The Beatles' New '+1' Video Collection: The 10 Fabbest Moments
Whimsical promo clips, astounding studio footage and other '1+' treasures
By Rob Sheffield
November 6, 2015
Highlights of the new Beatles video collection, '1+,' include early live footage and scenes of each member at home with their wives. Apple Corps Ltd.
Act naturally, indeed. The new deluxe 1+ DVD/Blu-ray collection is a treasure of Beatle footage from every phase of their career — promo videos, TV appearances, Abbey Road studio footage, a few drastically restored favorites already familiar from Anthology, loads of little-seen gems — and all of it revelatory for fans. A handful of clips get new commentary from Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, who really didn't like having to ride a horse for the "Penny Lane" video. Here are just 10 of the fabbest moments.
"She Loves You" (1963)
The lads in Sweden, performing "She Loves You" on Stockholm TV for the show Drop In, with Beatlemania in full flower all over Europe in October 1963. (The U.K. press had only started using the word "Beatlemania" a few days earlier.) The confidence level is surging — you can see that they have their eyes fixed on the toppermost of the poppermost.
"Can't Buy Me Love" (1964)
A live performance from the BBC special Around The Beatles — John and Paul jump into the cold-open vocal intro, a little ragged but caught up in the electric excitement of being Beatles, playing in the round, surrounded by dazed-looking kids. This was the same TV special where they acted out a scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream with John and Paul as the star-crossed lovers Pyramus and Thisbe.
"I Feel Fine" (1965)
The Beatles trooped into Twickenham Film Studios on November 23rd to grind out a few quickie promo videos — 10 in all. They took a lunch break for this version of "I Feel Fine" — instead of miming with their guitars, they munch fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, with John and Ringo sitting on the floor. But it got shelved because Brian Epstein nixed the footage — he was horrified at the idea of the world seeing the boys eating with greasy fingers. 1+ includes another surreal version of "I Feel Fine" filmed the same day, where Ringo is riding an exercise bicycle.
"We Can Work It Out" (1965)
Another gem from the November 23rd Twickenham marathon session. John and Paul do their sweet-and-sour harmonies, with John sitting down at the organ. At first, they're playing it all straight in their suits, until John sets out to make Paul crack up on camera. He makes it impossible for anyone else to keep a straight face — by the end, he's playing the organ with his feet.
There are two clips included here for "Rain," the guitar drone with Ringo's most brilliantly demented drumming. The first was done at Abbey Road, with John valiantly attempting to lip-synch the backwards-guitar solo. The next day, they filmed an even better version: the Beatles in the garden of Chiswick House in West London, their faces blank and impassive, giving nothing away as the brash new guitar noises swirl around them.
"Penny Lane" (1967)
The psychedelic video for Paul's portrait of Liverpool life — although the Beatles, busy making Sgt. Pepper's, filmed their scenes closer to Abbey Road, in Stratford and Kent. The lads ride on horseback, which gets some priceless commentary from Starr and McCartney. "Ringo's really not a horseman," Paul explains. "My big memory of that shoot is always saying, 'Where's Ringo? There he is, disappearing over the horizon on that galloping white horse!'" Apparently, it's still a traumatic memory for Ringo, who shudders as he introduces the clip. "These are monster giant animals!" he says. "Mine tried to run away, so the memory is pretty damn scary."
"Hey Bulldog" (1968)
The film crew went to Abbey Road on February 11th to shoot a video for "Lady Madonna" — but the Beatles didn't feel like lip-synching that day, because they were absorbed in cutting a new song instead. Result: astounding footage of the band at work on "Hey Bulldog" in the studio. John and Paul share a mike, eyeball to eyeball, ad-libbing the same demented barks and howls you hear on the record, making each other laugh. It's poignant to see film evidence of how, even at this late stage in the band's deteriorating personal relations, John and Paul can have so much fun standing face to face, throwing ideas at each other.
A full-on electric blowout, with a black-clad John snarling while the others chime in with the "shooby-doo-wah" vocals. It's the definitive version of the song, combining the best of both the electric and acoustic versions, with John in "count me out — in" mode. They filmed this clip in the middle of the combative White Album sessions, when they were falling apart as a team. But as the first verse kicks off, George tosses his hair in unmistakable joy, looking fabber than ever in his red turtleneck — a perfect image of why, even in these grim days for the band, they absolutely loved being Beatles.
No chance of getting all four Beatles together for this clip — instead, each Beatle appears in separately filmed footage at home with their wives. And each couple projects a totally different vibe — George and Patti peacocking in their hippie-royalty finery, Paul and Linda on the farm in Scotland with Martha the sheepdog, Ringo and Maureen goofing around on motorbikes, John and Yoko serene in their matching black robes. Each Beatle looks like he's found what he was looking for — but they're heading for four separate futures.
"Don't Let Me Down" (1969)
From the rooftop jam of January 30th, 1969: None of them realized it would be this cold, so Ringo wears Maureen's red coat, George wears Patti's jacket, and John wears Yoko's fur wrap. Their breath freezes in front of their faces; their hands can barely feel the chords. But with "Don't Let Me Down," they look resolved for the future, ready to leave one phase behind and embrace the next. The dream is over.
The Beatles’ Video Collection ‘1’: Baby, You Can Film My Song
By ALAN LIGHT
NOV. 4 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 Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney 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.”
The Beatles “1” collection of Blu-ray DVDs. Credit Apple Corps Ltd.
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.)
Mr. Starr 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.” (Mr. Starr, 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 Mr. McCartney, “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.
Mr. Starr 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, Mr. McCartney 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 Mr. McCartney, “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.”
Mr. Starr 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 Mr. McCartney, 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.”