The Beatles’ first No. 1 hit in the U.K., “Please Please Me,” came in February 1963 on Parlophone records.
The song that really helped kick start the Beatles’ rocket ride to international fame and fortune in the early 1960s was “Please Please Me.” In the U.K. fifty years ago, in February 1963, “Please Please Me” was the song that first sent the Beatles’ music to the top of the music charts — their first No. 1 hit. It was also the song that energized “Beatlemania” in the U.K. – the screaming crowds that began besieging the Beatles at their stage appearances, generating media attention far and wide. “Please Please Me,” in fact, was the tipping point – the take-off song that changed everything. Within a year of this song’s release, the Beatles would be a worldwide phenomenon, their music selling practically everywhere.
True, the Beatles’ first hit song was “Love Me Do,” which rose to No.17 on the U.K. charts in November 1962. But “Please Please Me,” their second single, was the Beatles’ first popular “hard rocking” song; the song that captured their youthful exuberance and musical drive. It was also the song that first offered that unique “Beatles’ sound”– an appealing mix of young male vocals in sync with driving guitars. “Please Please Me” captured that sound in an aggressive and engaging way. It was feel good music that was fresh, open, and hopeful. The public ate it up.
Music Player “Please Please Me”-1963
John Lennon sang lead and played harmonica on the song, George Harrison played lead guitar, Paul McCartney was on bass, and drummer Ringo Starr delivered the back beat. McCartney and Harrison also supplied the harmony and background vocals. It was a sound the world hadn’t quite heard before – and a sound, as time would tell, that would turn music to gold.
1963: George Martin in a sound booth at Abbey Road studios with the Beatles in the background.
Initially, however, “Please Please Me,” as originally written by John Lennon, didn’t have the chops to make it as a No. 1 hit – at least not in the eyes of George Martin, the person then in control of the Beatles’ fate in their first London recording sessions. In fact, “Please Please Me” almost didn’t make it at all.
In the U.S., meanwhile, this song also had something of a tortured history. Although it was released in America in early 1963 as it had been in Britain, it went largely unnoticed. “Please Please Me” would not fully emerge as a U.S. hit until more than a year later, in March 1964, when it would join four other Beatles’ songs to occupy the top five positions on the U.S. Billboard charts. But the story of “Please Please Me” in America captures some of the confusion, bungled business opportunities, and the general whirlwind that came with the Beatles euphoria in those crazy early days. More on that in a moment.
Sheet music cover for the Beatles’ “Please Please Me” issued by Dick James Music, Ltd., London.
“Please Please Me” was a John Lennon composition. Lennon described the inspiration for the song as coming from a combination of Roy Orbison and Bing Crosby influences. He wrote the song at his aunt Mimi’s house, having been listening at the time to some Roy Orbison tunes. Lennon was also taken with a line from Bing Crosby’s 1932 song, “Please” – the line being, “Please lend your little ears to my pleas…” Lennon said he loved “the double use of the word ‘please’.”
Paul McCartney pointed back to Orbison’s style. “If you imagine [Please Please Me] much slower,” McCartney said of the song, “which is how John wrote it, it’s got everything. The big high notes, all the hallmarks of a Roy Orbison song.”
In 1962 Lennon’s song was offered initially at the Beatles’ first London studio session in its slower form. George Martin, the studio engineer and manager of EMI’s Parlophone label, and the guy who had signed the Beatles in 1962, did not like Lennon’s song when he first heard it. He found it too slow and reportedly called it “a dirge” at one point. He suggested the song’s tempo be sped up and that the Beatles try a different arrangement. Reportedly, Martin also played a sped-up taped version of the song from an earlier recording that served as something of an “ah-ha” moment for the group. But Martin wanted the Beatles to record another song at their next session at Abbey Road studios on November 26th, 1962, one the Beatles had not written themselves.
Early Vee-Jay single of Beatles’ “Please Please Me,” released in the U.S. 1963, is distinguished by ‘Beattles’ misspelling, later corrected.
However, the Beatles prevailed on Martin to let them take another crack at “Please Please Me.” They had taken Martin’s suggestions on the song, sped it up, and added Lennon’s harmonica to the arrangement. “We lifted the tempo, and suddenly there was that fast Beatles’ spirit,” McCartney later recalled. The song was now much better. Still, it went through a series of more than a dozen studio takes before Martin was satisfied – and this time, he liked what he heard. “Gentlemen,” he is reported to have said from the recording booth to the group after the new version was completed, “I think you’ve got your first Number One.” After the Beatles’ first national TV appearance on U.K.’s Thank Your Lucky Stars show on January 19, 1963– which featured “Please, Please Me” – the song began its rise on the U.K. singles charts, hitting No. 1 on February 22nd, 1963.
In the U.S., meanwhile, George Martin had sent a copy of “Please Please Me” to EMI’s U.S. subsidiary, Capitol Records, in January 1963, urging executives there to distribute Beatles’ songs in the U.S. They declined, saying famously: “We don’t think the Beatles will do anything in this market.” Atlantic Records was also offered a chance to distribute “Please Please Me” in the U.S., but they also declined. At that point, other record labels began looking at the Beatles’1963 songs for U.S. release. One of these labels was Vee-Jay out of Chicago, an African American-owned label founded in the 1950s specializing in blues, jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll.
Brian Epstein, who discovered the Beatles and became their manager, also negotiated early business deals and arranged for publicity.
On January 25, 1963, Vee-Jay obtained a U.S. contract to release a limited number of Beatles records for short time period. Sometime in February 1963, “Please Please Me,” w/ “Ask Me Why” on the B side, was released as a single on the Vee-Jay label. The song was played on Chicago’s WLS radio station where it rose to No. 35 on WLS music survey in March 1963. But “Please Please Me” did not chart nationally on Billboard at the time. The record, in fact, was a commercial flop at that point, selling fewer than 7,500 copies.
Back in Britain in 1963, “Please Please Me” was doing so well that Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein pulled the Beatles off their tour schedule to record their first album, naming it Please Please Me to capitalize on the popularity of the single. Some 14 songs – including “I Saw Her Standing There” as the lead track – were compiled for that album in one day after nine hours of recording over three sessions. The new Please Please Me album was released in late March 1963. Within four weeks it would be No.1 on the U.K. albums chart, remaining in that position for 30 weeks. New Beatles’ singles were also released in the U.K. through 1963, and these resulted in three more No. 1 hits: “From Me to You” w/ “Thank You Girl” in April 1963; “She Loves You,” w/ “I’ll Get You” in August 1963 ( which achieved the fastest sales of any record in the U.K. up to that time, selling 750,000 copies in less than four weeks); and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” w/ “This Boy” in November 1963, which had 1 million advance U.K. orders.
April 1963: Beatles with George Martin at EMI House in central London receiving their first silver disc for sales of more than 250,000 copies of “Please, Please Me.”
In the U.S., meanwhile, Brian Epstein in November 1963 phoned Capitol Records president, Alan Livingston, about the label’s refusal to distribute Beatles songs in America. Epstein played the Beatles’ latest U.K. hit song for Livingston over the phone — “I Want To Hold Your Hand” – and also mentioned to Livingston that the group was scheduled for February 1964 TV appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. Livingston agreed to begin spending some serious money distributing and promoting Beatles’ songs in the U.S. On December 4th, 1963, Capitol announced it would begin selling “I Want To Hold Your Hand” in mid-January 1964. But after a few radio DJ’s in America began playing the song, Capitol undertook a rush production schedule to release “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” then targeting release for the day after Christmas, December 1963.
Vee-Jay’s promotional cover sleeve for Beatles’ ‘Please Please Me’ single following Jack Paar show, Jan 1964.
On January 3, 1964, Jack Paar, host of the late night U.S. TV talk show, “The Jack Paar Show,” aired a filmed segment of a Beatles’ performance of “She Loves You” from England. It was the first complete Beatles song aired on American TV, and for many Americans, the first time they had seen or heard the Beatles. Meanwhile, Capitol Records’ early release of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” proved wildly successful. By January 10, 1964, two weeks after the release, the single has sold 1 million copies – a staggering number at that time for an unknown music group from overseas.
Vee-Jay records, for its part, seeing the rising tide for all things Beatles, decided to take another shot at “Please Please Me,” and in mid-January 1964 re-issued the single, this time, with “From Me To You” on the “B” side. Some of Vee-Jay’s promotional record sleeves for the single featured headlines printed on the jacket that read: “The Record That Started Beatlemania,” and other text description noting the Beatles’ clip on The Jack Paar Show, their upcoming Ed Sullivan Show appearances, and press coverage in Time, Life and Newsweek magazines. “This Is The Record That Started It All,” said the Vee-Jay record sleeve. By January 25, “Please Please Me” finally entered the American Billboard chart at No. 69, soon rising to No. 1. Vee-Jay would sell at least 1.1 million copies of “Please Please Me” in its second offering, and would also sell at least four other Beatles’ singles, as well as the Beatles’ first U.S. album, Introducing…The Beatles, which came out ten days before Capitol’s Meet the Beatles!, also in January 1964.
Cover sleeve for the re-issued single of the Beatles’ “Please Please Me” in America by Vee-Jay Records.
“Please Please Me,” however, was just the beginning of the Beatles’ phenomenal rise in America during 1964. After their first national TV appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 8th when more than 70 million tuned in, their songs dominated the American music charts. In 1964 alone, the Beatles put 19 hit songs in the Top 40, and 30 in the Top 100. In fact, between January and March 1964, the Beatles accounted for 60 percent of all record sales in the U.S. Fifteen of their recordings in 1964 – nine singles and six albums – each sold one million or more copies, representing total Beatles’ record sales that year of more than 25 million copies.
“Please Please Me” may not be regarded as the Beatles’ best song ever by music critics or many of their fans, but it is certainly among the most important for launching their career, energizing their early style, and showing how adaptable and creative they could be when faced with criticism in the studio. In a special Rolling Stone magazine supplement of November 2010 reviewing the Beatles’ 100 greatest songs, “Please Please Me” is ranked at No. 20. Today, the song is still sold and downloaded by fans via Amazon.com, Apple’s iTunes music store, and other music sellers. For other stories on the Beatles at this website see “Beatles History: Eight Stories,” a sub-directory page with other Beatles’ story choices. Thanks for visiting. - Jack Doyle
Article Citation: Jack Doyle, “Please Please Me, 1962-1964,” PopHistoryDig.com, February 1, 2013.
Sources, Links & Additional Information
April 1963 poster for concert in Northwich, England with the Beatles at the top of the bill not long after “Please Please Me” hit the top of the charts. Small print above their name reads “Hit recorders of ‘Please Please Me’.” Poster was later sold at Christies in London, 2012.
The Beatles’ first album, Please Please Me, released in the U.K. late March 1963, hit No. 1 in April and held that position for 30 weeks.
“The Beatles,” in Holly George-Warren and Patricia Romanowski (eds), The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rolling Stone Press, New York, 3rd Edition, 2001, pp. 56-59.
Greil Marcus, “The Beatles,” in Anthony DeCurtis and James Henke, with Holly George-Warren (eds), The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock n Roll, New York: Random House, revised edition, 1992, pp. 209-222.
Frederick Lewis, “Britons Succumb to ‘Beatlemania’,” New York Times Magazine, December 1, 1963.
Lawrence Malkin, “Liverpudlian Frenzy; British Beatles Sing Up a Teen-Age Storm,” Los Angeles Times, December 29, 1963, p. G-4.
Jack Gould, “TV: It’s the Beatles (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah); Paar Presents British Singers on Film,” New York Times, Saturday, January 4, 1964, Business, p 47.
CBS, Inc., Press Release, “The Beatles to Make Three Appearances on Sullivan Show,” February 3, 1964.
Richie Unterberger, Beatles Song Review, “Please Please Me,” AllMusic.com.
Beatles shown on a Parlophone record sleeve for “Love Me Do” – billed as “a great new group from Liverpool.”
On October 5th, 1962 – more than 50 years ago – the Beatles’ first major hit song was released, “Love Me Do.” It was recorded by the famous group during some of their first sessions at EMI’s Abbey Road studios in London during June and September 1962. EMI was then regarded as one of the most prestigious recording companies in the U.K., and the Beatles, through the persistent efforts of their manager, Brian Epstein, were fortunate to even have had a chance with EMI. “Love Me Do” was also among the first of the “Lennon-McCartney” hit songs – those written jointly by Beatles’ singer-songwriters, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. In this case, “Love Me Do” had originated in 1958 from Paul’s schoolboy song scribblings – something both he and Lennon did in their dreaming about musical stardom.
Some years later, John Lennon would say that “Love Me Do” was “Paul’s song.” Lennon explained that McCartney had written it when he was about 15-16 years old, adding, “I might have helped on the middle eight, but I couldn’t swear to it…” Lennon did say, however, that the song had been around awhile, and the Beatles had used it in their early performing – “in Hamburg even, way, way before we were songwriters.” McCartney, was more generous about Lennon’s involvement with the song, saying that “Love Me Do” was “completely co-written. It might have been my original idea, but some of them really were 50-50s, and I think that one was. It was just Lennon and McCartney sitting down without either of us having a particularly original idea.”
Music Player “Love Me Do” – 1962 (UK), 1964(US)
In any case, the song would rise on the British music charts during October and November 1962, reaching No. 17, making it the Beatles’ first Top 20 hit. However, the song wouldn’t arrive in the America until 1964. But for the Beatles, that wasn’t even a consideration at the time. They were just thrilled to have their first major recording.
Beatles’ 1962 hit “Love Me Do” shown on Parlophone 45 rpm record label, EMI, produced by George Martin.
“For me that was more important than anything else,” Ringo Starr would say of their breakthrough hit. “That first piece of plastic. You can’t believe how great that was. It was so wonderful. We were on a record!” John Lennon put it this way: “In Hamburg we clicked. At the Cavern we clicked. But if you want to know when we ‘knew’ we’d arrived, it was getting in the charts with ‘Love Me Do’. That was the one. It gave us somewhere to go.” George Harrison recalled it as the song that opened the doors:
“First hearing ‘Love Me Do’ on the radio sent me shivery all over. It was the best buzz of all time. We knew it was going to be on Radio Luxembourg at something like 7:30 on a Thursday night. I was in my house in Speke and we all listened in. That was great, but after having got to 17 [on the charts] I don’t recall what happened to it. It probably went away and died, but what it meant was that the next time we went to EMI, they were more friendly: ‘Oh, hello lads. Come in.’”
Brian Epstein, Beatles manager & Liverpool record store owner.
“Love Me Do” – with “P.S. I Love You” on the B side – became the Beatles debut single in the U.K. The song’s production had the guiding hand of George Martin, then manager of one of four record labels at EMI, his being Parlophone, on which “Love Me Do” first appeared, as shown above. Martin, however, had not produced much pop music, though he had done well with some show tunes and comedy recordings, and had also worked with artists such as Shirley Bassey.
The Beatles wanted to record their own material, something which was almost unheard of at that time. George Martin would help them do that, but not initially, as Martin had been schooled in the “Tin Pan Alley” tradition where outside professional writers provided the songs for performers. “Tin Pan Alley” refers both to an actual area of New York city where a concentration of professional writers and music publishers worked, and also to that particular style of music business and production, found in other major cities as well.
George Martin had first met with Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, in February 1962, after putting him off repeatedly. Martin listened to a tape the Beatles had recorded at Decca, one of several recording labels which had turned down the group. Martin found the Beatles’ tape “rather unpromising,” but he liked the sound of Lennon and McCartney’s vocals. After another meeting with Epstein in May at the Abbey Road studios, Martin was impressed with Epstein’s enthusiasm and verbally agreed to sign the unknown Beatles without having met them or seen them play live. Turns out, EMI wasn’t gambling much on that commitment, as the terms offered were decidedly in EMI’s favor.
1963: George Martin in a sound booth at Abbey Road studios with the Beatles in the background.
A first audition came in June 1962, with the arriving Beatles described as being “in awe” of the studio. That audition yielded a tape that Martin – who had not been at the session – listened to at the session’s end. He found their original songs lacking, and also lectured them about what it would take to make it, during which they listened politely and were silent. Acknowledging he was a bit harsh on them, Martin then asked if there was anything troubling them, or if there was something they were not happy with, to which George Harrison replied, “Well, there’s your tie, for a start.” That remark, reportedly, became a turning point for Martin, as John Lennon and Paul McCartney joined in with jokes and comic wordplay as well, which made Martin think they should be signed for their wit alone. He would later say that it was the Beatles’ “cheeky charm” that won him over.
Martin would also later acknowledge that Brian Epstein was key to the Beatles’ signing at EMI and their early success. “Individually [the Beatles] may have written and published a few songs,” Martin would say of the Beatles without Epstein’s early help. And they would have been very popular in Liverpool. But without Epstein, Martin believed, they wouldn’t have risen to worldwide fame. “His faith [in the Beatles] never wavered.” Epstein, who was also from Liverpool, had discovered the Beatles through his work at the family business, North End Music Stores (NEMS), which he had turned into a top regional record retailer, and later, through NEMS Enterprises, managed other artists as well. Tragically, Epstein died of a an accidental barbiturate sleeping pill-and-achohol combination in August 1967 at the age of 43.
The Beatles at work, EMI studios, Abbey Road, London, England, Tuesday, 4 September 1962. From left: Ringo, George, John and Paul. Photo: Dezo Hoffmann.
At the time of the Beatles’ first sessions at Abbey Road, Martin wanted the group to record “How Do You Do It?,” a song written by Mitch Murray and Peter Callender – a song that had been offered to British teen star, Adam Faith, but rejected. The Beatles rehearsed the song, but weren’t thrilled about recording it. However, Martin told them unless they could write something as commercial as “How Do You Do It?,” the Tin Pan Alley formula of using outside material would prevail. So the Beatles recorded it along with a few of their own songs.
Music Player “P.S. I Love You” – 1962
Although Martin would be proven right about “How Do You Do It ?” – which later became a hit for Gerry and the Pacemakers – in the end he allowed the Beatles’ own material to go out on their first single, with “Love Me Do” being the primary tune. The Beatles also wanted “Please, Please Me” to be the “B” side of that single, but “P.S. I Love You” was used instead – a somewhat overlooked song in Beatles history. “P.S. I Love You” – also a Lennon-McCartney composition – was composed with female listeners in mind. The Beatles had used the song as part of their Cavern Club set list and it had become a fan favorite. The tune includes some innovative mixing and interspersing of background vocals
U.K. poster for June 21,1962 concert with Bruce Channel and The Beatles.
A part of the sound that distinguished “Love Me Do,” however, and one that would become a part of the Beatles’ early trademark on several of their early songs, was the harmonica – played by John Lennon. Some accounts credit George Martin with urging that the harmonica be used in the song, while others report that it was the harmonica sound that had attracted Martin to the song, and was already part of how the Beatles had been performing it in the clubs. Lennon had learned to play the harmonica after his Uncle George gave him one as a young boy.
But in 1962, around the time the Beatles were recording “Love Me Do,” there were two popular songs out with harmonica parts that had caught Lennon’s attention – “Hey Baby” by U.S. singer Bruce Channel (No. 1 U.S. March 1962) and “I Remember You” by Frank Ifield (No. 1, U.K. July 1962). Brian Epstein, in fact, also handled a booking for Bruce Channel at a NEMS concert in Wallasey, England on June 21, 1962, just a few weeks after Channel’s “Hey Baby” had charted. The Beatles would be on that bill as well, at second billing, a prestigious slot at the time. But Lennon was quite taken with Channel’s harmonica player, Delbert McClinton, and during their joint billing, Lennon asked McClinton for advice on how to play the instrument. At any rate, the harmonica sound would become a featured and background instrument on other Beatles songs including: “Please Please Me,” “From Me to You,” “I Should Have Known Better,” “Chains,” “There’s a Place,” “Thank You Girl,” “I’ll Get You,” “Little Child,” I’m A Loser,” “The Fool On The Hill” and “Rocky Raccoon.”
Music Player “Hey Baby”- Bruce Channel
“Love Me Do,” meanwhile, was not promoted by EMI. Brian Epstein, however, did what he could to generate interest, both in the song and on the news that the Beatles had signed with EMI. In one press release for the single that was sent out, there were several exaggerated claims about the Beatles’ rising popularity, and also an amusing passage from John Lennon describing how the Beatles determined their name: “…It came to us in a vision. A man descended unto us astride a flaming pie and spake these words unto us saying ‘From this day on you are Beatles with an ‘A’. Thus it did come to pass thus.”
Top half of U.K. “Mersey Beat” front page, January 1962. Copyright, Bill Harry.
“Love Me Do” rose on the U.K. music charts within days of its release, with sales initially concentrated in and around Liverpool, the Beatles’ hometown, and where they had also received the attention of a music newspaper named Mersey Beat, published by Bill Harry. Liverpool was also home to the Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, who owned record stores there. In fact, rumors have persisted over the years that Epstein had bulk- ordered some 10,000 copies or more of the song to increase its chart ranking. Yet some of the Beatles, including John Lennon, denied that happened. Bill Harry of Mersey Beat also wrote a piece in his paper explaining how chart computations were made and why he found the charge without merit.
“Love Me Do” did well on regional U.K. music charts, including a No. 1 showing at Mersey Beat. It also appeared on other U.K. charts, including New Musical Express (NME), Record Mirror, and Disc. Melody Maker was also an important chart in the U.K, and one of the longest-running. “Love Me Do” entered that chart on November 27, 1962 at No. 48, eventually rising to No. 21, remaining on that chart life of sixteen weeks. U.K. music critic Ian Mac- Donald found that “Love Me Do,” with its working- class sound, “rang the first faint chime of a revolu- tionary bell” compared to Tin Pan Alley fare. On December 20, 1962, “Love Me Do” peaked at No. 17 on the Record Retailer chart. The Record Retailer was the trade publication the U.K. record industry regarded its official publication, and its music chart was compiled by the British Market Research Bureau and used by the BBC.
Meanwhile, back in the recording studio, on November 26, 1962 the Beatles and George Martin re-recorded “Please Please Me,” a John Lennon tune. Lennon and McCartney had besieged Martin to record and release another of their original songs. Martin agreed, and appears to have played an important role in changing the song for the better, as he had them speed up what initially had been a slow ballad. “Please, Please Me,” released in January 1963, hit No. 1 on some of the British music charts February 22, 1963.
Other hit singles followed. “From Me To You,” for example, hit No. 1 on May 2 1963, holding there for seven weeks. The Beatles’ first U.K. album – titled Please Please Me – came out in April 1963 and within a month was the No.1 album, remaining in that position for 30 weeks. A second U.K. album – With the Beatles – came next. From then on, there came a string of more No. 1 U.K. Beatles’ singles – at least eleven more by one count – and more No. 1 albums as well.
Martin Creasey’s 2011 book on the Beatles’ UK tours.
“Beatlemania” by this time was in full gale throughout the U.K. In November 1963, the Beatles performed at the Odeon Cinema in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. On the following day, The Daily Mirror newspaper used the headline: “Beatlemania!,” exclaiming, “It’s happening everywhere. . . even in sedate Cheltenham.”
The Beatles’ popularity in the U.S., however, would lag behind the U.K. somewhat, owing in part to EMI’s own American subsidiary, Capitol Records, whose executives declined to take on Beatles songs in early 1963, saying, “We don’t think the Beatles will do anything in this market.” Lesser known labels, including Vee Jay and Swan then began picking up the Beatles’1963 songs for limited U.S. release, as well as Capitol’s Canadian arm. Still, even with these, there was not much American notice of Beatles music in 1963, although a few U.S. news stories and some TV coverage had appeared about their success in the U.K. But that was about to change in a big way as Brian Epstein had negotiated some Beatles’ TV appearances with Ed Sullivan for the following February. By December 1963, meanwhile, EMI’s U.S. subsidiary, Capitol Records, began to see the light and released “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to the American market. See “Beatles in America” story at this website for a more detailed 1963-1964 timeline.
1964 U.S. single of "Love Me Do"/ "P.S I Love You" on Tollie Records.
1964 “Love Me Do” – U.S.
By the time “Love Me Do” formally entered the U.S. market as a single in late April 1964, the song was almost an afterthought. By then, America was in full Beatles swoon, as the group had appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show three times, performed live in Washington, D.C. and New York city, and had at least 14 of their songs among the Top 100 on the Billboard music chart. When “Love Me Do” began to enter the U.S. charts in the spring of 1964, it was due initially to sales of imported copies from Canada. On April 27th, 1964 the single “Love Me Do”/ “P.S I Love You” was formally released in the U.S. by Vee-Jay’s Tollie Records subsidiary. A month later, by May 30th, “Love Me Do” was the No. 1 hit on the U.S. Billboard music chart, remaining in the Top 100 for 14 weeks.
1982: Beatles on record sleeve cover of 20 anniversary edition of “Love Me Do.”
1982 20 Years Later
In 1982, at the 20th anniversary of “Love Me Do,” the song was re-issued in the U. K. in a special 12-inch edition, featuring both versions of the song recorded on September 4th and September 11th, 1962. With the re-issue, “Love Me Do” rose to No. 4 on the music charts, making an even better showing than it did 20 years earlier. In the Netherlands, a 20th anniversary EP was issued featuring “Love Me Do” along with two other early ’60s Beatles’ hits – “Please Please Me” and “From Me To You.” The Beatles by 1982, however, were no longer together, having broken up in 1970. John Lennon was dead by then as well, shot by a deranged fan in New York city in December 1980. Paul, George and Ringo were each involved in solo careers and/or working with other artists. Beatles music, however, was still doing well. Music technology was beginning to change by 1982, as compact discs were then just emerging, though not yet widely available. Beatles music would not be released on CD until the late 1980s, due in part to litigation between the Beatles and EMI.
2012 50 Years Later
Cover art for the 2012 E-book, “Love Me Do,” by Bill Harry, published by Miniver Press.
At the 50th anniversary of the “Love Me Do” single, Miniver Press published an E-book about the behind-the-scenes making of the song, written by Bill Harry, editor and publisher of several Beatles books, a Beatles encyclopedia, and the former Mersey Beat newspaper. Harry was a long time friend of the Beatles, and in the E-book he reveals an inside account of the song’s making and its release in October 1962, including: how Pete Best was replaced by Ringo Starr on drums after the first recording session; the role George Martin played in the recording sessions and his influence on the Beatles; the behind-the scenes persistence, skill and efforts of Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, on behalf of the group; details on the U.K. charting of “Love Me Do;” and several other accounts. Also on the 50th anniversary, there were special celebrations in the U.K. marking the ocassion, including a commemoration of the song and the “Fab Four” in the Beatles’ hometown of Liverpool, England.
“Love Me Do” of 1962 was, in any case, the opening salvo in a worldwide Beatles music revolution that would spark changes not only in music, but also in fashion, film and cultural mores affecting millions of people, and generating billions in business activity.
For additional Beatles stories at this website see “Beatles History: Ten Stories,” a directory page with links to those stories and additional background on the group’s rise and its members. Other stories on the history of popular music and its impact on society can be found at the Annals of Music category page or visit the Home Page for additional choices. Thanks for visiting – and please consider supporting this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle
Paul McCartney, shown with Linda & family in a November 1969 Life magazine cover photo taken in Scotland to dispel popular rumors that Paul was dead.
In 1969, the Beatles were at the height of their fame, their music still wildly popular. However, behind the scenes, unbeknownst to most people, the Beatles were falling apart as a group. Their business interests were then in some turmoil as well, with struggles over music publishing rights, some slipping away into non-Beatle ownership. But amidst all of this came a “pop rumor” that Beatle Paul McCartney was dead; a rumor that ran wild for time all around the world. As the story went, McCartney was supposedly killed in a 1966 car crash and had been quietly replaced by a look-alike to spare Beatles’ fans the grief and keep the group on track. It all proved to be a giant hoax, of course – a big false story – as the November 7, 1969 Life magazine cover story at right indicates.
The Life story was one of the more mainstream reactions that emerged during that time to help investigate the rumor, and finally dispel it as a hoax. Yet the tale about Paul’s demise, still to this day, survives in some corners as urban legend. But as the story unfolded at the time, the whole affair helped raise the Beatles’ “mystical” appeal and also, no doubt, to sell a lot more of their music – not that they were having a hard time doing that. What follows below is a recounting of the “Paul-is-dead” story. But first some Beatles’ context at that time — which is probably the more interesting story – occurring roughly during calender year 1969 and into early 1970, leading up to the “Paul-is-dead” rumor, including some of the group’s final recording sessions, and in 1970, the break-up of the Beatles.
Soundtrack for Beatles' 1968 film, "Yellow Submarine," was released in January 1969.
In January 1969, there was plenty of Beatles’ music in the air, and plenty of Beatles’ recording activity going on in various London studios. This, despite the fact that the group was having serious internal difficulties. The strains had begun upon their return from India in 1968 (see “Dear Prudence” story), and continued through their 1968 recording sessions for the “White Album.” By1969, despite the output of what would prove to be quite incredible music, the band was barely operating as a group. After arguments and frustrations, there had been walkouts by Ringo at one point in 1968, and George in 1969 – although both returned. At other times, each member did parts of songs or played instruments separately that were later combined in the studio. For the adoring public, however, the Beatles’ discord was largely out of sight, and for the most part, unknown. Beatles’ music, meanwhile, was all over the airwaves then and frequently riding high on the pop charts.
The Beatles at January 1969 London rooftop jam session (Ringo obscured; Billy Preston not shown).
The “White Album,” released in November 1968, was played heavily through early 1969 and was a huge success at the time, selling more than four million copies in the U.S. in one month. Music from the Beatle’s 1968 animated film, Yellow Submarine had also been released as a separate album in January 1969. It rose to No. 2 on U.S. album charts. Also that month, much of the music that would be used for the Let It Be album was being recorded by the Beatles, though the album itself would not appear for another year or so, as it would be shelved and reworked. Other studio recording was also occurring. In late January 1969, the Beatles were filmed in a rooftop jam session – in what would prove to be their last public “concert” together – performing several songs on the roof at Apple’s building on 3 Savile Row, London. The 42-minute session of songs was filmed for the Beatles’ movie, Let It Be
Business agent Allen Klein at left shown with Yoko Ono and Beatle, John Lennon. Klein became a source of some internal Beatles’ discord in 1969 and a later lawsuit.
During 1969, there had also been some turmoil within the group over their business interests. In early February 1969, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr hired Allen Klein to be the Beatles’ new business manager, against the wishes of Paul McCartney, who would not sign a contract with Klein. McCartney, meanwhile, had hired the law firm of Eastman & Eastman – owned by the father of his wife-to-be, Linda Eastman — as general legal counsel for Apple.
A stock struggle also ensued about this time over the Beatle’s Northern Songs music catalog, as their music publisher, Dick James, had sold his shares of Northern Songs in March 1969 to Associated Television (ATV). This would become the much-publicized “Beatles music catalog” that Michael Jackson would acquire some years later. But that’s another story (see “Michael & McCartney“).
The Beatles at work in London studio in 1969 with keyboard player Billy Preston, lower left.
In March 1969 both Paul McCartney and John Lennon had married their respective lady friends – Paul married American, Linda Eastman of Eastman-Kodak business fame in London, and John Lennon married Japanese artist Yoko Ono in Gibraltar. In April, the Beatles’ single “Get Back” with “Don’t Let Me Down”on the B side, was released and rose to No. 1 in several countries. Meanwhile, through much of that year, the Beatles continued to work in the recording studio on music and lyrics for their Abbey Road album. This work generally ran between February and August 1969 at three London studios, with keyboardist Billy Preston brought in to help out on electric piano and organ for some of the sessions. Also during this time, in the middle of the Abbey Road work, around July 4th, 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, released a solo recording, “Give Peace A Chance” in the U.K and the U.S. This song, credited to the Plastic Ono Band, became the first solo single by a member of the Beatles, and a clear signal of where things were headed.
The back cover of the Beatles’ 1969 album, “Abbey Road,” listing 17 tracks.
Abbey Road, meanwhile, was nearing completion in August 1969. The track, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” was recorded on August 20, 1969. It was the last time all four Beatles were together in the same studio. In late August, John, George and Ringo went to Isle of Wight festival. Paul stayed in London as his wife Linda gave birth to their daughter, Mary.
A few weeks later, the group’s demise began, as John Lennon told Allen Klein on September 11th, he was planning to quit the Beatles. Lennon would later announce his departure to the group on September 20, 1969, but agreed that no public announcement would be made until a number of legal matters were resolved. Paul and his family meanwhile, went to their farm in Scotland. The Abbey Road album was released in U.K and U.S. in the late September-early-October 1969 time frame. This was about the time the “Paul-is-dead” rumor began to take hold.
A collage of news stories on the "Paul-is-dead" rumor, 1969.
On September 17, 1969, just as the Beatles’ Abbey Road album was hitting the airwaves, an article entitled, “Is Paul McCartney Dead?” appeared in the Drake University newspaper, The Times-Delphic. The article, written by undergraduate student Tim Harper, began the conjecture and the crafting of “clues” suggesting that McCartney was dead. He included, for example, imagery from the Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers album. Here’s a sample:
“…This album also started the hints that all was not right with the Beatles, especially Paul. On the front cover a mysterious hand is raised over his head, a sign many believe is an ancient death symbol of either the Greeks or American Indiana. Also, a left-handed guitar (Paul was the only lefty of the four) lies on the grave at the group’s feet…
“…On the back of the same album…George is pointing toward a phrase from the song “A Day in the Life” pertaining to a certain Wednesday morning at five a.m. when some famous but unnamed person “blew his mind out in a car.”…
Clue hunters in 1969 thought the hand over McCartney’s head on the “Sgt. Peppers” album was an Eastern symbol of death.
And on it went, citing other Beatles albums, such as Magical Mystery Tour, clues in its songs, and even a revelation about a phone number when the album cover was held up to a mirror.
Then on October 12th, a caller to WKNR-FM radio station in Detroit, Michigan from Eastern Michigan University also announced that Mc- Cartney was dead and that the DJ should play the Beatles’ song “Revolution 9″ backwards ( a technique also known as “backmasking,” which interestingly, was first used by the Beatles in 1966). The Detroit radio DJ, Russ Gibb, did that, reporting on the airwaves that he thought he heard phrases to the effect of, “turn me on, dead man.” Soon, Gibb was telling his listeners what he had found and was also adding to the list of clues.
Meanwhile, on October 14, 1969, college students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor published a satirical review of The Beatles’ Abbey Road album in The Michigan Daily. This story stoked the “McCartney-is-dead” claim with “new evidence,” offering various “clues,” some supposedly found in any number of Beatles’ songs and/or album covers. This story, in turn, was picked up by various newspapers across the U.S. and escalated nationally. On October 21, 1969, helping to spread the rumor nationally, a radio disc jockey at New York radio station WABC, discussed the “Paul-is-dead” rumor at length for over an hour. This occurred during the very early morning hours of WABC’s broadcasting reach, when the station’s signal could be heard in 38 states and beyond. At this point, the “Paul-is-dead” rumor was spreading like wildfire. Fans at Hofstra University even formed a special group named: “Is Paul McCartney Dead Society.”
Beatles’ "Magical Mystery Tour” album (1967) became part of the hunt for clues in ‘Paul-is-dead’ rumor. Black walrus was Paul, a bad omen?
As the story grew, hundreds of supposed clues to McCartney’s death were being reported by fans – some found while listening to various Beatles songs, and others from interpretations made of cover art on various Beatles songs and albums – song-by-song in some cases, with recordings slowed down, taped backwards, and even scientific sonograms made of Paul’s voice on earlier tunes to compare for possible imposters. John Lennon, in the final section of the song “Strawberry Fields Forever,” was supposedly heard saying in the background something like, “I buried Paul,” when actually the suspect phrase was either “I’m very bored” or “cranberry sauce,” according to various reports.
More “Paul-is-dead” imagery from Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album, from left: George as gravedigger, Paul the corpse, Ringo mourner, and John the preacher.
Abbey Road’s now-iconic album cover, shown at left, was also implicated in the rumor– supposedly depicting a funeral procession with Lennon in all white as preacher; Ringo in black as mourner; George in denim as gravedigger, and barefoot Paul as corpse. The Beatles’ press office, meanwhile, besieged with calls, issued a press statement on October 21, 1969, denying the rumor and dismissing it as “a load of old rubbish.” Still, the rumor persisted. Abbey Road, meanwhile – quite apart from its supposed “Paul-is-dead” clues – is regarded as one of the Beatles’ finest albums musically, also becoming one of their all-time best sellers at more than nine million sold and counting.
Paul McCartney getting a kiss from wife Linda as they sit on bumper of Range Rover with baby Mary and Linda’s daughter Heather at their farm in Scotland. Photo, Life, 1969.
In 1969, of course, there was no “always-on media” — no internet, no People magazine, no TMZ, or TV-equivalent Access Hollywood or Entertain- ment Tonight. Under such media-deprived circum- stances, more traditional journalistic sleuthing tech- niques were used to investigate the rumor. Life mag- azine, a much-respected, photo-journalist-styled news and culture weekly, dispatched a team from London, including reporter Dorothy Bacon, to track down McCartney in Scotland (see sidebar story below). It was this London team, with photographer Robert Graham, that found McCartney at his farm, photographing him with his family for the Life magazine cover story of November 7, 1969 (shown at top of this article).
When McCartney was contacted by Life’s reporter, he speculated that the rumor might have started because he, McCartney, had been out of contact for a time and hadn’t been in the press much, which he didn’t regret. “I have done enough press for a lifetime,” he told the Life reporter, “and I don’t have anything to say these days. I am happy to be with my family…” He also added that he was essentially chilling out, taking some serious down time: “I was switched on for ten years and I never switched off. Now I am switching off whenever I can. I would rather be a little less famous these days.”
NY TV guide listing the F. Lee Bailey TV special on the ‘Paul-is-dead’ hoax story.
But the Life magazine story did not end the rumor; as the “Paul-is-dead” story persisted even though Paul was very much alive. In fact, F. Lee Bailey, a famous, high-profile U.S. trial attorney known for defending controversial clients including the Boston strangler, became involved in the action with an hour-long TV show cross-examining some of the students who first offered the claim.
RKO produced the television special, titled: “Paul McCartney: The Complete Story, Told For the First And Last Time.” The show was broadcast on WOR-TV station in New York on November 30, 1969 in which Bailey cross-examined some of the college newspaper authors and other “witnesses” about the rumor. Bailey, who used a court room setting to interrogate his subjects, left it to his TV viewers to draw their own conclusions.
“Life Finds McCartney” Fall 1969
Life magazine sent a team of London correspondents and a photographer to the remote reaches of Scotland on an un- announced visit to Paul McCartney’s farm. Hoping to avoid detection, the Life team hiked four and a half miles across cold moors and muddy fields until they approached the farmhouse of the missing Beatle. However, McCartney’s sheepdog, “Martha,” soon began barking at the interlopers. Paul then ran outside and began yelling at the reporters, charging them with trespassing. The photo- grapher in the group, Robert Graham, began snapping pictures of an enraged McCartney, and for his efforts, Graham was drenched with a bucket of water. The Life team then retreat- ed down the road. McCartney meanwhile, back in his kitchen, reviewing what had just happened, realized he had been perhaps a bit too harsh. He then jumped into his Land Rover, caught up with the group, and invited them back to his house for a cup of tea. After some discussion, a bargain was struck. Paul agreed to give the Life correspondents an exclusive interview. In return, Robert Graham agreed to give Paul the film in his camera. And Paul, in remarks to journalist Dorothy Bacon, said in part, “…Can you spread it around that I’m just an ordinary person who wants to live in peace?…”
The “Paul-is-dead” hoax lasted for about two months in its most heated form – from about September through December 1969. If nothing else, the rumor probably helped fuel the sales of Beatles’ albums, including all of those with supposed “Paul-is-dead” imagery or symbol- ism. The episode proved a big enough event that it became the subject of several books, articles, lectures and academic papers. Among the books, for example, are American jour- nalist Andru J. Reeve’s 1994 book Turn Me On, Dead Man, and another in 1997 by English author Benjamin Fitzpatrick, Rumours From John, George, Ringo and Me.
By mid-January 1970, in any case, it was the Beatles’ group that was dead – not Paul McCartney. At that point, each of the four Beatles separately began planning or beginning their solo careers. John and Yoko had already been recording. On April 10, 1970, Paul McCartney released his first solo album, McCartney. A few days later, Paul publicly announced the end of the Beatles. At about the same time, the Beatles’ previously-produced and recorded Let It Be album was released, followed by Let It Be the movie. That album became the Beatles’ 14th No. 1 album. Two singles from Let It Be – “The Long and Winding Road” and “Let It Be” – also became No. 1 hits.
Documents filed on December 31, 1970 officially ended the legal entity known as The Beatles. Three years later, John, George and Ringo split with Allen Klein and sued him. Still, during this tumultuous year of 1969 – marking their final disintegration as a group – the Beatles still managed, with help from their producer, George Martin, to turn out some of their most enduring and most loved music. For more stories at this website on the Beatles please visit the Home Page, the Annals of Music category page, or the archive. Thanks for visiting. - Jack Doyle
Andru J. Reeve, Turn Me On, Dead Man: The Beatles and the ‘Paul Is Dead’ Hoax, Popular Culture Ink., 1994
Benjamin Fitzpatrick, Rumours From John, George, Ringo and Me, 1997.
Brian Moriarty, “Who Buried Paul?,” Illustrated Transcript of a Lecture at the Game Developers Conference, San Jose Convention Center, March 17, 1999 on St. Patrick’s Day 1999, as a featured lecture, Ludix.com, detailed accounting of “Paul-is-dead” hoax.
Gary R. Patterson, The Walrus Was Paul: The Great Beatle Death Clues, Prentice Hall, 1998.
Mark Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Chronicle, London: Pyramid Books, 1992.
“The Get Back Rehearsals,” Four Parts: The Twickenham Sessions; The Apple Sessions; The Rooftop Concert; and, The Apple Studio Performance.
The Beatles in a session with Ed Sullivan prior to their February 9th, 1964 show. From left: Paul McCartney, Ed Sullivan, George Harrison, John Lennon, and behind & above, Ringo Starr.
The Beatles became a sensation in the U.K. in 1962-63, about a year or more before anyone in the U. S. knew much about them. However, before that, the Beatles had honed their craft playing in nightclubs and other gigs dating to the late 1950s. Known by earlier names such as The Quarrymen, Johnny & the Moon- dogs, and the Silver Beatles, they played a variety of venues, with some alternating personnel during those early years. In Hamburg, Germany, and Liverpool, Eng- land, from about 1960 on, they worked hard and steadily in nightclubs, putting in long hours, improving their stage act, increasing their range of music, and writing their own songs. They were a cover band as well, as most English rock bands then were. They offered their own versions of Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Larry Williams, and others. By late 1961, they were playing to packed houses at the Cavern nightclub in Liverpool, England where they were discovered by their manager-to-be Brian Epstein in November 1961. Epstein did a wardrobe and style make-over on them, cleaning them up for the music industry. By May 1962, after being rejected by a number of U.K. record labels, they signed a deal with EMI, then the U.K.’s leading music company.
Music Player “Please Please Me,”1963-64
During 1962, their songs began hitting the British Melody Maker music chart and others. “Love Me Do,” a Lennon/McCartney compo- sition, reached No. 21 in the fall that year, and their first No. 1 hit came with “Please, Please Me” on February 22, 1963. At about this point, what came to be known as “Beatlemania” began to take hold in the U.K. Their first U.K. album was titled Please Please Me, released in April of 1963. Within four weeks it would be the No.1 U.K. album, remaining in that position for 30 weeks, followed by their second U.K. album, With the Beatles. From then on, there came a string of No. 1 Beatles’ hits and No. 1 albums until the group broke up in 1969-1970.
The Beatles as photographed upon their arrival at JFK Airport in New York, February 7, 1964, from top left: John, Paul, George & Ringo.
In the American music industry, however, there was an initial hesitancy about the Beatles, as some record executives and DJs, especially in 1963, didn’t think that British acts generally would do well in America. That perspective would soon change.
What follows below is a timeline marking the rise of Beatles’ music and appearances in the U.S. during 1963 and 1964, along with a few photos, anecdotes, and sidebar stories. It is not a complete and comprehensive treatment of the Beatles’ activities during these years, nor is it meant to be. There are entire books and websites devoted to that topic, some of which are noted in “Sources & Additional Information” at the end of this article. What is offered here, hopefully, is a representative sampling of activity in those first two “Beatles-in-America” years, mixing in music history, business developments, and news-of-the-times – plus one or two stories that may be new to many readers.
January 1963 George Martin of EMI in London sends a copy of “Please Please Me” to U.S. subsidiary Capitol Records, urging executives there to distribute Beatles’ songs in the U.S. They decline, saying: “We don’t think the Beatles will do anything in this market.” Lesser known labels then begin picking up Beatles’1963 songs for U.S. release.
Vee-Jay single of Beatles’ “Please Please Me,” in Feb 1963, distinguished by ‘Beattles’ misspelling, later corrected.
25 Jan 1963 Vee-Jay record label of Chicago obtains a contract to release limited number of Beatles records in the U.S. for a limited time period.
25 Feb 1963 “Please Please Me”/ “Ask Me Why” released as single on Vee-Jay label. The song is played on Chicago’s WLS radio station where it reaches No. 35 on WLS music survey in March, but does not chart nationally; not on Billboard.
27 May 1963 “From Me To You” / “Thank You Girl” released as a single by Vee-Jay, but is barely visible; No. 116 on August Billboard chart, drops off thereafter.
Record sleeve for ‘She Loves You’ / 'I’ll Get You’ single issued by Swan Records in Sept. 1963, which went ‘virtually unnoticed.’
16 Sept 1963 “She Loves You” / “I’ll Get You” released in U.S. by Swan Records, a Philadelphia label, but does not chart on Billboard.
31 Oct 1963 American TV variety show host, Ed Sullivan, traveling to London, has his arrival delayed at London Heathrow Airport by a screaming crowd of teens welcoming the Beatles home from a tour of Sweden. Sullivan has his first thoughts of booking these rising British music stars with strange haircuts – perhaps as novelty act.
11-12 Nov 1963 Beatles manager Brian Epstein travels to New York and persuades Ed Sullivan to book the Beatles for an unprecedented three consecutive appearances on Sullivan’s much-watched Sunday eveningvariety show – February 9th, 16th and 23rd, 1964. CBS-TV gets one year’s exclusive rights to the Beatles’ U.S. television appearances.
Brian Epstein, who discovered the Beatles and became their manager, also negotiated early business deals and arranged for publicity.
15 Nov 1963 Time magazine take notice of the “Beatlemania” craze sweeping England and the Beatles’ command performance for British royalty in London.
16 Nov1963 CBS News bureau London – at the suggestion of Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein – sends a news crew to the British seaside resort of Bournemouth where they film a Beatles concert, thousands of screaming fans, and a few Beatles’ comments on camera. This film clip is later sent to New York.
Mid-late Nov 1963 Brian Epstein phones Capitol Records president Alan Livingston over label’s refusal to distribute Beatles songs in America. Epstein urges Livingston to listen to the U.K. single, “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” while mentioning the Beatles’ upcoming 1964 Ed Sullivan Show appearances as a big opportunity for Capitol. Livingston later agrees to spend $40,000 for Beatles promotion, equal to about $250,000 in today’s money.
Beatles’ ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand' song that Brian Epstein urged Capitol Records Alan Livingston to listen to, Nov 1963.
18 Nov 1963 NBC’s evening news program, The Huntley-Brinkley Report, airs a four-minute segment on the Beatles.
22 Nov 1963 U.K. album, With The Beatles, is released in the U.K., rising to No. 1 on the British album charts and remaining there for 21 weeks. With The Beatles becomes the Beatles’ first million-selling album in Britain, and the second album of any kind in Britain to sell one million copies, the first being the South Pacific soundtrack.
22 Nov 1963
The “CBS Morning News With Mike Wallace” runs a story on the Beatles for the network’s morning news show. CBS planned to repeat the segment that evening on Walter Cronkite’s newscast. However, that day, in mid afternoon, Walter Cronkite was breaking the tragic news to a shocked nation that their President, John F. Kennedy, had been shot and killed while visiting Dallas, Texas.
29 Nov 1963 The Beatles’ single “I Want To Hold Your Hand” is released in the U.K. and immediately hits No. 1 on the British pop charts.
“Dick Clark & The Beatles” Aug-Dec 1963
Dick Clark, of 'American Bandstand' fame, was a partner for a time in Swan Records.
Swan Records was a Philadelphia, PA record label founded in 1957 by Bernie Binnick, Tony Mamma- rella, and Dick Clark. Clark was then host of American Bandstand, a popular dance and pop music TV show. Binnick, an accountant, had worked with Clark on earlier music projects, and Marmmarella was a producer at Bandstand. Initially, Clark held 50 percent of Swan Records, with Binnick and Mammarella each holding a 25 percent share. After the 1959-60 payola scandal that had implicated music DJs in “play-for-pay” music deals, Dick Clark – though never found guilty of any wrong-doing – divested his music holdings, including Swan, which he sold to Binnick and Mammarella. By 1963, Clark was still at American Bandstand, and very much a recognized leader in the business of rock ‘n roll music.
The Beatles in England by this time were already a sensation, with hit after hit, setting music sales records. On August 23, 1963, the Beatles released the song “She Loves You” in the U.K. on EMI’s Parlophone record label. “She Loves You” hit No. 1 in the U.K. on August 29, 1963. However, in the U.S., Capitol Records, a subsidiary of EMI, declined to issue “She Loves You” in America. They had also not issued other Beatles’ U.K hits – “Love Me Do”, “Please Please Me” and “From Me To You.” That left the door open to other smaller companies to obtain the U.S. distribution rights for Beatles’ songs.
Swan Records released the Beatles’ ‘She Loves You’ in Sept 1963, but it went nowhere. Re-issued in early 1964 after Beatles’ music soared, it hit No. 1 in March.
According to John Jackson’s excellent book, American Bandstand: Dick Clark and the Making of a Rock ‘n Roll Empire, Bernie Binnick acquired the American rights for “She Loves You” for his Swan Record label while on vacation in England in the summer of 1963. When he returned, he pressed his old friend Dick Clark about the song, obviously hoping for some American Bandstand attention. “What do you think?” he reportedly asked Clark, who replied that the song sounded like “Buddy Holly and the Crickets and Chuck Berry and a lot of other early American songs sort of mixed together.” Clark was not reassuring, though Binnick tried to interest Clark in the new group’s novel look. But after glancing at a picture of the Beatles, Clark noticed their long hair and reportedly told Binnick, “you’re absolutely insane….It’ll never fly.”
Still, Binnick’s Swan label released “She Loves You” to the American market in mid-September 1963. But nothing happened. Clark, meanwhile, appears to have given the record a review on American Bandstand’s “rate-a-record” segment – probably in the Oct-Nov period. Bandstand’s “rate-a-record” consisted of a selected group of teenagers reviewing several new records that were played, then rated on a numeric scale by the teens who were interviewed by Clark. “She Loves You” reportedly did poorly on the rate-a-record segment, earning a seventy-one out of a possible ninety-eight points – not an impressive showing. According to another account, Clark would later explain that the Beatles’ disc rated “just fair.” He also added, ”then I pulled a picture of the group out, and the audience just giggled. I figured these guys were going nowhere.” But as Clark would later acknowledge, “We all found out the truth soon enough.”
New songs were rated by teens on Bandstand, who reportedly gave the Beatles’ ‘She Loves You’ a poor rating in 1963.
Binnick, meanwhile, had a pile of newly pressed Swan recordings of “She Loves You” going nowhere. Then in late 1963 he got a telephone call from Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, who was then in New York arranging an American television appearance for the Beatles. Epstein wanted to know how “She Loves You” was doing in America. Binnick replied that the record was “a stiff.” Epstein shot back that it might soon become a huge hit, explaining that the Beatles were going to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. Binnick, unimpressed, told Epstein he “blew it,” saying he should have had the Beatles appear on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand rather than The Ed Sullivan Show, suggesting that Clark’s show was more popular.
About a month or so later, Jack Paar, who hosted a Friday evening variety TV show on NBC, had just returned from England that December, marveled to his viewing audience over the “Beatlemania” that he had observed overseas. Paar was also able to get a film clip of the Beatles performing “She Loves You” in an English town, and he aired it on his show Friday, January 3, 1964, showing the Beatles performing the song as their teenage fans went wild. According to Binnick, “the record exploded [in sales] the following Monday.” Binnick and Swan, re-issued “She Loves You” to meet demand. By March 21st it would become the No. 1 hit in the land. “She Loves You,” in fact, would sell 1 million copies, creating a temporary windfall for Binnick and Swan Records. However, Swan’s option on future Beatles songs had been lost since it stipulated that ‘She Loves You” had to sell 50,000 copies in its first year, 1963, which it did not. Swan also had the rights to the German version of “She Loves You,” which did reasonably well too, but not enough to save Swan from its troubles. The company went out of business in 1967.
29 Nov 1963
Radio station KIOA in Des Moines, Iowa begins playing “I Saw Her Standing There” from a Drake University student’s copy of Beatle’s U.K. album, Please Please Me, and a few days later, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” from a U.K. Beatles’ single (see sidebar story below).
1 Dec 1963 The New York Times Sunday Magazine, runs a story on “Beatlemania” in the U.K.
4 Dec 1963 Capitol Records issues a press release announcing that it will begin selling the Beatles’ first U.S. 45 rpm single, “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” on Monday, January 13th, 1964.
10 Dec 1963 A four-minute CBS film segment on The Beatles that had been pre-empted by the JFK tragedy is aired on Walter Cronkite’s CBS Evening News.
Capitol Records issues a "Beatles' Campaign" memo to its staff, Dec 23rd, 1964.
17 Dec 1963
Radio disc jockey Carroll James at Washington. D.C. station WWDC, plays rare U.K. copy of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on the radio after 15-year-old girl from Silver Spring, MD wrote to him requesting Beatles music after seeing the CBS-news segment. James arranged to have an airline stewardess buy a U.K. copy of the Beatles’ latest single in London. Listeners phone in repeatedly to request the song.
18-19 Dec 1963 Capitol Records threatens to sue WWDC to stop playing song, but then reverses itself and decides to rush-release “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” previously scheduled for January 13, 1964. Christmas leave is canceled at Capitol Records, as pressing plants and staff gear up for rush release.
23 Dec 1963 Capitol Records issues a memo to its sales people and regional managers across the country, outlining an extensive “Beatles Campaign” using various promotional items – from major music magazine trade ads and a fake tabloid Beatles newspaper (reprinted in the thousands), to Beatle buttons, Beatle stickers, Beatle wigs, and a battery-powered, “Beatles-in-motion,” bobble-head-like, window display for music stores.
“Beatles’ Iowa Breakout” 29 November 1963
On the evening of Nov 29, 1963, a Drake University student showed up at this Iowa radio station waving a copy of a new U.K. Beatles’ album at the DJ through the window.
Stu Adams was a disc jockey at Des Moines, Iowa radio station KIOA – one of the “KIOA Good Guys,” as that station’s DJs were known locally. It was late November 1963, the Friday after Thanksgiving. In fact, it was exactly a week after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The programming at the station was gradually getting back to normal. Adams was working the 6:00 to 9:00 pm shift on that cold November night. He was situated at his radio post behind a huge storefront plate glass window in the studio at 803 Keo Way in Des Moines. While working, he was interrupted by an urgent rap on the window. Outside was a young man trying to get his attention. He was holding up a copy of a Beatles LP from England, Please Please Me, their first album, unavailable in the U.S.
At first, Adams tried to ignore the young man. But he persisted, holding up the album and pointing to it emphatically. So Adams finally let him in out of the cold. The young man was a Drake University student who had recently returned from a trip to England. He insisted that the station play the Beatles’ new music.
On the evening of Nov 29, 1963, a Drake University student showed up at Iowa radio station KIOA with this Beatles’ U.K. album.
Adams, as music director at the station, was aware of the Beatles. In fact, the station had tried playing “She Loves You” back in September 1963 when it was released in the U.S. by Swan Records. But the song received little interest. In fact, a teen record panel that met weekly at the station to rate songs had also given it a thumbs down. Adams was also hearing talk in the music industry that English records were a hard sell in the U.S., and that the Beatles wouldn’t make it here either. But Adams was more open-minded on that score, since a late summer song by England’s Cliff Richard, “Lucky Lips,” had been a Top Ten KIOA hit.
The Drake student, meanwhile, insisted the Beatles album he had was better than previous Beatles recordings, and that “I Saw Her Standing There,” on the album, was one of the songs that was then very popular in England. Adams, having been playing a steady parade of “car tunes and surfing music,” decided to give the new Beatles album a whirl. He “slapped the Parlophone labeled Please Please Me LP on a turntable” and asked his listeners to call in and let the phone ring just once if they liked it. “Instantly, all the lines lighted up and stayed that way until well after the song ended,” recalled Adams in a later account of the playing. “With that,” said Adams, “Beatlemania was not only born in Iowa, but throughout the Midwest.”
This was the U.K. Beatles’ LP that Iowa radio station DJ Stu Adams began playing on Nov 29, 1963.
Requests continued for the Beatles music the next day. Adams had no choice but to add “I Saw Her Standing There” to the station’s playlist, using a dubbed version taken from the student’s album. It became the most requested song at the station, but it didn’t make the station’s top tunes survey because that survey was based on local record sales, and at the time, there were no copies of that record in stores. No sales meant no chart position. But according to Adams, “the requests just kept on coming in.” Several days later, the Drake University student returned with the new UK Beatles single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” backed with “This Boy.” Said Adams: “sales in England were phenomenal and as soon as we put it on the air we could see why.” But as Adams and KIOA continued playing these U.K. Beatles releases, local record shop owners in Des Moines weren’t too happy, as they had none to sell. Soon, Capitol Records, which held the rights to the Beatles records in the U.S., ultimately was forced to move up the release date for “I Want to Hold Your Hand” — the first scheduled U.S. Beatle’ single from Capitol – from January 13th, 1964, to December 26th, 1963. Once released, the single, with “I Saw Her Standing There” on the B side, hit No. 1 in record sales in Des Moines and made it to No. 1 on the KIOA survey – as it soon did throughout the rest of the U.S.
The Beatles’ single ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand,’ issued by Capitol Records, went on sale in the U.S. in late December 1963.
26 Dec 1963
Capitol Records begins distributing “I Want To Hold Your Hand” to radio stations in major U.S. cities where it is played regularly. With teens home for Christmas-New Years break, radios get full-time use, and the record begins selling like crazy. In New York City, 10,000 copies are sold every hour. In the first three days, 250,000 copies are sold. Capitol was so overloaded it contracted Columbia Records and RCA to help with the pressings.
28 Dec 1963 The New Yorker magazine publishes a Brian Epstein interview; regarded as first serious article in U.S. about the Beatles and their manager.
29 Dec 1963 New York city radio station WMCA joins others broadcasting “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” Back in London, meanwhile, Sunday Times critic Richard Buckle praises the Beatles as the greatest composers since Beethoven.
A Beatles' film clip was shown on Jack Paar's TV show in early January 1964.
30 Dec 1963 A two-page ad from Capitol Records pitching the Beatles’ recordings runs in Billboard and Cash Box music industry magazines. Bulk reprints of these ads have already been distributed to Capitol’s sales agents for use with radio stations and in enlarged, easel-scale size for use in music store displays across the country.
3 Jan 1964 Jack Paar, host of the late night U.S. TV talk show, “The Jack Paar Show,” airs a filmed Beatles’ performance of “She Loves You” from England. It is the first complete Beatles song shown on American TV, and for many in America, the first time they see the Beatles.
V-J’s promotional cover sleeve for Beatles’ ‘Please Please Me’ single following Jack Paar show, Jan 1964.
10 Jan 1964 Vee-Jay Records releases the first Beatles album in the U.S., Introducing…The Beatles. Legal and business issues plague the album, but by late fall, it would sell more than 1.3 million copies.
10 Jan 1964 Two weeks after the Capitol Records release of “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” sales hit 1 million copies – a staggering number at that time for an unknown music group from overseas.
mid-Jan 1964 Vee-Jay Records’ issues special record sleeves for promoting “Please Please Me” to radio DJs, noting Beatles’ clip on Jack Paar’s show, upcoming Ed Sullivan Show dates, and national news coverage in Time, Life & Newsweek magazines.
'Meet the Beatles,' their first U.S. Capitol album.
17 Jan 1964 “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles is the No. 1 single in America.
20 Jan 1964 Capitol Records issues Meet the Beatles, the Beatles’ first Capitol album in the U.S.
20 Jan 1964 To promote the Meet The Beatles album and their upcoming first American visit, Capitol Records distributes pre-recorded interview with the Beatles to American radio stations.
29 Jan 1964 Capitol Records announced in a press releases, that Meet the Beatles had already sold 400,000 copies by January 27th.
Vee-Jay's "Please Please Me," released a 2nd time, late Jan 1964.
30 Jan 1964 Vee-Jay Records releases, for the second time, the single “Please Please Me” / “From Me to You,” entering the Billboard chart at No. 69. It would later reach No. 3, and Vee-Jay would sell at least 1.1 million copies.
7 Feb 1964 At about 1:20 p.m. the Beatles arrive at Kennedy International Airport in New York where they are greeted by 3,000 screaming teenagers, 200 reporters and photographers, and more than 100 New York police officers. At a televised press conference the Beatles come off as witty, charming and playful.
Beatles at press conference after landing in New York, February 7, 1964.
9 Feb 1964 Elvis Presley sends The Beatles a telegram wishing them well in their upcoming Ed Sullivan Show appearance later that evening.
9 Feb 1964 Beatles perform live on The Ed Sullivan Show, reaching a record-breaking audience of 73 million, or according to A.C. Nielsen, 23.2 million households. One estimate at 40% of population. They perform five songs: “All My Loving,” “Till There Was You,” “She Loves You,” “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”
Beatles performing on ‘Ed Sullivan Show,’ Feb 9, 1964, before estimated TV audience of 73 million.
11 Feb 1964 The Beatles give their first live concert performance in the U.S. at the Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C.
12 Feb 1964 The Beatles perform two shows at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
16 Feb1964 Second appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, live from the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida. Approximately 70 million people tune in, or 22.4 million households. Songs performed: “She Loves You,” “All My Loving,” “This Boy,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “From Me to You,” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
Beatles clowning with boxer Cassius Clay (later known as Muhammad Ali) during visit to Miami, FL, Feb 1964. Photo, Harry Benson.
22 Feb 1964 The Beatles return to London, U.K.; at Heathrow Airport at 7 a.m. they are met by an estimated 10,000 fans.
23 Feb 1964 Beatles appear for 3rd time on Ed Sullivan Show, a performance that was taped earlier in New York – performing three songs: “Twist and Shout”, “Please Please Me” and “I Want to Hold your Hand.”
13 Mar 1964 Meet the Beatles LP by this date is reported to have sold 3,600,000 copies. “Can’t Buy Me Love” their next single, has advance orders of 1,700,000 copies in the U.S.
The Beatles, 'Saturday Evening Post' cover, 21 March 1964.
14 Mar 1964 “Please Please Me” is a massive hit, rising to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart by this date.
16 Mar 1964 “Can’t Buy Me Love/You Can’t Do That” is released as single by Capitol Records; sells 940,225 copies first day, 2.1 million by March 19th.
21 Mar 1964 Beatles appear on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post, one of America’s mainstream magazines at the time. Post’s cover story – “The Secrets of The Beatles” – promises “an intimate account of their American tour and a probing analysis of their incredible power to excite frenzied emotions among the young.”
23 Mar 1964 “Do You Want to Know a Secret” / “Thank You Girl” released as a Vee-Jay single.
28 Mar 1964 Capitol Records reports sales of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” in excess of 3.4 million copies.
Beatles' 2nd album from Capitol, released April 10th, 1964.
31 Mar 1964 The Beatles hold the top five slots on Billboard: (1) Can’t Buy Me Love, (2) Twist and Shout, (3) She Loves You, (4) I Want To Hold Your Hand (5) Please Please Me — a musical first.
10 Apr 1964 The Beatles’ Second Album is released by Capitol Records, which replaces the Beatles first Capitol album, Meet The Beatles, at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart from May 5th to June 2nd.
11 Apr 1964 The Beatles hold 14 slots on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.
14 Apr 1964 The Beatles’ Second Album reaches $1 million in sales by this date.
Beatles’ Hot 14 Chart #s on Billboard April 11, 1964
1. Can’t Buy Me Love
2. Twist & Shout
4. She Loves You
7. I Want To Hold Your Hand
9. Please Please Me
14. …Want to Know a Secret
38. …Saw Her Standing There
48. You Can’t Do That
50. All My Loving
52. From Me To You
61. Thank You Girl
74. There’s A Place
78. Roll Over Beethoven
81. Love Me Do
___________________ Billboard Hot 100, 1964.
27 April 1964
“Love Me Do”/ “P.S I Love You” released as single by Tollie Records, a Vee-Jay subsidiary.
1 June 1964 “Sweet Georgia Brown” / “Take Some Insurance Out on Me” released as Atco Records single.
‘A Hard Day’s Night’ became one of the fastest-selling soundtrack albums of the 1960s.
June 1964 Advance orders for the soundtrack album from the Beatles’ forthcoming film, A Hard Day’s Night, are 250,000 in the U.K. and 1 million in the U.S.; album would sell 2 million copies in the U.S. by October, and 600,000 in the U.K. by year’s end. American version, with somewhat different songs, was released on June 26, 1964 by United Artists Records.
June 1964 The Beatles fly to Hong Kong, June 8-10, perform two concerts there and then go to Austrailia, June 12-14. In Adelaide, Australia they are greeted by an estimated crowd of 300,000 along their motorcade route.
Beatles’ single, ‘And I Love Her’/ ‘If I Fell’ released July 20th, 1964.
13 July 1964 “A Hard Day’s Night” / “I Should Have Known Better” released as single by Capitol Records.
20 July 1964 “I’ll Cry Instead”/ “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You” released as single by Capitol Records.
20 July 1964 “And I Love Her”/ “If I Fell” released as single by Capitol Records, as well as a new Beatles’ album, Something New.
Beatles' film poster, 1964.
11 Aug 1964 Beatles first film, A Hard Day’s Night, opens in America and is a huge hit. Shown in 500 theaters across U.S., it earns $1.3 million in the first week. Some 15,000 prints made for world-wide distribution – historical first in film industry.
12 Aug 1964 Variety magazine reports that by August 1964, the Beatles had sold approximately 80 million records globally.
19 Aug 1964 The Beatles perform at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, California, in the first concert of their USA/Canada tour, which lasts a month through August and September.
24 Aug 1964 “Matchbox” / “Slow Down” is released as a single by Capitol Records.
Beatles, 'Life' magazine, August 1964.
August 1964 The Beatles received a request from the White House press office to be photographed with President Lyndon B. Johnson, laying a wreath on the grave of John F. Kennedy. The request was politely declined by their manager, Brian Epstein, saying it was not the group’s policy to accept “official” invitations.
25 Aug 1964 The Beatles’ single, “A Hard Day’s Night,” is certified gold for exceeding sales of more than 1 million copies.
26 Aug 1964 Beatles’ North American tour plays Denver, Colorado.
27 Aug 1964 Beatles’ North American tour plays Cincinnati, Ohio.
28 Aug 1964 Life magazine article reports that the Beatles’ 33-day tour of 23 American cities is a sell out at every location and is expected to gross millions. Beatles pandemonium at the time is such that some hotels along the tour route refused to house the Beatles, and Los Angeles’ Lockheed Airport forbad any Beatles plane from landing there for fear of screaming fans running on to the tarmac.
“Charlie O & The Beatles” 17 September 1964
Ticket stub, Beatles' Sept 17,1964 concert in Kansas City, MO.
Charles O. Finley (b.1918 - d.1996) was an American businessman who made his fortune in medical insurance. In December 1960, he became the owner the Kansas City Athletics professional baseball team in Kansas City, Missouri. He later moved this team to Oakland, California where they became the Oakland Athletics. However, in Kansas City, “Charlie O” as he was sometimes called — remembered for his promotional antics and not always winning teams — was also responsible for bringing the Beatles to Kansas City in 1964. The Athletics played their games at Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium then, and Finley promised the city’s people he would bring the Beatles to Kansas City during the group’s first American tour that summer. But Kansas City was not on the list of cities where the Beatles had arranged to perform.
Finely on ticket back.
Finley went to San Francisco on August 19, 1964, where the Beatles were playing their first date. There he met with the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein. He told Epstein that he was disappointed that Kansas City was not on the Beatles’ itinerary. He then offered Epstein $50,000 and then $100,000 if the Beatles would schedule a concert for Kansas City. Epstein refused, pointing out that on the only free date available, September 17, the band was scheduled for a day of rest in New Orleans. Finley left disappointed, but again encountered Epstein in Los Angeles a week later. Epstein again rejected Finley’s offer of $100,000, noting that the band wanted to use their only day off to “explore the traditional home of jazz.” Undetered, Finley tore up the $100,000 check and wrote a new one for $150,000 (equal to about $1 million in today’s money). Astonished, Epstein excused himself to talk to the group. John Lennon speaking for his bandmates replied, “We’ll do whatever you want.” So Epstein accepted Finley’s check, and they agreed to play Kansas City. At the time it was the highest fee ever paid for a musical concert, working out to about $4,838 per minute (or roughly $33,000 per minute in 2009 $$). When the Beatles performed there they included their version of the song “Kansas City.” They also gave a memorable press conference at the Hotel Muehlebach, available today on CD.
CD of Beatles' 1964 Kansas City press conference.
Finley had justified the Beatle’s high-priced recruitment to Kansas City with the quip, “Today’s Beatles Fans Are Tomorrow’s Baseball Fans” – printed on the back of the concert tickets. Also shown on the back of some of the tickets was a photo of Finley in a Beatle’s wig – which were sold as a fad at the time as part of Beatles’ promotional merchandise.
At the concert, however, a crowd of 20,207 attended, which was just over half of Municipal Stadium’s full capacity of 35,000 when seats were installed on the field. The drop off in attendance was due in part to local animosity over Finely’s record with the Athletics and some of his promotional antics, which weren’t always welcomed in the community. In fact, the local media at the time, and especially The Kansas City Star, suggested boycotting the Beatles’s concert as a way to protest Finley’s unpopular management of the Athletics. Still, thousands came out, as Beatles’ fans heard a full set of their tunes performed that night. Finley, meanwhile, who had earmarked profits from the event for Children’s Mercy Hospital, had to write a $25,000 check to cover the minimum donation he had pledged to the hospital in the event that the concert did not earn a profit.
_______________________ Sources: “Charles Finley,” Wikipedia.com; “Can’t Buy Him Love,” Kansas City Public Library; and, Mark Lewisohn, The Beatles Live!: The Ultimate Reference Book, New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1986, pp. 168-69.
Vee-Jay Record’s “Beatles vs. Four Seasons” two-album set, October 1964.
20 Sept 1964 The Ed Sullivan Show replays broadcast of Beatles’ February 16th appearance on the show.
1 Oct 1964 The Beatles vs. The Four Seasons two-record set is released by Vee-Jay Records. Package is basically two previous albums – 1963′s Golden Hits of the 4 Seasons and VJ’s Beatles album, Introducing The Beatles. VJ hypes the package as “The International Battle of the Century!”
1 Oct 1964 Book by Brian Epstein, A Cellarful of Noise, is released by Souvenir Press; includes his autobiography and inside account of early Beatles. Later edition issued in 1998 by Byron Preiss Multimedia Books.
Beatles’ Tour North America Aug-Sept 1964
Aug 19 San Francisco
Aug 20 Las Vegas
Aug 21 Seattle
Aug 22 Vancouver
Aug 23 Los Angeles
Aug 26 Denver
Aug 27 Cincinnati
Aug 28 New York
Aug 30 Atlantic City
Sept 2 Philadelphia
Sept 3 Indianapolis
Sept 4 Milwaukee
Sept 5 Chicago
Sept 6 Detroit
Sept 7 Toronto
Sept 8 Montreal
Sept 11 Jacksonville
Sept 12 Boston
Sept 13 Baltimore
Sept 14 Pittsburgh
Sept 15 Cleveland
Sept 16 New Orleans
Sept 17 Kansas City
Sept 18 Dallas
Sept 20 New York
2 Oct 1964 As of this date, ten million Beatles’ records had been sold in the U.S.; their American concert tour had grossed at least $1 million; their film, A Hard Day’s Night, had reaped $5.8 million at the U.S. box office in six weeks. EMI, their record label, was reporting fiscal year sales of $265 million, up 12 percent largely on Beatles’ business. Capitol Records was reporting its revenues were up as well, by 17 percent. Brian Epstein and the Fab Four, meanwhile, were millionaires many times over, with total income earned beyond the U.K. then estimated to be some $56 million.
Atco album, of Beatles' songs and other U.K. artists, October 1964.
5 Oct 1964 Ain’t She Sweet album is released by Atco Records, an American album featuring four 1961 Beatles tracks from Hamburg, Germany and cover versions by other British groups.
13 Nov 1964 CBS TV shows a 50-minute doc- umentary, “What’s Happening! The Beatles in the U.S.A.,” filmed by Albert Maysles, covering the Beatles U.S. tour and other activities that year.
23 Nov 1964 “I Feel Fine” / “She’s a Woman” single released by Capitol Records.
23 Nov 1964 The Beatles Story double LP is released by Capitol Records, billed as “a narrative and musical biography of Beatlemania on two long-play records.” The albums feature interviews, press conferences, and songs by the The Beatles. It was The Beatles’ fourth release by Capitol Records.
'The Beatles' Story' album, 1964.
1 Dec 1964 Ringo Starr has his tonsils removed at the University College Hospital in London.
15 Dec 1964 Beatles ’65 album is released by Capitol Records featuring 11 Beatles’ cuts, among them: “I’m a Loser,” “Baby’s in Black,” “I’ll Follow the Sun,” “Mr. Moonlight,” “Honey Don’t,” “I’ll Be Back,” “She’s a Woman,” and “I Feel Fine.”
December 1964 Christmas recordings, with Christmas songs and messages from individual Beatles, are sent to fan club members in the U.K and U.S.
'Beatles '65' album, December 15, 1964.
The 7th Grammy Awards, held in 1965, recognized the accomplishments of musicians for the year 1964. This was the year musically when Barbra Streisand won a Best Vocal Performance award for “People,” and Louis Armstrong for “Hello, Dolly!”; the year Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto won Record of the Year for “The Girl from Ipanema” and songwriter Jerry Herman, Song of the Year, for “Hello, Dolly!”
1964 was also the year that Henri Mancini won a Grammy for the “Pink Panther Theme” and Roger Miller took home several Country & Western music awards, while Nancy Wilson won Best Rhythm & Blues Recording, Petula Clark for “Downtown,” and Gale Garnett, Best Folk Recording for, “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine.” Not to be left out, of course, The Beatles won two awards: Best New Artist and Best Performance by a Vocal Group for “A Hard Day’s Night.” But the Beatles’ 1964 arrival left its mark on more than music awards.
A Sound of Change
The Beatles’ bursting onto the music scene of 1963-64 with their numerous popular songs has been described by some historians as a rare “pop explosion” — a musical infusion lasting basically four years, 1963-1967. This Beatles’ infusion, however, produced change that would last much longer than four years, not only in music but more broadly throughout popular culture — in fashion, literature, politics and beyond. But it would all start with the music, especially that first flush of Beatles’ songs in 1963-64. What the Beatles had then, according to rock music historian Greil Marcus writing for The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, “was that elusive rock treasure, a new sound – and a new sound that could not be exhausted in the course of one brief flurry on the charts.” This new Beatles’ sound, according to Marcus, is best captured in a selection of their 1963-64 tunes, such as: “Please Please Me,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Boys,” “There’s A Place,” “It Won’t Be Long,” “All My Loving,” “She Loves You,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Things We Said Today,” “Eight Days A Week,” among others. This Beatles’ sound, at that time, was different and unique – exciting, optimistic, playful, and fresh. Also unique was what the Beatles did together musically – i.e., their group dynamic; beat, rhythm, vocals, composition, etc. – yielding a very high level of music quality. It blew away most of the competition. In fact, what the Beatles had in this case was “so fluid and intelligent,” says Greil Marcus, “that for years they made nearly everything else on the radio sound faintly stupid.”
Bob Dylan …On the Beatles
“We were driving through Colorado [and] we had the radio on and eight of the Top Ten songs were Beatles songs. In Colorado! ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand,’ and those early ones.
“They were doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were outrageous, just outrageous, and their harmonies, made it all valid… But I kept it to myself that I really dug them. Everybody else thought they were for the teenyboppers, that they were gonna pass right away. But it was obvious to me that they had staying power. I knew they were pointing the direction that music had to go…in my head, the Beatles were it. In Colorado, I started thinking but it was too far-out. I wouldn’t deal with it – eight in the Top Ten.
“It seemed to me a definite line was being drawn. This was something that never happened before.”
_______________________ Source: “Bob Dylan, 1971,” The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, p. 212.
Between January and March 1964, the Beatles accounted for 60 percent of all record sales in the U.S. In 1964 alone, the Beatles put 19 hit songs in the Top 40, and 30 in the Top 100. They had 15 separate recordings in 1964 – nine singles and six albums — that each sold 1 million or more copies, representing total Beatle sales in the U.S. that one year of more than 25 million copies. That feat has never been matched. Many of the Beatles’ songs from 1964 went on to enjoy continued success. “I Want To Hold Your Hand” would proceed to have worldwide sales of 15 million copies, the largest-selling single in rock history until Elton John’s 1997 version of “Candle in the Wind” for Princess Diana, eclipsed it. “Can’t Buy Me Love” would have worldwide sales of 6 million; “She Loves You,” 5 million, and several others from that year each surpassing 2 million or more copies.
On Billboard, the prominent U.S. music chart that reflects single and album popularity and success, the Beatles set a slew of records, most in the March-April 1964 period, but a few of which still stand today. Among their marks in 1964: most songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at the same time (14); most songs within the Billboard Top 40 ranking at the same time (7, on two occasions); most songs within the Billboard Top 10 and Billboard Top 5 at the same time (5); and most songs charting on the Billboard Hot 100 within a calendar year (30). On April 4, 1964, Beatles’ singles and albums simultaneously held the top five Billboard singles spots and the top two Billboard album ratings — a record that still stands.
The Beatles’ impact, of course, goes well beyond their music-chart numbers in 1963-64. Yet these Beatle years marked a turning point for rock ‘n roll, both musically and as a business. From their Ed Sullivan Show appearance onward, the Beatles made plain the power of good music meeting the right demographic – in this case, Baby Boomer disposable income.From their Ed Sullivan Show appearance onward, the Beatles made plain the power of good music meeting the right demo- graphic – in this case, Baby Boomer disposable income. This Boomer market was clearly visible before the Beatles’ pop explosion, but they certainly took it to another level, revealing a gigantic “rock business” segment that would only expand over the next several decades in all manner of ways, from concert touring to MTV and beyond. In 1964, the Beatles opened the door for other British rockers that helped to change and enlarge the nature of the rock music business globally. In that year, for example, the Dave Clark Five, Dusty Springfield, the Searchers, Billy J. Kramer, Peter & Gordon, Gerry & the Pacemakers, the Animals, Manfred Mann, the Zombies, Herman’s Hermits, and the Rolling Stones all had Top 20 hits on the U.S. music charts. It wasn’t just the British sound, of course, as all of rock ‘n roll was going great guns by then – from Motown to the Surf sound, the Beach Boys to the Supremes, Bob Dylan to Marvin Gaye, and many more to come. But the Beatles had their distinct effects on the music business – influencing the rise of album format in rock music, for example, and also presaging and influencing the music video era with their 1960s’ film-making techniques. The Beatles were also one of the first acts to package and exploit pop music as a multi-media business opportunity – combining music, television, film, concerts, and merchandising.
Beatles’ "Rock Band" video game, released internationally Sept 2009, features more than 40 Beatles songs.
Today, more than 40 years after the Beatles’ musical explosion of 1963-64, their music from that era is still a cultural and business phenomenon. As this is written in September 2009, Beatles’ songs from the 1960s are being used again to form the backbone of a giant new Beatles’ business built around family-based video games. And Beatles’ songs are also soon expected to be available on iTunes and similar digital media. In any case, the sales of Beatles’ music – whether for video or digital media – will only add to the 1.6 billion singles and albums already credited to their legacy.
Jack Doyle, “Beatles in America, 1963-1964,” PopHistoryDig.com,
September 20, 2009.
Sources, Links & Additional Information
‘Introducing...The Beatles’ was the first Beatles album sold in the U.S., by Vee-Jay Records. Business problems spoiled a planned July 1963 debut, but it did appear on January 10, 1964. Legal issues also plagued the album, but Vee-Jay was permitted to sell it until the fall of 1964, selling more than 1.3 million copies.
Beatles' 'Can't Buy Me Love' / 'You Can't Do That' single, Capitol Records, 16 March 1964.
Beatles' 'Do You Want to Know A Secret?' single, Vee-Jay, 23 March 1964.
Beatles’ single, ‘Love Me Do’ with ‘P.S. I Love You,’ April 1964, Tollie Records.
Beatles’ ‘Hard Days Night’ single, released by Capitol Records, July 14, 1964.
Beatles’ ‘I’ll Cry Instead’ single, released by Capitol Records, July 20, 1964.
Beatles’ ‘Something New’ – 3rd Capitol album of 1964, released July 20th. It spent 9 weeks at No. 2 behind then No. 1 Beatles’ 'A Hard Day's Night' album by United Artists.
Beatles’ 'Matchbox' / 'Slow Down' single by Capitol Records, August 24, 1964.
Beatles’ ‘I Feel Fine’ / ‘She’s A Woman’ single, Capitol Records, Nov 23, 1964.
Brian Epstein’s book, ‘A Cellarful of Noise,’ released Oct 1, 1964, included his autobiography & inside account of early Beatles. New 1998 edition shown here.
Poster for Beatles' Washington, D.C. concert, 11 Feb 1964.
Cover sleeve with Beatle photos on George Martin’s album of May 1965, featuring instrumental versions of Beatles’ songs from the film soundtrack for ‘A Hard Day's Night.’
“The Beatles,” in Holly George-Warren and Patricia Romanowski (eds), The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rolling Stone Press, New York, 3rd Edition, 2001, pp. 56-59.
“Singers: The New Madness,” Time, Friday, November 15, 1963.
Stephen Watts, “Nonconformists and Newcomers on the British Screen; Anomaly Universal “Beatles” Rising Star,” New York Times, Sunday, November 24, 1963, Arts & Leisure, p. 35.
Frederick Lewis, London, “Britons Succumb To ‘Beatlemania’,” New York Times Magazine, Sunday, December 1, 1963.
Lawrence Malkin, “Liverpudlian Frenzy; British Beatles Sing Up a Teen-Age Storm,” Los Angeles Times, December 29, 1963, p. G-4.
Hank Bordowitz, Turning Points in Rock and Roll, New York: Citadel Press/Kensington Publishing, 2004, 282 pp.
Greil Marcus, “The Beatles,” in Anthony DeCurtis and James Henke, with Holly George-Warren (eds), The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock n Roll, New York: Random House, revised edition, 1992, pp. 209-222.
Martin Goldsmith, The Beatles Come to America, J. Wiley & Sons, January 2004, 208 pp.
John C. Winn. Way Beyond Compare: The Beatles’ Recorded Legacy, Volume One — 1957-1965, Three Rivers Press, 416pp, 2008, and That Magic Feeling: the Beatles’ Recorded Legacy, Volume Two — 1966-1970, Three Rivers Press, 416pp, 2009.
Philip Norman, Shout!: The Beatles in Their Generation,” Simon and Schuster, 2005, revised edition, 546 pp.
Bob Spitz, The Beatles: The Biography, Little Brown, 2005.
Jonathan Gould, Can’t Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain and America, Piatkus Books, 2008.
“The First U.S. Visit: A Film by Albert and David Maysles,” DVD, Apple/Capitol Records, 1964, Revised 1990.
“The Beatles Anthology,” Directed by Geoff Wonfor, VHS, Apple/Capitol Records, DVD, Apple/Capitol Records, 1996.
“The Four Complete Historic Ed Sullivan Shows Featuring the Beatles,” VHS & DVD, Sofa Entertainment, 2003.
“The Beatles in Washington, D.C.,” Passport Video, 2003.
“Beatles Around the World,” DVD, Entertainment Properties, 2003.
John Lennon, background, and Paul McCartney, working on their music in Rishikesh, India during a 1968 visit there with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The song, ‘Dear Prudence,’ about a woman in the group there, Prudence Farrow, was written by John Lennon.
“Dear Prudence” is the name of a Beatles song written by John Lennon. It appears on the Beatles’ November 1968 double-disc White Album. Lennon wrote the song earlier that year in India, inspired by a woman named Prudence Farrow, sister of actress Mia Farrow. The Beatles and the Farrow sisters were part of a larger group who were then visiting the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on a weeks-long retreat in Rishikesh, India. It was February-March 1968. Prudence Farrow, then focused on learning transcendental meditation (TM), stayed in her room for long periods of time. Lennon, worried she was depressed, wrote the song “Dear Prudence,” inviting her — as his lyrics would say — to “come out to play.”
“All the people around her were very worried about the girl,” Lennon would later say. “…So, we sang to her.” Lennon and George Harrison were delegated by the group to help bring Prudence out, as she had held up in her room for some time. Farrow was intent on learning the TM technique well enough to be able to teach it herself.
“I would always rush straight back to my room after lectures and meals so I could meditate,” she would later explain. “John, George and Paul would all want to sit around jamming and having a good time and I’d be flying into my room. They were all serious about what they were doing, but they just weren’t as fanatical as me…”
Prudence Farrow in India.
Later, as the Beatles were leaving India, George Harrison mentioned to Prudence that they had written a song about her. Farrow, flattered at the attention, would not hear the song until it came out on the album.
Music Player “Dear Prudence” – 1968
The resulting song, in any case, is quite beautiful musically; with finger-picking guitar featured prominently throughout, along with some very nice, harmonic Beatle vocals. The song’s lyrics offer simplicity and innocence while praising nature’s beauty: “..The sun is up, the sky is blue, it’s beautiful, and so are you…”. Lennon is said to have considered it one of his favorite Beatles songs, and his son Julian has also named it his favorite.
Cover of Beatles’ EP which includes BBC broadcast hit, “All You Need is Love.”
In the time period leading up to and including the Beatles’ trip to India – 1967-1968 — there had already been, and would continue to be, significant change in both the Beatles’ musical growth as well as the social and political setting of those times. The Beatles by then were nearly four years removed from the hysteria of the earlier “Beatlemania” that had prevailed in 1963-1964. They had also produced by then more complex and interesting music, adding the album Rubber Soul in December 1965 followed by Revolver in 1966. And just as the “summer of love” was taking form in San Francisco in 1967 – ushering in the hippie-counterculture movement — the Beatles produced a highly innovative new album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, released in June 1967. The Beatles’ music gained global reach in the sum- mer of 1967, after they were featured in the first live, satellite-fed, global TV broadcast singing “All You Need is Love.” That same month, the first live, satellite-enabled global television link occurred when the BBC in London featured the Beatles and others in a June 25th studio performance of the song “All You Need Is Love.” The BBC’s production, which included a longer two-hour show linking 26 nations entitled Our World, had the largest television audience ever up to that point – some 350 to 400 million people. The most famous segment, however, starred the Beatles plus a 13-piece orchestra performing “All You Need Is Love,” a song written by John Lennon. During the live telecast from the Beatles’ Abbey Road studios, other notable U.K. musicians, including the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Marianne Faithfull, Keith Moon, Graham Nash, and others joined the Beatles, some singing along. “All You Need is Love” was so well-received that the Beatles released it as a single in the U.K. in early July 1967, where it rose to No. 1 on the U.K. charts, remaining there for three weeks. In the U.S., the song hit No.1 on the Billboard charts August 19th, 1967. The Beatles and their music were then at a peak globally; they were a group attuned to their times, changing music and culture as they went.
The Beatles & India
Not long after the Beatles had performed “All You Need Is Love” on their global broadcast, they met the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi for the first time in London at a lecture. George Harrison and his then wife, former model and photographer Patti Boyd, had become interested in Indian culture. George had discovered the sitar, an Indian musical instrument, and had visited India in the fall of 1966, where he first heard the Maharishi speak. The Beatles, at the time, especially Lennon and Harrison, were looking for more cosmic awareness and had been experimenting with LSD. The Maharishi’s transcendental meditation promised an alternative to hallucinogenic drugs.
The Beatles with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (center) sometime before their trip to India, possibly August 1967, in Bangor, Wales. From left: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr.
In late August 1967, the Beatles attended a weekend retreat with the Maharishi in Bangor, Wales. While there, they received news that Brian Epstein, their manager, had died of a drug overdose. The Maharishi helped them through the Epstein tragedy with Hindu philosophy, and in February 1968, the Beatles decided to join him for a retreat at Rishikesh, India, a major center to study yoga.
“The Saturday Evening Post” cover story of May 4, 1968 featured the Beatles, Mia Farrow, and others on their retreat in India.
Among others in a group attending the retreat in India were: American actress Mia Farrow (soon to be divorced from Frank Sinatra); Mia’s sister, Prudence Farrow; Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan of “Sunshine Super- man” fame (1966); American actress Candice Bergen; Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones; British singer Marianne Faithfull; Yoko Ono, artist; Mike Love and Al Jardine of the Beach Boys; John Densmore and Ray Manzarek of The Doors; and Patti Harrison, Jane Asher, and a number of others.
The gathering in India, with all its high-powered celebrity, attracted a press following and a share of newspaper and magazine stories, a number of which appeared in the U.S., the U.K., and elsewhere. The Saturday Evening Post, for example, ran a featured cover story on the trip in its May 4th, 1968 edition, having sent a reporter to go with Beatles to Rishikesh. “Here’s the Scene:,” began the headline on the Post’s cover story. “The Beatles, Mia Farrow and a Post Reporter All Gather in India to Meditate with The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.” This was actually a two-part story, with the conclusion running in the Post’s May 18th edition.
John Lennon & Paul McCartney working on their music in India, Feb-Mar 1968.
There was also a spate of stories at the time surrounding the spiritual aspects of the Beatles’ retreat and related stirrings in the larger society, with some religious leaders, such as the president of the University of Chicago divinity school and others, commenting on the event with a range of opinion. Some well-known writers of that day, too, including conservative columnist William F. Buckley, Jr., wrote opinion pieces mentioning the Beatles’ trip to India.
The Beatles had planned to make it a three month retreat. However, after about ten days, Ringo Starr returned home, reportedly because he couldn’t deal with spicy Indian food, heading back to the U.K. “for egg and chips,” as one account put it. Paul left soon thereafter, with John and George leaving later. Although the Beatles left the retreat before the course on transcendental meditation was finished, Prudence Farrow, Mike Love of the Beach Boys, and others stayed on and became TM teachers. During the Beatles’ stay, however, they did a fair amount of song writing in their spare time, with McCartney and Lennon getting together frequently to compare notes. “Regardless of what I was supposed to be doing,” Lennon would later say, “I did write some of my best songs there.”
John Lennon penned ‘Dear Pru- dence’ in 1968 while in India.
During the retreat, however, there was one alleged incident of sexual impropriety between Mia Farrow and Maharishi, which reportedly had upset Lennon and some others in the group, leading Lennon to later write a critical song about the Maharishi – though with changed lyrics in the final version; a song that became “Sexy Sadie.” One of the original lines, later changed, went: “Maharishi — what have you done? You made a fool of everyone.” Other accounts, however, report there was nothing to the allegations about the Maharishi. And some reports say that the Beatles were asked to leave by the Maharishi because of some backsliding on drug use while attending the retreat. In any case, Beatles historians credit the India trip as a spur to the Beatles’ creativity; reviving their song-writing fortunes. When they returned to England they came home with at least 30 new tunes, in rough form. They then went to work on these, including “Dear Prudence” and other songs that would become the White Album. “Whatever shortcomings the Beatles’ interaction with the Maharishi may have had,” observed New York Times music reporter Allan Kozinn in 2008, “the experience… seems to have opened a floodgate of creativity and got them out of what threatened to be a creative rut.”
Song & Album
In May 1968, a week before they were to begin work on what would become the White Album, the Beatles gathered at George Harrison’s house in Esher, England. There, they ran through the songs they had worked up in India and made a tape of the ones they would consider for formal recording in the studio. In all, some 30-to-40 songs were at least initially compiled during their trip to India, and many, though not all, would appear on the White Album. Some of the songs would surface years later, including in various bootleg versions.
‘Dear Prudence’ appears as the 2nd song on side one of the Beatles two-disc ‘White Album,’ shown here on the Apple record label in its 33.3 rpm vinyl version.
In late August 1968, as the Beatles continued their studio work on the White Album – most of which was done at the Abbey Road studios in London – the work on “Dear Prudence” began. The work on this song, took place over a three-day period at Trident Studios in London. This studio had new eight-track recording equipment, which the Beatles used on the “Dear Prudence” song. The basic track, recorded on this first day, featured Lennon on finger-picked guitar, George Harrison on lead guitar, and Paul McCartney on drums, as Ringo Starr had temporarily left the group. On the following day, McCartney recorded a bass part, and Lennon manually double-tracked his lead vocals and backing vocals. Handclapping and tambourine were performed by McCartney and Harrison with other contributions from others at the studio. On the final day of recording, McCartney added a piano track and a very brief flügelhorn section. “Dear Prudence,” of course, was only one of many songs on the White Album. The Beatles and their studio producer, George Martin, continued with work on the full album. The finished, two-disc White Album with 30 songs – double anything the Beatles had done in previous albums – was not released in the U.S. and U.K. until late November 1968. In the U.S. by then, Richard Nixon had been elected to his first term as president.
Sheet music cover for the Beatle’s ‘Dear Prudence.’
“Dear Prudence,” meanwhile, was not released as a single. It was likely first heard on the radio airwaves in late November and early December of 1968 as the album began to receive play on FM radio stations and through individual sales. On the album, “Dear Prudence” directly follows and bleeds in from the first song on side one, “Back in the U.S.S.R,” a more raucous tune, which at its ending has “jet landing” sounds that run over the early acoustic guitar lead for “Dear Prudence.”
In the U.K., the White Album debuted at No. 1 on December 1st,1968, spending a total of eight weeks at the top of the U.K. charts and holding in the Top Ten for another four weeks. In the U. S., the album debuted at No.11, reaching No. 1 in its third week, spending nine weeks there and remaining on the Billboard 200 album chart for 155 weeks. The White Album sold more than 1 million copies in its first two weeks on the market. In the U.S., it became the Beatles’ all- time best-selling album at “19 times platinum” — i.e., selling 19 million copies and ranking tenth among all best-selling U.S. albums.
“Dear Prudence,” meanwhile, has had its fans over the years, one of whom was fellow musician Jerry Garcia, a founder of the famed Grateful Dead rock group. Garcia is said to have marked the song as one of his all-time personal favorites. Starting around 1979, his Jerry Garcia Band was known to have covered the song regularly at concerts until Garcia’s death in 1995. The song also appeared on the 1991 album, Jerry Garcia Band. The Garcia performance version of “Dear Prudence” – as with much music in “the Grateful Dead tradition” and their 1970s-era style – was often extended and improvised, some exceeding ten minutes.
Prudence Farrow …Since 1968
After India, Prudence Farrow went on to teach TM for about 37 years. She also received a BA, MA and PhD in South and Southeast Asian studies from University of California at Berkeley and raised three children – and now four grandchildren. Prudence Farrow also worked in film production, with credits including The Muppets Take Manhattan of 1984 and The Purple Rose of Cairo of 1985, with Mia Farrow and director Woody Allen. She also conceived and co-produced the 1994 film Widow’s Peak. In this latter film – set in an Irish town of the 1920s – Prudence’s mother, actress Maureen O’Sullivan, was initially intended to play the role of Miss O’Hare. However, O’Sullivan declined due to her advanced age with the part going instead to O’Sullivan’s daughter and Prudence’s sister, Mia. The late Natasha Richardson was also in that film.
“Dear Prudence” has also been covered by a range of other groups. English post-punk/ alternative rock band, Siouxsie & the Banshees, released their version of “Dear Prudence” in 1983, a song that became one of that group’s biggest hits, peaking at No. 3 on the U.K. singles chart. In commercial advertising, Cellular South, a wireless phone company based in Mississippi, began using portions of a “Dear Prudence” cover version for a TV commercial in mid-2008.
“Dear Prudence” memorabilia has come to the fore in at least one instance. In 1987, nearly 20 years after the song first appeared, Lennon’s original handwritten copy of the 14 lines of verse from “Dear Prudence,” was sold at auction to an unidentified investor for $19,500. Prudence Farrow, meanwhile, would work as an elementary school teacher along with her husband, both continuing to practice transcendental meditation (see box). For the Beatles, the trip to India and what had preceded it — including Brian Epstein’s death — began a process of unraveling that would lead to the group’s demise. Although India had provided them with a temporary spur to their musical output, differences and strains within the group had become apparent during the White Album recording sessions; differences that would lead to the Beatles’ break up in 1970.
Article Citation: Jack Doyle, “Dear Prudence, 1967-1968,” PopHistoryDig.com, July 27, 2009.
Sources, Links & Additional Information
“Beatles in Rishikesh,” book by photographer Paul Saltzman, featuring 75 photos and anecdotes on the Beatles and others at the retreat, Penguin Studio Books (hardback), October 2000, 144 pp.
A silkscreen print copy of John Lennon’s hand-written “Dear Prudence” lyrics. The original was sold at auction in 1987.
In 1968, the Beatles also released their animated film, ‘Yellow Submarine,’ previewed above with two Beatle characters on an early cover of a new music magazine named ‘Rolling Stone’– this being the magazine’s 9th issue of April 27, 1968.
Steve Turner, A Hard Day’s Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song, New York: Harper Paperbacks, updated edition, 2005.
Charles Reid, “Ravi Shankar and …The Beatles Put the Sitar on the ‘Pop’ Map Overnight,” The New York Times Magazine, May 7, 1967.
Sydney Gruson, “Beatles Put Off India Pilgrimage; TV Special Gets Nod Over Discipleship in Meditation,” New York Times, September 11, 1967, p. 53.
Associated Press, “Mia Farrow Plans Meditation in India,” New York Times, October 5, 1967.
“The Prophet the Beatles Follow Is Without Honor in His Own Country,” Washington Post, Times Herald, November 4, 1967, p. A-7.
“India Mystic Delivers Peace – For a Price; Guru Counts The Beatles Among His Disciples, Expects Them Next Year,” Los Angeles Times, December 15, 1967, p. A-1.
Barney Lefferts, “Chief Guru of the Western World; Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Who Numbers the Likes of Shirley Maclaine, Mia Farrow and the Beatles Among His Followers…,”The New York Times Magazine, December 17, 1967.
Joseph Lelyveld, “Beatles’ Guru Is Turning Them Into Gurus With a Cram Course,” New York Times, February 23, 1968, p. 13.
William F. Buckley, Jr., “The Guru or the Gospel?,” Los Angeles Times, March 1, 1968, p. A-5.
“Beatles Cable For British Food,” Washington Post, Times Herald, March 5, 1968, p. A-13.
Dan L. Thrapp, “Bishop Pike, Beatles Cited; Noted Cleric Criticizes Resurgence of Spiritism,” Los Angeles Times, March 7, 1968, p. B-6.
William F. Buckley, Jr., “The Beatles & the Guru,” National Review, March 12, 1968.
Dan L. Thrapp, “New Beliefs Traced to Faith Crisis; Christianity Lags, So Men Turn to Yogi, Cleric Says…,” Los Angeles Times, March 24, 1968, p. L-4.
Cover Story, “Here’s The Scene: The Beatles, Mia Farrow and a Post Reporter All Gather in India to Meditate with The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi,” Inside: “There Once Was a Guru from Rishikesh (Part 1),” Saturday Evening Post, May 4, 1968.
“There Once Was a Guru From Rishikesh (Part 2),” Saturday Evening Post, May 18, 1968.
“Yogi’s Posters Are Taken Down,” Washington Post, Times Herald, May 20, 1968, p. A-14.
“India Gives Culture, Gets Dollars,” New York Times, July 31, 1968, p. 43.
By 1987, Nike had passed 1 billion dollars in sales.
In 1987, sneaker manufacturer Nike had passed the $1 billion mark in corporate sales. However, its chief competitor at the time, Reebok, was the world’s No. 1 sneaker company. Nike was then in the process of revamping its advertising and marketing strategies and had already hooked up with a rising NBA basketball star named Michael Jordan. The company had also come up with a tag line for promoting a new group of Nike Air athletic shoes — “Revolution in Motion.” But this campaign needed some catchy music to use in its TV advertising to help launch the shoe. That’s when Nike and its advertising agency, Weiden & Kennedy, got the idea of using the Beatles’ classic 1960s’ song, “Revolution” to help sell the shoes.
However, Beatles’ music — at least in its original form as sung by the Beatles themselves – had never been used in a TV commercial before. In one case in 1985 the Beatles’ song “Help!” was used in a Lincoln-Mercury car ad, but the song was performed in that case by a sound-alike group. Nike’s ad agency, Weiden & Kennedy, wanted the real thing. “We never considered sound-alikes,” said the agency’s Kelley Stoutt, explaining Nike’s intentions for its “revolution” ad to Time magazine in May 1987. “In our minds,” said Stoutt, emphasizing the plan to use the original song, “it was the Beatles or no one.”
The Beatles, from left: John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney & Ringo Starr.
In mid-1987, Nike made a deal to use the Beatles song in their ad campaign shelling out $500,000 to do so. However, Nike didn’t make the deal with the Beatles, but rather, with pop star Michael Jackson and EMI-Capitol Records. According to Time, Nike paid $250,000 to the record companies and a similar amount to Jackson to use the song for one year. Jackson had acquired “Revolution” and 200 other Beatles tunes in 1985 when he paid $47.5 million to an Australian group for a catalog of some 4,000 songs, including the Beatles’ songs. The Beatles, however, along with their record label, Apple, had decided after the earlier use of “Help!” in the 1985 Ford Lincoln-Mercury ad, that there would be no more use of Beatles music in advertising. Yet the Beatles didn’t own the rights to “Revolution” any longer; and Nike had paid its fee to Jackson and Capitol Records for the right to use the song. How the Beatles lost control of “Revolution” and many of their other songs, and how Michael Jackson acquired them, is covered in part in another story at this website — see “Michael & McCartney.” Music publishing rights in the early 1960s were valued somewhat differently, and many performers didn’t always realize the full economic value of their songs. The Beatles, for their part, had also made a few management mistakes along the way, and were not well served by some of their business partners and managers. With the right advice at the time, the Beatles might well have retained full and clear control of “Revolution” and their other early songs. Still, there is much more to this story than space permits here.
Record sleeve cover for the 1968 Beatles’ singles ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Revolution’.
In any case, by early 1987, Nike believed it had the legal rights to use “Revolution,” and proceeded to make the ad with the original Beatles music. The ad began running on television in mid-March 1987. Then, in the summer of 1987, the three surviving Beatles along with their record label, Apple, filed a lawsuit objecting to Nike’s use of the song. The suit was aimed at Nike, its ad agency, Wieden & Kennedy, and Capitol-EMI Records. The TV ad with the music – and there were at least four versions – continued to run as the litigation proceeded.
“Revolution” was written by John Lennon in the spring of 1968, then a tumultuous time in the U.S. and Europe. Vietnam War protests and other civil unrest had occurred. In Paris that May, about the time Lennon wrote the song, student demonstrations had reached a fevered pitch. A massive strike there and resulting riots led to the collapse of the government of Charles DeGaulle. Lennon aimed his song at the world’s young revolutionaries, agreeing with their basic beliefs but advocating non-violence. The song, which became the Beatles first venture into political territory, was recorded in Jully 1968 at Abbey Road studios in London. It was released on B-side of the “Hey Jude” single in August that year. The single reached No. 12 on the U.S. music charts. The song was a product of the recording sessions for the Beatle’s White Album, and in fact, the original slower version of “Revolution,” sometimes called “Revolution 1,” appears on that album.
The popular and more electric version of “Revolution,” and the one that became the subject of Nike’s advertising interest, was a hard-driving tune for the Beatles, one of the group’s loudest and most aggressive then to date. It was a good bit different than a lot of their prior material. In fact, for some, it presaged what would be called “heavy metal” music to come later. “The Beatles position is that they don’t sing jingles to peddle sneakers, beer, pantyhose or anything else. …They wrote and recorded these songs as artists and not as pitch- men for any product.” – Apple, July 18, 1987. Still, it was basic rock ‘n roll, opening with a loud electric guitar, followed by Beatle vocals: “You say you want a revolution…,” then more guitars, electric piano, Beatle vocals with some screaming by John Lennon at one point. But by the mid-1980s, nearly twenty years after the first recording of the song, John Lennon was dead, and Michael Jackson had acquired the song’s rights. Nevertheless, in court, the surviving Beatles moved to protect their music.
“The Beatles position is that they don’t sing jingles to peddle sneakers, beer, pantyhose or anything else,”said Apple’s attorney in a statement of July 18, 1987. “Their position is that they wrote and recorded these songs as artists and not as pitchmen for any product.” The Beatles charged that Nike “wrongfully traded on the good will and popularity of the Beatles” by using the song. Capitol-EMI countered by saying the lawsuit was “groundless” because Capitol had licensed the use of “Revolution” with the “active support and encouragement of Yoko Ono Lennon, a shareholder and director of Apple.” In addition to the legal action, there was also a backlash from Beatles fans to Nike’s use of the song, many saying that John Lennon would have objected.
You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can
count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
all right, all right
You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We’re doing what we can
But when you want money
for people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
all right, all right
ah, ah, ah, ah, ah…
You say you’ll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You better free your mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of
You ain’t going to make it with
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
all right, all right
all right, all right, all right
all right, all right, all right
“If it’s allowed to happen,” said former Beatle George Harrison of the Nike deal in November 1987, “every Beatles song ever recorded is going to be advertising women’s underwear and sausages. We’ve got to put a stop to it in order to set a precedent. Otherwise it’s going to be a free-for-all. It’s one thing when you’re dead, but we’re still around! They don’t have any respect for the fact that we wrote and recorded those songs, and it was our lives.” By February 1988, as Nike continued to use the ad and its music while the court fight proceeded, Paul McCartney said: “[T]he most difficult question is whether you should use songs for commercials. I haven’t made up my mind. Generally, I don’t like it, particularly with the Beatles stuff. When twenty years have passed maybe we’ll move into the realm where it’s okay to do it.”
Upbeat & Energetic
The Nike ads that ran using the “Revolution” music, however, were well received by many who saw them. One of the ads — showing a collage of quick-cut sports scenes that fit well with the music – was generally upbeat and energetic. It was purposely crafted by the producers to have the look of a grainy black-and- white home movie. They wanted the ad to come across as “a kind of radical sports documentary,” and in 1987-88, it likely had that effect. It showed a few quick clips of professional, well-known athletes — including very brief appearances of John McEnroe and Michael Jordan. But there were also lots of shots of amateurs doing their own sports things – from joggers and tennis players, to toddlers, rope skippers, and air guitarists. Some Madison Avenue managers at the time thought it was a coup for Nike to have used original Beatles’ music in the spot, calling the music “a very, very powerful tool.” Others weren’t so sure, pointing to the anti-war demonstrations of the Vietnam War era when the song was first aired, suggesting that association might be the more powerful one.
Meanwhile, as the litigation over the use of the music dragged on, Nike continued to air the ad. At least four versions of the TV spot were produced and run, including one version with women joggers. But finally, in March 1988, although the case was still in court, Nike decided to discontinue airing the ads using the “Revolution” song. More than a year later, in November 1989 the Los Angeles Daily News reported that the “tangle of lawsuits between the Beatles and their American and British record companies has been settled.” One condition of the out-of-court settlement was that terms of the agreement would be kept secret. The settlement was reached among the three groups of interests involved: the former surviving Beatles – George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr — John Lennon’s wife, Yoko Ono; and the music businesses, Apple, EMI, and Capitol Records. A spokesman for Yoko Ono noted of the lawsuit and settlement, however, “It’s such a confusing myriad of issues that even people who have been close to the principals have a difficult time grasping it. Attorneys on both sides of the Atlantic have probably put their children through college on this.”
Sells Music, Too
Cover sleeve used in South Africa for Beatles' single recordings, "Revolution" and "Hey Jude."
Turns out that the Nike “Revolution” ad not only helped to sell lots of Nike athletic shoes, but also helped to sell, re-energize, and introduce the Beatles’ music to a whole new generation of listeners. In fact, according to one blogger who was in high school at that time, Nike’s ad helped introduce him and his peers to the Beatles’ music. “As a kid entering high school and discovering music, hearing “Revolution” every night on TV opened my eyes and ears to the whole world of Beatles music,” he writes at his blog, dsicle.com. “Suddenly, the Beatles weren’t just dusty records on my parent’s shelf, they were current, popular musicians.” He adds that in 1987 there were certain songs guaranteed to be played at every high school party, including: “Fight For Your Right” by the Beastie Boys, “It’s Tricky” by RUN-DMC, “Lean On Me” by Club Nouveau – and also “Revolution” by the Beatles. “As amazing as it sounds,” he writes, “a 20 year-old Beatles song was popular with high school kids–no doubt spurred by the Nike Air Max ‘Revolution’ commercial.”
During the summer of 1987, the Beatles’ White Album, which contained a version of “Revolution,” was released on CD for the first time, reaching No. 18 on the Billboard albums chart nearly 20 years after its original release.
John McEnroe in Nike ad.
In the advertising world, meanwhile, the Nike “Revolution” ad was given high marks, seen as an excellent example of how advertising and iconic music can help with “branding” a product, elevating it in the minds of consumers, and distinguishing it from its competitors. Some advertising wags even say the 60-second ad played an important role in creating the Nike brand. The ad’s mixture of famous athletes like Michael Jordan and John McEnroe with everyday, average-person joggers and weekend athletes also had a pointed effect, as author John Katz observes in his 1994 book on Nike, Just Do It:
The message seemed designed to diminish the distance between the greatest athletes and people who play and exercise for fun. Though Nike dogma would have previously precluded the potential muddying of a great athlete’s image, the carefully contrived commercial ennobled every kid, pro athlete, and duffer who appeared. With the Beatles in the background, the commercial was like a sixty second celebration. And the shoes moved out of the stores.
Indeed, the Beatles’ music, mixed with the powerful sports images, helped give this ad an emotional tone and power, as marketing consultant Tim Glowa observed in 2004: “This commercial illustrates how television advertising can become the ultimate emotion builder….and demonstrates that a brand can be emotional and thought provoking.”
Key Business Event
Some years later, TheStreet.com, a business-oriented website, ran a piece commemorating the top 100 business events that shaped the 20th century. Nike’s Revolution ad made the cut at No. 97. The Street.com claimed the ad worthy of joining the 100 key events since it helped “commodify dissent,” as the editors put it, creating a new genre of advertising. The Street.com named Nike’s ad to its 100 key business events of the century, saying it helped “commodify dissent”. “It’s not the first time the ideals of the 1960s – freedom, individuality, anti-materialism, dissent – are called upon to push product,” said the editors. “But it may stand as the biggest co-optation. …Now it’s almost impossible to escape ads that sell not just products, but breaking the rules, dude.”
True, like the use of other rock tunes in advertising, Nike’s “Revolution” ad and the litigation that followed, further pushed the envelope on the use of popular music in advertising. “The Nike ‘Revolution’ use was monumental in many ways,” explained Josh Rabinowitz, director of music at the Grey Group in a 2009 Ad Week piece. Not only did the ad “resonate with the visuals and concept,” said Rabinowitz, it also “really opened the door to high-concept ads utilizing great – and expensive – music.” Nike’s Revolution ad also broke ground for “a cottage industry of commercial music-licensing experts and internal commercial-licensing resources,” according to Rabinowitz. In fact, entire departments in those specializations were created at record labels and music publishers, “because nobody wanted to get embroiled in that type of legal nuisance again.” Still, there would be more legal battles to come. Yet by the 1990s, what was once a valiant effort by artists to keep their music out of the commercial advertising arena appeared to be wearing down as more and more songs would be incorporated into advertising. Stay tuned to this site for those stories and others related to the “music-and-advertising” issue.
The Beatles' February 11th, 1964 concert at the Washington Coliseum indoor arena in Wash., D.C., their first ever live U.S. concert performance. Photo: Rowland Scherman, http://www.snapstour.com/
When the Beatles first came to the U.S. in 1964, primarily to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show in New York on February 9th, 1964, they also performed two live concerts. The first of these concerts — and their first ever in the U.S. — was performed in Washington, D.C. at the Washing- ton Coliseum on February 11th. Not to be confused with an outdoor athletic-type coliseum, the Washington Coliseum was an indoor arena where professional and college basketball teams played. Originally built in 1941, it was first named the Uline Arena when it hosted hockey games. It was renamed the Washington Coliseum in 1959. It held a capacity crowd of about 7,000 people. Although the building still stands today near Washington’s Union Station, it is now used as an indoor parking garage. However, it is a protected property by the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board, and is slated for redevelopment. In the 1960s it hosted a variety of music acts and concerts, of which the Beatles’ February 11th, 1964 concert was one.
Ticket stub to Beatles' first live American concert in Washington, D.C., February 11th, 1964.
The Beatles also made another live concert appearance during their February 1964 U.S. visit – at New York City’s Carnegie Hall on February 12th. In New York there were two shows, but in Washington, only one. However, the D.C. performance was filmed in black and white video by CBS with the permission of the Beatles’ then manager, Brian Epstein. This filmed version of the live D.C. performance was then packaged into a “closed-circuit” offering by a private company to be aired several weeks later at selected theaters across the U.S. More detail on these theater showings later. First, the D.C. performance.
Beatles’ D.C. Concert
At the Washington Coliseum, the Beatles performed on a boxing-ring stage, changing postion during the show. Feb 11, 1964.
The February 11th, 1964 concert at the Washington Coliseum, located at 3rd and M Streets N.E., occurred during a cold and snowy night. It was the Beatles’ first live American performance after their televised appearance on the CBS Ed Sullivan Show. They had arrived in D.C. earlier that day by train from New York. Before their show that evening, they also appeared at a brief press conference. At show time, there was a sold-out, over-capacity crowd of 8,000 fans, by one count. Before the Beatles came on, there were other opening acts. Although three groups were advertised to perform as opening acts that night – including the girl group, The Chiffons, and also Tommy Roe and The Caravelles – an East Coast snow storm prevented The Chiffons from getting to Washington. Although the existing historical record is unclear about which groups actually performed that night as opening and/or intermission acts, Tommy Roe reports that he was there, and performed three songs – “Sheila,” “Everybody,” and “Carol.” Also reportedly appearing that night were Jay & The Americans, The Righteous Brothers, and The Caravelles. The opening acts were quite good, according to some in attendance that evening. But when the Beatles came on, the place erupted with screaming and incessant flash bulbs. They played for nearly an hour. Because of the set up in the Coliseum, the Beatles were essentially performing on a boxing ring-type stage, and had to move their equipment around on stage a few times in order to give everyone in the audience a chance to see them. Ringo was seen moving his drum set around on stage between sets.
Beatles Set List Washington, D.C. February 1964
Roll Over Beethoven
From Me to You
I Saw Her Standing There
All My Loving
I Wanna Be Your Man
Please Please Me
Till There Was You
She Loves You
I Want to Hold Your Hand
Twist and Shout
Long Tall Sally
Some Beatles afficionados and music critics regard the D.C. performance as a singular event in Beatles history, especially since it captured the group’s fresh and exuberant performance for the first time with a live, American audience – the “big market” the Beatles had dreamed of cracking. Writes music critic Richie Unterberger:
“…[H]ere are the early Beatles at their on-stage best. They’re more visibly delighted, indeed almost overwhelmed, by the crowd’s enthusiasm here than at any time before or since. Despite the seeming overnight success of their invasion of America, it had in reality been a long hard climb to the top, taking about seven years of diligent work and numerous excruciating setbacks, and also a year or so where they’d made virtually no inroads into the U.S. market despite their mushrooming British superstardom. This was the payoff, and though the group would get fed up with touring before screaming teenagers within a couple of years, at the Washington Coliseum they were if anything having an even greater time than their admirers….”
Another shot of The Beatles at their February 11th, 1964 concert at the Washington Coliseum arena in Washington, D.C.
After their live D.C. performance, the group attended a masked ball at the city’s British Embassy. Reportedly, British Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home decided not to attend for fear of being upstaged by the group. During the party, an unidentified woman cut off a lock of Ringo’s hair without asking him. The Beatles stayed at the embassy party for a time and then returned to their rooms at the Shoreham Hotel. Tommy Roe recalls that evening as “chaotic,” noting there were “many agents and celebrities trying to get close to the fab four…” Roe had toured the U.K. about a year earlier, and the Beatles were a featured act on his tour. In D.C., Roe was invited to the Beatles’ suite at the Shoreham Hotel later evening by Brian Epstein, but Roe was soon besieged by friends and colleagues who “wanted me to take them along to meet the boys…” However, visitors to the Beatles’ suite that evening were restricted, although Roe did get in briefly to thank them for putting him on as an opening act. “I remember their suite was packed with press and photographers doing interviews…”
The following day, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, meeting with British Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home at the White House, reportedly said of the Beatles: “I like your advance guard. But don’t you think they need haircuts?” The Beatles that day returned to New York by train for their Carnegie Hall concerts – two 25-minute performances before 2,900 fans attending each show.
1964 ad for the Beatles' closed-circuit concerts.
The Closed-Circuit Concerts
However, about a month later, in mid-March 1964, the CBS filming of the Beatles’ live D.C. show – together with separate footage of performances by the Beach Boys and Lesley Gore – was shown in selected U.S. movie theaters as a closed-circuit concert. Billed in advertising as — “The Beatles: Direct From Their First American Concert” — the complete 90-minute film was transmitted over telephone lines to selected U.S. and Canadian theaters in four separate shows — two each day — over the weekend of March 14th and 15th, 1964.
The first round of closed-circuit concerts occurred on Saturday, March 14, 1964, and among the receiving theater locations that day, for example, were: the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; the Hippodrome Theater in Cleveland, Ohio; the El Monte Legion Stadium in El Monte, California; the Public Auditorium in Portland, Oregon; the Village Theater in Westwood, California; and many others. The following day, on Sunday, March 15, 1964, the show went out again to a number of locations, including: the Norva Theater in Norfolk, Virginia; Lake Theater in Oak Park, Illinois; Fox Theater in San Jose, California; and also back in Washington, D.C. at the Coliseum. In Albany, New York that weekend, there were three showings at the Palace Theater. In Indianapolis, Indiana, the Lyric Theater received the show on March 14th and March 15th, as did a big screen theater at the State Fair Coliseum in Dallas, Texas.
The total audience for the special closed-circuit broad- casts of the Beatles’ concert film was expected to exceed 500,000. The shows were seen in more than 100 theaters in the U.S. and Canada. The promoters – identified in advertising as the National General Corporation, or their subisidiary, Theater Color Vision — made millions. One 1964 estimate placed the take at some $4 million, or roughly $30 million in today’s money. This Beatles’ concert showing was apprarently the first use of closed-circuit broadcasting for a rock concert, as previously this closed-circuit theater network had been used only for championship boxing matches.
Excerpts from the film have shown up in numerous video compilations, including The Beatles Anthol- ogy. In 2003, a company named Passport released a DVD entitled The Beatles in Washington D.C., February 11, 1964.
Master Tape at Auction
Decades after the Beatles’ February 1964 performances, a reported master tape of the CBS film of the Beatles’ D.C. concert surfaced on the internet, appearing at the website, BeatleSource.com, display- ed in its shipping box. According to this site, the tape was auctioned off by “It’s Only Rock and Roll” in 2005 to an unnamed bidder for an unspecified price.
CBS Beatles tape in box.
In the website’s description of the master tape, however, it is noted: “. . . a variety of poor quality kinescopes trans- ferred to video versions of the [Beatles' D.C.] concert have circulated on bootlegs, imports and, most recently, as a commercially released DVD. These versions are missing the on-stage announcements and footage of the Beatles running through the audience en route to the stage. In addition, these inferior copies end abruptly midway through ‘Twist & Shout,’ and are totally missing the finale of ‘Long Tall Sally’ and footage of the Beatles leaving the stage. Even the footage seen by millions on the Beatles Anthology series was far removed in picture and sound quality from what fans saw in their local theaters in March 1964.”
The website also notes in its description of this tape: “We can unequivocally say that there exists no other videotaped Beatles concert that remotely approaches the quality of this performance by the Beatles at Washington Coliseum.”
DVD of Beach Boys 'lost' concert.
“Lost” Beach Boys
There also appears to have been a film excerpt made of the Beach Boys’ portion of this show, which in recent years has been marketed as a separate DVD. The disc offers 22 minutes of the Beach Boys performance, described in the marketing literature as a “long-lost concert video” only now available. That Beach Boys’ performance – which was spliced into the Beatles’ closed-circuit film along with the Lesley Gore performance – was originally videotaped by NBC-TV in Burbank, California. Both of those performances were part of a separate concert hosted in Los Angeles in late January 1964 by L.A. disc jockey Roger Christian. But after the Beatles’ closed-circuit TV show was aired, including the Gore and Beach Boys’ portions, the Beach Boys segment remained virtually unseen for decades. Then in 1998, according to one account, the Beach Boys’ portion, or a version of the original session, was rediscovered and began being sold in June 1999 as a separate DVD. “Beach Boys fans will be delighted with the quality of the digitally mastered picture and sound,” says one review of “The Lost Concert.” It also captured the Beach Boys in their early days, when Brian Wilson was featured in the lead, as he would later stop touring with the band. The DVD also includes cutaway shots that provide a glimpse of what teen audiences were like during the heyday of the surfing craze, according to one description. “[P]lenty of Gidget hairdos, and a few parents in the crowd, marveling at the frenzy of it all…,” says the description. Among the Beach Boys’ songs on the disc are: “Fun Fun Fun,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Surfer Girl,” “Surfin’ USA,” “Shut Down,” “In My Room,” and others. See also, “Early Beach Boys, 1962-1966.”
Poster for Beatles' closed-circuit concert in Providence, R.I., 1964.
In late 2010, a high-quality video of the 1964 Beatles’ Washington, D.C. concert was reported to have surfaced in a couple of places, suggesting that it might be the 1964 master tape, or was somehow related to that tape. In November 2010, Apple, Inc.’s iTunes music service announced that it would begin selling Beatles’ music – singles, albums, and a special boxed set, among other items. The “Beatles Box Set” – which iTunes was then selling for $149.00 – included 13 remastered Beatles’ studio albums and other Beatles’ music. The box set was also advertised to include something else: the live 1964 Washington Coliseum Beatles’ concert film. iTunes reported that it had a “worldwide exclusive” on the film. Apple at that time was also allowing Beatles fans to stream and view the 1964 concert film from iTunes for free during November and December 2010.
Then, in December 2010, another report announced that the “not-seen-since-1964″ closed-circuit film – complete with Beach Boys and Lesely Gore segments, Roger Christian’s introductions, and the Beatles’ “Long Tall Sally” concert segment – would be given a special theatrical showing at the American Cinematheque Egyptian Theater in Hollywood on February 11, 2011. Hosting this screening would be: Alan Boyd, director of the documentary Endless Harmony: The Beach Boys Story; Domenic Priore, author of Riot on Sunset Strip: Rock ’n’ Roll’s Last Stand in Hollywood; and Ron Furmanek, a rock ‘n roll film archivist. “This will be the first time the ENTIRE production has been seen in full since the two days it was screened as a nationwide closed-circuit theater event…”, said the announcement, adding: “Our test screenings left us bedazzled, feeling as though we had just seen The Beatles in person… it’s that good.” Since then, however, it is not clear how often the “lost concert” Beatles film was actually aired in U.S., if at all, as a tour of U.S. theaters was promised, but there appears to have been some difficulty in showing the film — at least in some locations.
The Beatles performing live at the Washington Coliseum, February 11, 1964 -- from left, Paul, George, John & Ringo.
More Innocent Time
In any event, the Beatles’ in-theater, closed-circuit concerts that were aired in 1964 offer a look at an earlier, more innocent time in the music concert business — and a rare piece of music industry history. It also appears that those music fans who attended the 1964 theater showings of the Beatles’ first live U.S. concert – along with the added Beach Boys and Lesley Gore performances – were part of a rare event that occurred only in a limited number of U.S. locations.
(Original Posting) Jack Doyle, “Beatles’ Closed-Circuit Gig, Feb-March 1964,” PopHistoryDig.com, July 9, 2008.
(Title Change) Jack Doyle, “Beatles’ D.C. Gig,” Feb-March 1964, PopHistoryDig.com, January 29, 2014.
Sources, Links & Additional Information
Beatles on the Washington, D.C. mall, Feb 1964.
Beatles on D.C. mall with U.S. Capitol, Feb 1964.
February 1964: Fans outside the Washington, D.C. Coliseum waiting for the Beatles to arrive. (Photo, Keystone/Getty)
Jerry Doolittle, “Beatles Arrive, Teen- Agers Shriek, Police Do Their Duty, and That’s That,” The Washington Post-Times Herald, February 12, 1964, p. 1.
On YouTube.com, there are several videos of the Beatles’ February 1964 performance at the Washington Coliseum. These are typically grainy, black-and-white videos of various lengths, some 30 minutes or more, with shots of the Beatles performing, screaming fans, and the general pandemo- nium of that concert.
John S. Wilson, “2,900-Voice Chorus Joins the Beatles; Audience Shrieks and Bays and Ululates,” New York Times, February 13, 1964.
“Potential $4 Million Box Office For Beatles On Closed Circuit TV,” Broadcasting, February 24, 1964.
“Closed TV Shows Here for Beatles,” Dallas Morning News (Dallas, TX), March 2, 1964.
Myra MacPherson, “Help! The Day The Mania Came To Washington,” Washing- ton Post, February 7, 1984.