Monday, April 11, 2011

Beatles: 1965 TV Special

In 1965, there was a television special devoted to the songwriters of The Beatles.  The special was entitled, The Music of Lennon & McCartney.  The unique aspect of this television event was that it was centered on the music, not the band.  For instance, The Beatles (mostly John Lennon and Paul McCartney) would introduce other bands and singers who would then play their music. “Granada Television had proposed a big-budget fifty-minute television special called The Music of Lennon and McCartney, featuring Peter and Gordon, Billy J. Kramer, Cilla Black and other top stars famous for singing their songs, with the Beatles themselves introducing the acts” (Miles 222).  
This was unusual in that this was the first time that The Beatles (or any rock ‘n roll group) were seen as musical composers worthy of a special, rather than pure entertainment; they were seen as artists.  This was also unusal because in a way, The Beatles were promoting other artists.  They self-lessly chose to only sing, “‘Day Tripper” and ‘We Can Work It Out’” (Miles 222).  And while Lennon/McCartney received royalties based off of any records sold by these artists covering their songs, the special was not so much about The Beatles as it was about two composers.  
Marianne Faithfull, a young singer at the time befriend Paul McCartney and then sang “Yesterday” on this special.  In Paul McCartney’s authorized biography by Barry Miles she says, “Paul really helped me by putting me on the thing that the Beatles did with Granada.  It was really great, because he started [the song] off” (Miles 223).  It was as if Paul McCartney was endorsing not only her version of his hit song, but also her as an artist.  “Paul began the solo alone, sitting on a stool, strumming his guitar and singing, then after a half-minute the song faded into Marianne’s version, complete with choir and orchestra” (Miles 223).  But this is not the end of Paul’s generosity.  “Marianne was eight months pregnant…and in those days it would have been considered shocking to see a pregnant woman on television, particularly an entertainer.  In what was probably a historic first, Paul insisted that she be allowed to go on the programme – though the cameras filmed only her head and shoulders or angled views from above” (Miles 223).  It was his star power that allowed her that opportunity.  In fact, Marianne’s version of “Yesterday” “charted at number 36” (Miles 223).  

This television special helped The Beatles become seen in a new light, as artists and composers worthy of recognition and respect above and beyond just a rock ‘n roll group.  This program made them artists in the eyes of the public, and not just another band.  

Check out this video from the special which includes Peter Sellers (a favorite comedian of the fab four) performing "A Hard Day's Night" as a monologue, and then The Beatles perform "We Can Work It Out."

McCartney, Paul. Interview by Barry Miles. Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now.
By Barry Miles. New York: A Holt Paperback: Henry Holt and Company, 1997.

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