Guide to British Music of the 1960s

May 2019

Book Review

The Beatles Tell Me What You See by Peter Checksfield

This is a follow-up to Peter's previous Channelling the Beat: The Ultimate Guide to UK '60s Pop on TV. It focuses on the Beatles and the post-Beatles careers of the four members. About one-quarter of the book is devoted to the Beatles. Like the previous work, this book highlights the fact that so much material has been lost or destroyed over the years. Nowadays, there is better archiving not only by media companies but also through videos, DVDs, YouTube etc, and this partially accounts for much better information about post-Beatles work. Back in the 1960s, tape was expensive and reused rather than archived. What's more, "pop music" was seen by many as a temporary phenomenon so why would there be any need to archive it? Many recordings were simply taped over so the medium could be reused. It seems almost criminal now but it was standard procedure at the time. So much was lost that would be treasured today.

TV appearances were either live or mimed. The BBC banned miming so the Beatles would provide promotional films, many of which have disappeared although some have been made available through Anthology or 1+. The Beatles did appear in the Top of the Pops studio for Paperback Writer and Rain. Fortunately the Beatles' first television appearance (with audio) does survive. Filmed for Granada's Know the North, it was first shown on Scene at 6.30 in November 1963. It is a great piece of footage as it is not only the earliest film of the Beatles at The Cavern in Liverpool but it also showcases their cover of Some Other Guy, a real crowd favourite at the time, and even has "We Want Pete" screams towards the end as Pete Best had only just bee replaced by Ringo Starr.

There were quite a few TV outlets for pop music, even in the early '60s. However, music was seen as part of the general variety theme with fewer dedicated music shows. The Beatles appeared on Two of a Kind with Morecambe and Wise playing some of their own tracks along with On Moonlight Bay with the comic duo. They also appeared on Sunday Night at the London Palladium. An unusual show was Around the Beatles which included the Beatles partaking in spoof Shakespearean sketches.

Television was crucial to breaking the band in the US. The Ed Sullivan Show was essential viewing in US households. In February 1964, they made their debut two days before they had even played a US concert. Six tracks were completed with I Want to Hold Your Hand which was immediately catapulted to the top of the US charts. They played the show several times becoming firm friends with Sullivan. These appearances were made available on Ed Sullivan Show DVDs.

John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band made a couple of TV appearances although his best-known non-Beatles appearance was (with Yoko) as part of Dirty Mac for the Rolling Stones Rock & Roll Circus project. This was unreleased for many years but was made available on DVD in 2004 and is due for re-release in 2019 with an extra Dirty Mac track, Revolution.

Compared with 2019, there was very little footage or even live recordings made of the Beatles and, as previously mentioned, much has disappeared. However, Beatles video still exists though the Anthology DVDs and videos, Eight Days a Week DVD, 1+ and Ed Sullivan DVDs. Ready Steady Go footage including the Beatles special was available on VHS but has not yet been issued on DVD. There are also plenty of clips on YouTube although it does appear that some are being removed (by Apple?).

Published 6 April 2019

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