hood” theme, challenging James that if he could fix up major promotion for “Please Please Me”, he could have first refusal on publishing John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s compositions. James called Philip Jones, a TV producer at ABC, and played the acetate of “Please Please Me”. After hearing it, Jones offered a slot on Thank Your Lucky Stars, to be recorded on 13 January 1963 and transmitted six days later. Dick James became publisher for the Beatles’ compositions, enabling them to establish their own company Northern Songs.

For Brian Epstein, this was an important appearance, one that he had diligently prepared the group for, and on a cold icy Saturday, the huge TV audience gathered around their sets at 5.50pm to see the first act on Thank Your Lucky Stars perform their second 45 with verve, energy and exuberance – and it helped send the record all the way up the Hit Parade. (Editor’s note: what position the record got to is, even nearly 53 years later, contentious – the BBC stated it got to 2, the NME chart placed it at 1, but it is not on the compilation “1” – suffice to say, it was very successful anyway).



People and Places featured the band on 16 January 1963, performing both sides of their new record: and “Please Please Me” only was mimed on Thank Your Lucky Stars on 23 February 1963. This and other appearances quickly put the Beatles on the musical map. An interview appearance on ABC at Large (2 March 1963) also used a brief clip of the Thank Your Lucky Stars appearance. “From Me To You”, the next 45, was mimed on Thank Your Lucky Stars on 20 April 1963 and on “People And Places” on 16 April 1963. After all of the ITV activity, it was a relief that BBCtv finally booked the Beatles for the 625 Show (so-called because it went out at 6.25pm), this being shown on 16 April 1963.

BBC radio was regularly featuring the group on Saturday Club, Easy Beat, Pop Inn and other shows – these certainly led to their own programme Pop Go The Beatles and the bank holiday special From Me To You. The shows are fondly remembered and were much enjoyed at the time, so much so that two double CDs of “Live at the BBC” have been issued and sold millions.

Thank Your Lucky Stars was most often recorded at the ABC/ATV facility Alpha Television Studios, sometimes at Teddington – the 12 May appearance was taped at Alpha and featured three songs, and was shown on 18 May 1963, which led to another Thank Your Lucky Stars appearance on a special Summer Spin which was broadcast on 29 June and featured Liverpool acts only. There was to be another special later in the year.



Granada had started a new magazine programme called Scene at 6.30 upon which the band taped “Twist and Shout” and “She Loves You” – these were shown on 14 August 1963 and 19 August 1963, and are amongst the most well-known clips of the group. Southern TV’s Day By Day (22 August 1963) had a mimed performance of “She Loves You”, broadcast while the group did six nights at the Gaumont cinema in Bournemouth.

During the latter part of August, the BBC were putting together a film called The Mersey Sound, and had contracted the Beatles to take part – their contract forbade any participation in the Associated-Rediffusion documentary Beat City which was being made at the same time.

Mike and Bernie Winters were hosting Big Night Out for ABC at this time, and the 7 September 1963 show featured the Fabs doing three songs, recorded in Studio One at Didsbury before an audience of 600. John, Paul, George and Ringo were to work with the Winters’ brothers on three more shows.

Associated-Rediffusion’s Ready Steady Go! is the first pop show most people associate with the swinging 60s, and the Beatles went on the show for the first time on 4 October 1963, miming to three songs. A-R certainly got their money’s worth as they repeated “She Loves You” on 8 November 1963 and all three songs on 31 December 1963.

ATV booked the group on the prestigious Sunday Night at the London Palladium on 13 October 1963. Their performance of four songs, watched by a huge audience, very quickly led to huge press attention, and the start of Beatlemania.

The interest was growing, with more TV appearance demands coming from Scene At 6.30 (18 October 1963) and from Thank Your Lucky Stars (26 October 1963). The latter was because the producer Philip Jones had heard acetates of the “With The Beatles” tracks “Money” and “All My Loving” and wanted the first chance to feature them in the programme.



The next ITV show was to be the most famous of all. ATV had rights to the 1963 Royal Variety Performance, and this year was the year in which the group featured – complete with the quip about rattling jewellery – and performed four songs, transmitted on 10 November 1963. If any one TV programme “made” the Beatles, it would be this one, and it led to an increase in demands for music and interview appearances.

A-R’s This Week featured interviews with the group in their 7 November 1963 programme, as did Ulster’s Ulster News (8 November 1963), Southern’s Day By Day (12 November 1963), Westward’s Move Over Dad (16 November 1963) and Granada’s Scene at 6.30 filmed them backstage on 20 November 1963 – but this was not shown until 6 January 1964.



Morecambe and Wise were and are regarded as one of the greatest double acts of all time, and the Beatles came to ATV Elstree to record an appearance on their show. They performed “This Boy”, “All My Loving” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, after which they did a comedy routine with Eric and Ernie performing “Moonlight Bay” wearing straw boaters and jackets – all great stuff. For some reason, although the show was taped on 2 December 1963, it didn’t go out until 18 April 1964: one of producers made a comment in the studio along the lines of “let’s hope they are still popular (when the show goes out)”, according to Michael Braun in “Love Me Do”.

The BBC were fighting back against the constant Fabs appearances on ITV – their attempt was to tape a hometown concert on 7 December 1963 at the Empire Theatre, Liverpool, shown as It’s the Beatles (only a short section of this exists now) and Juke Box Jury (which exists in audio only). According to the Corporation, the programmes were ruined by incessant screaming from the audience.

The Beatles performed at the Odeon Cinema as part of their package tour that night. According to Bill Cotton Jr in “Double Bill”, the Odeon refused to allow any BBC taping there, and the Empire was booked after an enquiry made by phone – both Juke Box Jury and the concert special would certainly have had to be postponed or cancelled if a theatre had not been found.


Pay slip for Janice Nichols

Pay slip for Janice Nichols


The final ITV programme that year was a special called Lucky Stars on Merseyside which went out on 21 December 1963, and had an appearance from Bob Wooler (Cavern DJ), Billy Butler (still going strong on BBC Radio Merseyside today), Jeanette “Oi’l give it foive” Nicholls and Ursula Higgins (what happened to her?) It was submitted to the Montreux TV Festival in April 1964, but did not win.

Working out Brian Epstein’s promotional strategy at this time is not easy. In 1962-3, he put the Fab Four’s stall out on both BBCtv and radio and ITV, and turned nothing down. As time went on, this was changed to allow the lads sufficient time to tour (obviously more lucrative), and eventually Epstein was particularly keen for the group to appear more on ITV through 1964.






What can one say about 1964? The group made their first feature film A Hard Day’s Night, conquered America, Europe and Australia, and Beatlemania went into full throttle.



More BBCtv and radio appearances, more ITV appearances, the first being on Sunday Night at the London Palladium (12 January 1964), performing five songs. Their fee for the show was now £1000, where in October 1963 it had been £250 – compare this with the fee they received for two inserts for “Top of the Pops” at this time – £250 each, compared to £1000 for a Ready Steady Go! appearance.



They left for Paris, and then the States, and it was obvious to all that the Beatles were becoming a big act. Big Night Out was their next booking (29 February 1964) and as well as a mimed performance, they did some skits and sketches with Mike and Bernie Winters. As with their appearance on the Morecambe and Wise Show, the Beatles endeared themselves to the audience by not taking themselves too seriously – something that was guaranteed to win over people of all ages who were captivated by their charm and exuberance.

Spring 1964 was taken up with making A Hard Day’s Night, and their availability to TV and radio was limited for a time. Star Parade (Tyne Tees, 9 April 1964) was a Q-and-A programme filmed mostly at Twickenham, with the questioners filmed back at the TTT headquarters. Scottish TV’s Round Up featured an interview with the band on 5 May 1964.



On 10 May, the NME Poll Winners’ Concert was broadcast by ABC as Big Beat ’64, and featured the Beatles performing five songs and receiving their awards from Roger Moore.



The newly renamed Rediffusion London put together a show, produced by Jack Good, called Around the Beatles, broadcast on 6 May 1964. Apart from a music set (mimed to a pre-recorded soundtrack, taped at IBC), they performed part of Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” and introduced acts such as PJ Proby and Cilla Black. The group said later that it was the best show they had ever done.



On 7 July, as well as recording a Top of the Pops appearance, they were interviewed for Granada’s Scene at 6.30 – unusually taped at Rediffusion’s Television House. Granada covered the Northern premiere of “A Hard Day’s Night” in Scene at 6.30 on 10 July 1964.



Usually appearances on Thank Your Lucky Stars were pre-recorded on the Sunday before transmission – a technicians’ strike prevented this, so the Thank Your Lucky Stars programme on 11 July 1964 featured a “live” mimed performance. No such problem with Big Night Out on 19 July 1964, which had the Fabs doing comedy skits with Mike and Bernie. Scene at 6.30 had a mimed appearance of “I Should Have Known Better” on 16 October 1964; Tyne Tees Television’s North East Newsview featured an interview with them the same day; Grampian interviewed them for Grampian Week, shown on 23 October 1964; and Day By Day featured an interview with the group and Tony Bilbow (Southern, 6 November 1964).

The Beatles went to ABC in Teddington to tape a set, without an audience, for Thank Your Lucky Stars on 21 November 1964, and their final ITV booking in 1964 was for Ready Steady Go!. Because of the problems with the screaming during audience shows, they taped their set on Monday 23 November 1964 to be shown on Friday 27 November 1964 – their final Ready Stead Go! appearance as a group.




1965 was a year of consolidation, with yet another film, Help!, and a great deal of appearances on BBC radio. John even appeared on Not Only But Also with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore to read out his poetry, and had a serious discussion about his book on Tonight in June.



Yet there were fewer live performances than before on ITV, with a mimed appearance on Thank Your Lucky Stars (3 April 1965) and John and George being interviewed on Ready Steady Goes Live! (16 April 1965) to promote the new record “Ticket To Ride”. There is a bootleg single of a studio jam from an audio recording of the show, which has John, George, Adam Faith and Doris Troy performing “I Need Your Lovin’ Everyday”. It’s not that great really, but maybe with the visuals it might have worked (the videotape appears not to exist).



The NME Poll Winners’ Concert 1965 went out courtesy of ABC Weekend on 18 April 1965, and featured the Fabs playing five songs live, with Tony Bennett presenting them with their awards. The Eamonn Andrews Show on 11 April 1965 featured a mimed version of “Ticket To Ride” and “Yes It Is”, and they were interviewed by Andrews along with columnist Katherine Whitehorn and writer Wolf Mankowitz. Unusually for that time, their mimed performance went out between 11.05-11.50pm – one can only wonder what the older viewing audience who typically watched at that time thought of it all.

On 15 July 1965 Paul appeared in Rediffusion’s programme Pick of the Songs, accepting an Ivor Novello award and making a speech – a Ready Stead Go! clip of “Can’t Buy Me Love” from March 1964 was shown.



Blackpool Night Out on 1 August 1965 from ABC was a completely live performance, featuring the Beatles doing “I Feel Fine”, “Help!”, “Act Naturally”, “I’m Down”, “Ticket To Ride” and “Yesterday” – unlike previous appearances on the show, they didn’t participate in any sketches or comic routines.



Granada had approached Brian Epstein with an idea – a show featuring the songs of John and Paul as performed by various artists, and an appearance by the Beatles. The Music of Lennon and McCartney was a fine showcase, featuring Cilla Black, Henry Mancini, Marianne Faithfull, Billy J Kramer, Fritz Spiegl and Peter Sellers. The group were shown miming to their latest single “Day Tripper” and “We Can Work It Out” – the latter featured John on harmonium, for which they used Ena Sharples’ instrument from the Coronation Street set. The show was recorded on 1 and 2 November and shown on 17 November 1965 over most of the ITV network, except for London, where Rediffusion put it out the previous night. Curiously, BBC radio attempted a similar idea featuring the Lennon-McCartney writing partnership in 1966, with rather less success.

Beatles being Beatles, they had become tired of having to do the promotional rounds of TV shows in the UK and elsewhere: an idea was mooted that promo clips could be videotaped with NEMS finance and sent to shows where personal appearances had been requested. For this purpose, on 23 November the band went to Twickenham Film Studios, stage three, to work with director Joe McGrath and InterTel (VTR Services). Before a series of sets, they recorded clips for “I Feel Fine” (two versions), “Help!” (one version), “Ticket To Ride” (one version), “Day Tripper” (three versions) and “We Can Work It Out” (three versions). One of the versions of “I Feel Fine” was unusable as the group were sitting on the floor eating fish and chips. The reason for three takes of each track of the current 45 was so that each promo could be offered as an exclusive to individual programmes. The group were on a winner, as the entire set cost only £750 to produce, while the BBC paid £1750 to NEMS to use them. Thank Your Lucky Stars showed promos for both sides of the new single on 4 December 1965, the only ITV show to do so.




1966 started with work on The Beatles at Shea Stadium, a film jointly produced by Subafilms (the group’s film unit) and Ed Sullivan Productions. Work was done on the sound, even to a point where two of the live performances had to be completely re-recorded – and BBC-1 was the lucky recipient of the film, shown on 1 March.

The NME Poll Winners’ Concert took place on Sunday 1 May, before an audience of 10,000 at the Wembley Empire Pool and was recorded for showing in two parts on 8 and 15 May. The Beatles played five songs, and received awards, but there was a dispute between ABC and Brian Epstein. Their performance was not recorded, and even when receiving their awards the microphones were turned off – this is evident in the still-existing videotape.



The next single “Paperback Writer”/”Rain” came out on 10 June, and a number of promos were made – some were shown in colour on the “Ed Sullivan Show” in the US. Here in the UK both clips were shown in black and white on Ready Steady Go! (3 June 1966) and the final edition of Thank Your Lucky Stars on 25 June. A recording exists of this show (Goodbye Lucky Stars), and attempts are made to make it look as if the group are actually appearing live on the show, intercutting shots of the audience and the Beatles.

The scoop this time was with Top of the Pops – producer Johnnie Stewart wrote to Brian Epstein to ask if the band would appear on the 16 June edition, and they agreed. Miming to both sides of the single, and appearing as the last act, the performance was repeated two weeks later, an extract on BBC-2’s Late Night Line-Up on 17 June 1966 and on the yearly Top of the Pops review (Part 1 on 26 December 1966). It’s described in a lot of the reference works, and many stills exist, but is missing, believed wiped.

“Yellow Submarine” and “Eleanor Rigby” was a double A-side issued in August, but not promoted on ITV at all – no clips were made – even the BBC concocted concept clips for Top of the Pops which had nothing to do with the group at all.



By late 1966, the group had largely disappeared from television screens, and indeed from the media generally. There were traumatic experiences during the summer’s touring, such as burning of their records after reaction to John’s “bigger than Jesus” quote in a newspaper article. There was violence in the Philippines over an alleged slight against the new President/dictator and his awful family. There was also a feeling that the band, trapped by their fans’ expectations, had become a performing jukebox. They were bored and playing songs badly, that had, because of their continuing popularity, become millstones around the Fabs’ necks at a time when they wanted to experiment and change direction.

The first thing the Beatles did, on returning to England, was to take individual holidays or pursue individual projects (John went to take part in a film, How I Won The War; George went to India). As a result, they didn’t reconvene until November for recording – and the media were speculating whether John, Paul, George and Ringo were still going to play live. In fact a group decision had been taken to put some of the more experimental techniques into the melting pot, and some of the influences picked up on their travels.

This did not stop ITN from sending their cameras to Abbey Road where, with the Beatles’ consent, they were interviewed for Reporting ’66. The programme was called “End of Beatlemania”, and as well as quashing any rumours of a break-up, it showed the lads talking about new material and keeping together as a unit: but to the home audience, the band looked very different, all now having moustaches and in George’s case, a beard. The programme went out in the last days of December 1966, when, unknown to the wider public, the group had been working on “Penny Lane”, “When I’m 64” and “Strawberry Fields Forever”.




Brian Epstein was a patient man, EMI an understanding company, but after nearly six months, a single was needed to maintain a group profile, so “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” were given over for release in February 1967. Promos were sent out to “Top Of The Pops” (who played both) and I can only find one ITV screening of “Penny Lane” – As You Like It (Southern, 11 March 1967, only shown locally, and directed by Mike “Supersonic” Mansfield).

“Sgt Pepper” was a high point of the summer of love, but the Beatles were ironically both present and not so present – no tracks were played live on any programmes, yet I have a vague recollection that Granada’s Late Scene used the title track over their closing credits at least once that summer. Most of the Beatles attempts to promote the LP was via BBC radio and through the pirates, as, at this time, ITV had little or no pop programmes – Thank Your Lucky Stars and Ready Stead Go! had finished by the end of 1966.

ITN broadcast an interview with Paul in June 1967 in which he admitted to have taken LSD, but came up with probably the oddest retraction when confronted with the notion that he had a “responsibility to youth”, saying that ITN had a responsibility not to spread the news, saying “if you shut up about this, I will”.



BBCtv scooped both of the band’s bigger projects that year – the premiere of “All You Need Is Love” on the Our World programme on 25 June, and the Magical Mystery Tour TV film on Boxing Day 1967. Much has been written about the failure of the latter, but with the benefit of hindsight its charms are revealed.

Paul, John and George appeared at different times on the The Frost Programme during the autumn of 1967 – Paul defended the Magical Mystery Tour film the night after it was broadcast, and John and George talked about their experiences with transcendental meditation before an audience which contained, amongst others, the barrister and playwright John Mortimer, who was anti-TM.

Promos were made for the late 1967 single “Hello Goodbye” at the Saville Theatre, and were shown abroad and in the States but not on BBC or ITV because of a Musicians’ Union ban on miming. Top Of The Pops showed a clip in which the Beatles were shown editing Magical Mystery Tour, and actors posing in the snow around a car, synched to the track, and later used some old “Hard Day’s Night” footage in Top of the Pops.




In March 1968, the final episode of The Prisoner aired on ITV. The Beatles made no secret of their admiration for Patrick McGoohan and the series (it was parodied on their 1967 Christmas fan club disc, where they called at Broadcasting House!). In the episode “Fall Out”, “All You Need Is Love” was featured twice, when Number 6 and his colleagues were taken to an underground cavern to prepare him to meet Number 1, and ironically during a violent riot (scenes of gunfire vs the lyric “love, love, love”). According to the Silva Screen booklet in FILMCD601, music editor Eric Mival was able to obtain the rights for the track to be used in the episode for £48.

By 1968, Apple Corps had become the group’s top priority – the workload of touring, discarded almost two years earlier, now replaced with the workload of running their new company. Part of the structure was Apple Films which now took on the task of making films to promote the Beatles’ singles. “Lady Madonna” was promoted by a clip made in the studio while recording “Hey Bulldog” (the lyrics are visible on the music stand in the film), and although mimed was actually shown on “Top of the Pops” but not on ITV at all.




Appearances on BBCtv and radio were made by different members of the group at various times – John to promote the play “In His Own Write”, Ringo appeared on Cilla, George was interviewed for BBC Radio 1 – but an ITV scoop was achieved by an old friend of theirs later in the year.

The epic, anthemic “Hey Jude” was released as the first Apple Records 45 in late August 1968. At 7:11 it was the longest single released at that time, so how to promote it? It was decided to produce colour promos at Twickenham in early September, with slight variations from shot-to-shot – and David Frost attended to record an announcement so that the clip could be shown on his LWT show Frost On Sunday on 8 September 1968 (currently available on the “1” DVD). This was its premiere, in monochrome: Top of The Pops showed “Hey Jude” in a different edit, and the only UK broadcast of “Revolution” was on Top of the Pops.

“The Beatles” double album, known to most people as the “White Album”, came out on 22 November. No direct promotion was done for this, but Richard DiLello in “The Longest Cocktail Party” says an idea was mooted by the advertising agency J Walter Thompson for a commercial which would have been broadcast on network ITV at around 9.15-9.20 pm on Sunday 17 November 1968 (after the ITN bulletin) to feature snatches of some of the songs from the LP, and a personal appearance by either Ringo or Paul. Of course, they did not follow through with this plan (JWT gave a figure of £56,000 for the whole advertising campaign) – but it would undoubtedly have been another Beatles’ “first”, given how commonplace TV advertising of albums is these days.




In early 1969, another first – the band were to make a film showing how they would record and rehearse for a concert featuring brand new compositions, and this would offered as a product to either BBC or ITV. There was even a notion that London Weekend Television might take up the option on the film for their Saturday Special strand – and given that the Stones’ “Rock and Roll Circus” had been recorded (but not finished at that point), there is, retrospectively, a hint that old rivalries were showing with each band trying out new ideas.

Within the Beatles, however, the project was not progressing smoothly: internecine relationships, an uncomfortable working environment, friction, an unwillingness to participate or perform… even the best editing couldn’t alter the obvious fact that the members of the Beatles were not coming to the sessions with a full heart. Business also altered during that January of 1969, with Allen Klein’s appointment by John and Yoko, and eventually by George and Ringo. The idea of a TV documentary transmuted into a cinema film called “Let It Be”, to meet the outstanding obligation to United Artists for a fourth feature, and would be accompanied by a boxed LP with a book.


John Lennon and Yoko Ono leave Amsterdam after their Bed-In for Peace in the Hilton Hotel

John Lennon and Yoko Ono leave Amsterdam after their Bed-In for Peace in the Hilton Hotel – Nationaal ArchiefCC-BY-3.0


One positive outcome was the single “Get Back”, promoted with a film shown on “Top of the Pops”: “The Ballad Of John and Yoko” and “Something” were also released that year, and promos were shown on Top of the Pops, but no ITV showings at all.

As had happened in 1968, the individual members of the band appeared on either BBC radio or TV, mostly in interview situations or on Kenny Everett’s Radio 1 show. John and Yoko appeared on Thames’ programme Today in April 1969, interviewed by Eamonn Andrews, and also participated in his chat show on 3 April. They were also interviewed on David Frost’s LWT programme later in the year, and John was a “Man Of The Decade” in an ATV documentary shown on 30 December 1969 – Dr Desmond Morris having chosen him, which pleased John greatly.



Ringo took part in Frost on Saturday on 6 December to promote “The Magic Christian”, and also in With a Little Help from My Friends, a Yorkshire Television special broadcast on Christmas Eve 1969 in which he mimed to “Octopus’s Garden”, keeping his original drum track but with overdubs from other musicians.




With the New Year of 1970, the news from the Beatles’ camp was almost non-existent. Paul, George and Ringo reconvened (John being on holiday in Denmark) to record “I Me Mine” and overdub onto “Let It Be” for single release. John and Yoko were the most visible at this point, whether promoting “Instant Karma” on BBC’s Top Of The Pops in February or appearing on The Simon Dee Show with Malcolm X.



On 29 March, Ringo appeared on Frost on Sunday to talk about his new album of standards, “Sentimental Journey”, and the show featured the only UK broadcast of the promo for the title track.

George appeared on BBC Radio 1 to talk about the group and Apple Corps, in a special called The Beatles Today, and on BBC-1 to talk about spiritual matters, but music was rarely mentioned.

Paul was the first solo Beatle to have a promo played on Sunday 19 April for his song “Maybe I’m Amazed” (from the “McCartney” LP) – it was only shown by London Weekend Television. Having watched the film, a montage of family photographs, it looks very much like Paul alone – and in fact, he mostly recorded the song on his own at Abbey Road Studios.



The end

Sadly, by this time the group had come to an apparently sudden end, although hindsight tells a different tale, that of a gradual decline; there would be new music in the years to come, but nothing from the Beatles as a whole unit. However, the halcyon years of the 1960s were all the more exciting for those who became entranced and embraced the new sounds in what used to be called pop.

With fewer TV and radio channels, the impact was instant: looking at the Beatles through 16- or 35mm telerecordings and on 405-line monochrome VT, there is still a palpable sense of excitement and energy. That is why so many people still love the Fab Four, and there are many, many younger converts to the cause – and as long as the enthusiasm remains, the music will live on.


You Say

7 responses to this article

Steve Rhenius 22 January 2016 at 1:58 pm

Lovely compilation and though a ‘Fabs’ nut some I hadn’t seen before

Paul Mason 24 January 2016 at 6:02 am

I couldnt help noticing among the TV Times clips a notorious individual on Thank Your Lucky Stars (Feb 1963), chillingly with a panel of teenagers.
The October 1963 clip featured a show called Comedy Bandbox. One of the guests was a pop performer called Clinton Ford, whose fame was brief. He came from Southport, a few miles north of Liverpool. Mr Fords obituary revealed that he was advised to change his real name because George Harrison didn’t sound like a pop star.

Paul Mason 24 January 2016 at 6:07 am

Correction- Clinton Ford/George Harrison came ftom Salford, not Southport. He outived his famous namesake dying aged 77 in 2009.

Paul Mason 24 January 2016 at 6:16 am

Sorry about the further additions Clinton Ford was a regular performer at the Cavern Club although he tended towards skiffle and trad jazz in the early 1960s rather than “beat”music.

Paul Mason 24 January 2016 at 6:32 am

Another aspect of the Beatles their latest releases would feature on the BBC regional 6pm news (Look North) which during 1967 used as a theme tune a brass band playing “Fron Me To You” which sounded rather odd. Penny Lane was featured but a promotional film clip was used and the Beatles never appeared performing. Another Beatles song played on LN was “Little Piggies”. Look North was presented by Keith Macklin, Arthur Murphy and a notorious chap whose intials are SH.

Paul Mason 27 January 2016 at 3:07 am

Can I point out that BBC Radio 1/2 jointly as was the habit then presented the Beatles Story in 1972. I believe this has been repeated on BBC 6 Music. It was presented by Brian Mathew, who is approaching 90 and still broadcasting.

I didnt see it as I had to be in bed as a child, but my parents saw John and Yoko on David Frosts late night chat show on ITV . My mother just blurted out “He’ll die young” about John Lennon but she was thinking about drugs. I think this was shortly after Jimi Hendrix died in 1970. JL had the so called “long weekend” in the early 70s and its possible wild benders could have finished him. Phil Spector fired a gun in a recording studio with JL present, but missed. Sadly Mark Chapman succeeded.

Jim Barrington 9 September 2021 at 9:43 am

simply superb article and research

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