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, was written by 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…”
Music Player “Dear Prudence” – 1968
George Harrison later mentioned to Prudence as the Beatles were leaving India, 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.
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. 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.” 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. 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, rising to No. 1 on the U.K. charts and remaining there for three weeks. In the U.S., the song hit No.1 on the Billboard charts August 19th. 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
The Beatles in India with Maharishi Mahesh, 1968, from left: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison & Ringo Starr.
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.
Prudence Farrow in India; Beatles’ song subject.
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. 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 Superman” 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 Saturday Evening Post” cover story of May 4, 1968 featured the Beatles, Mia Farrow, and others on their retreat in India.
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.
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.
John Lennon & Paul McCartney working on their music in India, Feb-Mar 1968.
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 spicey 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,” observes New York Times reporter Allan Kozinn, “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 platinmum” — 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. Athough 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
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.
Search “Beatle bootlegs” for: “The Beatles – Acoustic Masterpieces – The Esher Demos.”
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.
Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson in studio during their early 1980s’ collaboration. Photo, Linda McCartney
After the Beatles had broken up in 1970, they each went their separate ways musically. Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison each began careers making music on their own, and sometimes with other artists. After John Lennon was killed in 1980, the three remaining Beatles came to- gether briefly for George Harrison’s song, “All Those Years Ago.” But for the most part, they each continued working solo, with occasional col- laborations. In the early 1980s, Paul McCartney and pop star Michael Jackson came together briefly to produce a few songs and videos, projects undertaken jointly between 1981 and 1983. McCartney by then already had a decade of success with his group Wings, releasing a number of singles and albums between 1971 and 1981. Michael Jackson at that time was just hitting his stride, having released his first solo album Off the Wall in 1979, and then his blockbuster, Thriller, in 1982. In the McCartney/Jackson collaboration of the early 1980s, the two artists produced a few singles together that were also used on each other’s albums and for music videos. However, this collaboration became a very interesting pairing given what would later transpire between McCartney and Jackson in terms of their respective business interests. More on that in moment. First the music.
Cover of 1982 single ‘The Girl is Mine,’ featuring a Paul McCartney-Michael Jackson duet.
“The Girl Is Mine”
The first single released jointly by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson was “The Girl is Mine,” a 1982 duet by the two artists. The song was written by Jackson and produced by Quincy Jones for Jackson’s epic Thriller album, his sixth studio album. “The Girl is Mine” was recorded in Los Angeles in April 1982. It was released as a single on the Epic label in mid-October of that year with “Can’t Get Outta the Rain” on the B side. It soon topped the R & B singles chart, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and rising to No. 8 in the U.K. By 1985, it had sold 1.3 million copies, and was later certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for shipments of at least two million units. Jackson stated at one point that the recording of the song was one of his most enjoyable moments in the studio. “One of my favorite songs to record, of all my recordings as a solo artist, is probably ‘The Girl Is Mine,’ because working with Paul McCartney was pretty exciting and we just literally had fun. It was like lots of kibitzing and playing, and throwing stuff at each other, and making jokes. We actually recorded the track and the vocals pretty much live at the same time, and we do have [film] footage of it…” The footage of the pair recording the song was later shown at The Paul McCartney World Tour.
Visit With Paul
The second song released jointly by McCartney and Jackson was “Say, Say, Say,” which would also appear on McCartney’s fifth solo album, Pipes of Peace, released in 1983. The history of this Jackson/McCartney collaboration actually predates “The Girl is Mine” single of 1982. And it was during this recording visit that Jackson would be introduced to the financial value of the music publishing business. “Say, Say, Say” was recorded at Abbey Road Studios from May to September 1981. During one of Michael’s visits to the McCartney home in 1981, Paul pro- duced a thick booklet of song publishing rights he owned. “This is the way to make big money,” he told Jackson. Michael Jackson had come to the U.K. as a guest of Paul, as the two had agreed to explore joint music projects. While there, Jackson stayed at a nearby hotel, but often had dinner at the home of Paul and Linda McCartney, a Tudor estate on hundreds of acres about an hour’s drive from London. During these visits, Jackson and the McCartneys developed a friendship, sometimes hanging out in the McCartney kitchen for informal conversation. One night at the McCartney dinner table, Paul produced a thick booklet displaying all the song and publishing rights he owned, such as those of 1950s’ rocker Buddy Holly and others. “This is the way to make big money,” he told Jackson. “Every time someone records one of these songs, I get paid. Every time someone plays these songs on the radio, or in live performances, I get paid.” McCartney was then reportedly earning about $40 million a year from other people’s songs. Jackson became quite interested as McCartney paged through his booklet. He wanted to know more about owning songs, and how they were acquired and put to use. This dinner-table vignette of Paul advising Michael on the lucrative world of music publishing and song ownership, would later play out in a somewhat ironic way, as Jackson would come to own a number of Beatles songs.
Cover art for the Paul McCartney /Michael Jackson single, ‘Say, Say Say’, 1983-1984.
Meanwhile, the McCartney/Jackson recording of “Say Say Say” was completed in February 1983 with former Beatles’ producer George Martin helping with its studio production. “Say, Say, Say” proceeded to have a good run on the music charts, hitting No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and staying there for six weeks in late 1983 and early 1984. A fairly elaborate music video for “Say Say Say” was also produced, at a cost of $500,000, which featured Jackson and McCartney, with appearances by Linda McCartney, LaToya Jackson, and Mr. T. Another McCartney/ Jackson song that appears on McCartney’s Pipes of Peace album is “The Man,” co-written by Paul and Michael, but not released as a single. Paul and Michael, meanwhile, continued their friendship and musical relationship through the 1980s – that is, until some mutual musical and financial interests came between them.
Among the first catalogs Michael Jackson acquired in the mid-1980s was one with the songs of Sly & the Family Stone such as ‘Everyday People.’
In 1983-84, having taken Paul McCartney’s advice to heart about making money with music publishing rights, Michael Jackson was soon on the hunt to buy music catalogs and song copyrights. Within a year or two, he spent about $1 million buying up some available collections – the Sly Stone collection, which included songs such as, “Everyday People”(1968) and “Everybody Is a Star” (1970). He also acquired Len Barry songs such as “1-2-3″ (1965), the Soul Survivors’ “Expressway to Your Heart” (1967), as well as two 1961 songs by Dion DiMucci – “The Wanderer” and “Runaround Sue.” Jackson continued his search for more music catalogs to buy, but only those with songs that meant something to him. He was shown dozens more catalogs, approaching 40 or so, but he only bid on a handful of these. Then came the prize he wanted badly: a catalog of Beatles songs. First, a little history.
Early Beatles’ songs -- such as those from their early 1960s albums -- became part of the ATV music catalog that Michael Jackson acquired in 1985.
In 1968-69, a U.K. company named ATV Music Publishing, a subsidiary of Britain’s Associated TeleVision, had become the owner of 250 or so Beatles’ songs – many of which were the most important “Lennon & McCartney” compositions from the 1960s. How the Beatles’ songs made their way to these owners is a bit of another story which is covered at length elsewhere. But essentially, for tax reasons, the Beatles put much of their music publishing rights into a public company, which they later lost control of. ATV became the owner. ATV Music Publishing had formed in the late 1950s after it acquired Pye Records, one of the major U.K. record companies at the time. ATV and Pye were at the forefront of the 1960s music explosion in the U.K. Among artists then on the Pye label were The Searchers, The Kinks, Donovan, The Moody Blues, and Petula Clark. Through the 1970s, ATV remained the owner of the Beatles catalog and expanded its holdings to other songs. By 1984, however, the ATV Music Publishing became the property of a new owner – an Australian investor and corporate raider named Robert Holmes a Court. Holmes a Court was interested in turning quick profits on his investments and he soon let it be known that the ATV music catalog – then comprised of some 4,000 songs including those by the Beatles – was up for sale. That’s when Michael Jackson entered the bidding.
In the mid-1980s, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney both wanted the Beatles songs in the ATV music catalog.
Paul McCartney, meanwhile, was also keenly aware of the ATV holding. One account claims that McCartney had made it known to the owners that he would be willing to top any best offer by 10 percent. However, McCartney is also on record saying that at one point he was offered the catalog for a price of £20 million (pounds). But McCartney was hesitant to make that deal on his own, since it might be perceived by Beatles fans as a “Paul McCartney grab” of John Lennon’s property, and he didn’t feel comfortable with that. So he called Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, and asked her if she wanted to split the bid at £10 million each. That arrangement did not work out for whatever reason, and McCartney appeared to drop out of the process. Michael Jackson, however, really wanted the catalog, and especially the Beatles’ songs, and he set about on a careful and thorough business course to acquire it.
Jackson was first informed of the availability of the ATV catalog in September 1984 by his attorney John Branca, who put together the earlier catalog acquisitions that Jackson had already made. That September, Branca, Jackson, and his manager, Frank Dileo, were in one of their regular business meetings during Jackson’s Victory tour with his brothers in Philadelphia. Jackson was very excited at the news of the ATV/Beatles catalog becoming available, but Branca warned him it would be a tough fight as other investors were also interested, and Holmes a Court was a tough negotiator. Branca also reportedly contacted an attorney for McCartney, who said McCartney was not interested in bidding for the catalog as it was “too pricey”. Branca and his associates then set out on a careful course of “corporate due diligence” checking out their quarry and later spending $1 million over some months to verify the validity of ATV’s claims about earnings and song ownership.
Attorney John Branca became key Jackson aide.
By November 20th, 1984, Jackson and Branca sent a Telex to Holmes a Court with a $46-million bid for the ATV catalog. They were aware of another bid of $39 million, and had spent time determining the value of the ATV catalog. They believed their $46 million was a good bid, and that it had cushion enough to be above the rest. In addition to McCartney as a possible rival in the contest, the other investors and music industry executives competing for the ATV catlog were: Charles Koppelman and Marty Bandier’s New York-based The Entertainment Co., Virgin Records of London; New York real estate tycoon Samuel J. Lefrak, and financier Charles Knapp. John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, had been contacted but did not enter the bidding.
“We Are The World” 1985
During the time Jackson’s team of lawyers and music specialists were trying to acquire the ATV/Beatles music catalog, Jackson was also involved with his music for a good cause. He teamed up with fellow singer Lionel Ritchie to write a song for Ethiopian charity relief that became “We Are The World.” The song was produced and conducted by Quincy Jones and became notable for the “supergroup” of 45 popular musicians who performed it – from Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Diana Ross, to Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles – and dozens of others. The charity single was intended to raise funds to help famine-relief efforts in Africa, which had unusual drought in 1984/1985. The recording was produced in January 1985 and released in March 1985. It became one of the fastest- selling singles in the modern pop era, reaching No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on April 17, 1985 and remaining there for four weeks. The single eventually sold 7.5 million copies in the U.S. and also spawned an album and a video – all of which raised over $63 million for famine relief. The song also inspired millions of people to help, and many lives were saved. The song went on to win four 1985 Grammys. Michael Jackson performed the song at the World Music Awards in November 2006.
In the end, Jackson would win the prize – but only after a long and protracted chess game with Holmes a Court that went on for some 10 months or more, and who for a time, erroneously suspected that Jackson was a front man for a Paul McCartney purchase. In any case, for Jackson’s camp, the process of putting the deal together, and verifying the assets, businesses, and copyrights, etc. was not a casual process, as Los Angeles Times reporter Robert Hilburn explained in 1985:
…One team of Jackson’s lawyers was sent to the United States Copyright Office in Washington to check on the authenticity of every significant composition in the nearly 4,000-song catalogue. Meanwhile, other teams were at work in London and at ATV offices around the world to certify legal documents in those countries. In total, an estimated half a million to a million pages of contracts were examined.
At the same time, the L.A.-based accounting firm of Gelfand, Rennert & Feldman was overseeing a team of 20 people who were checking ATV books in London, Los Angeles, Toronto, Sydney, Munich and Amsterdam.
The contract for the prospective deal had gone through eight drafts. But then, negotiations broke off for a time and the deal seemed doomed. In June 1985, Branca and Jackson learned that Holmes a Court had signed a tentative $50-million deal with Charles Koppelman and Marty Bandier’s Entertainment Co. Talks then resumed between the Jackson and Holmes a Court negotiating teams. Jackson raised his bid to $47.5 million. Holmes a Court accepted Jackson’s bid over the higher $50 million from Koppleman/Bandier presumably because Jackson’s was more liquid and could be consummated quicker. Jackson also reportedly threw in a charity concert in Perth, Australia. An announcement was made in mid-August 1985 that Michael Jackson had acquired the ATV music publishing catalog with the Beatles songs. Michael Jackson was a happy camper.
Michael Jackson said ‘Yesterday’ was his favorite Beatles song. Released as a single in the U.S. in Sept 1965, it stayed at No.1 for the month of October and sold 1 million copies in five weeks.
With the deal done, Jackson spoke with Los Angels Times reporter Robert Hilburn in September 1985 at the Jackson family house in Encino, California. He was quite excited about the Beatles’ songs he now owned. “The melodies…are so lovely…(and) structured so perfectly,” he said. Coaxed to name some of his favorite Beatles songs, Jackson said “Yester- day” was his favorite, though he quickly ticked off others — “Here, There and Everywhere,” “Fool on the Hill,” “Let It Be,” “Hey Jude,” “Eleanor Rigby” and “Penny Lane.” He couldn’t name just five; he liked them all.
Meanwhile, Paul McCartney, who had wanted the ATV Beatles’ songs, apparently was unable or unwilling to raise enough money or pay for the entire 4,000 song ATV catalog. As noted earlier, McCartney at one point urged Yoko Ono to join him in a joint bid, but she declined. Ono did comment upon hearing that the rights were acquired by Jackson. “Michael Jackson is a fellow songwriter,” she said, “so I just think it’s a nice thing to happen.” McCartney, however, did admit to feeling somewhat undercut by his one-time friend and collaborator. “I think it’s dodgy to do things like that,” McCartney reportedly said, “– to be someone’s friend and then buy the rug they’re standing on.”
The publisher’s rights that Jackson acquired were distinct from those of the songwriter. McCartney still had those, of course, as royalties for “Lennon & McCartney” songwriting still flowed to McCartney and to John Lennon’s estate regardless of who held the publisher’s rights. Still, publisher rights could be quite lucrative – as Paul had shown Michael back in 1981. The Beatles songs, in particular, would be especially valuable resources that could be mined for years with possible uses in film, television, advertising, stage productions, video games, and more. The prize that Jackson had won would become a very valuable asset indeed. In fact, it would prove to be one of the best investments Michael Jackson would ever make.
Nike ad with Beatles music & joggers,1987- 88. Click to view in new window.
The first unpleasantness between McCartney and Jackson over the use of Beatles music came in 1987 when Nike struck a deal to use the Beatle’s song “Revolution” in one of its athletic shoe television commercials. At the time, Nike reportedly paid $500,000 to use the song, half to EMI-Capitol Records and half to Jackson. 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, and Capitol-EMI Records – not Jackson. The Nike TV ad with the Beatles music – and there were at least three versions – ran from 1987 through early 1988, even as the litigation proceeded, with former Beatles George Harrison and Paul McCartney objecting in the press.
Michael Jackson & Paul McCartney together in 1990, reportedly to dispel rumors about their falling out over the Beatles song catalog Jackson then held.
By March 1988, although still in court, Nike decided to discontinue airing the ads as its music right for using the song expired. In November 1989, although the case had spawned more lawsuits by then, an undisclosed out-of-court settlement was reached among all parties. McCartney, meanwhile, had reportedly asked Jackson to increase the share of his writer royalties for the Beatles’ songs that Jackson held as publisher, but Jackson refused. In 1990, McCartney and Jackson appeared together in a photograph to allay fears – publicly at least – that there was no bad blood between them. Jackson was soon confronting problems of a different kind, as charges against him for molesting a 13-year-old boy were settled out of court in 1994.
Then in early November 1995 George Harrison and Paul McCartney made comments in the U.K.’s Elle magazine about Jackson’s use of Beatles songs in advertising. Harrison made remarks similar to those he had made during the 1988 fight over Nike’s use of “Revolution” in their TV ad. “Unless we do something about it,” said Harrison, referring to the merchandising of their songs, “every Beatles song is going to end up advertising bras and pork pies.” McCartney added that Jackson had “cheapened” the songs released.
Michael Jackson was at the top of his game in the 1980s, on the cover of Time, March 19, 1984. By the mid-1990s, things began to slide, with mounting debt by the late 1990s.
Jackson by then was beginning his descent into serious financial difficulty as he began to leverage his assets for cash and credit. On November 9, 1995 it was reported that Jackson had sold a 50 percent stake in the ATV/Beatles song catalog for about $100 million – money used by Jackson, according to one adviser, to help shore up his “wobbling accounts.”
Although Jackson was a smart guy when he wanted to be, and was on top of his financial situation for a good part of his career – and actively involved with his business interests – by the mid-1990s things started to slip pretty badly. Jackson’s exorbitant and quirky life style — coupled with legal battles and lower music revenues – would soon eat away at his assets and push him into big-time indebtedness. In the 1980s, he had made a ton of money, with top-selling albums and concert tours. But he spent it as fast at it came in, and then some, often in bizarre ways, chartering jets and renting hotel suites for his entourages, or traveling with a pet chimpanzee. In his work too, Jackson spared no expense, hiring the best at premium rates. In 1987, for example, he hired noted film director Martin Scorsese for $1 million to direct a video for his album Bad.
Michael Jackson’s quirky and expensive life style in the 1980s and 1990s, helped push him into big-time debt.
Jackson’s Santa Barbara County, California estate, “Neverland” – which he had purchased in 1987 for $19.5 million – was a continuing and considerable expense. Neverland – named for the island of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys who never age – covers some 2,600 acres. Jackson spent $35 million making it a wonderland complete with amusement park, small-car race track, miniature railroad, a pet zoo, ornate landscaping and flower beds, a 50-seat cinema, and two helicopter landing pads. At its peak, Neverland had a staff of 150, and cost $10 million a year to maintain.
People magazine cover story on Michael Jackson in Feb 1994 asked if his settlement with a young accuser might cost the pop star his credibility – and his future.
In 1993, Jackson was accused of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy. An out-of-court settlement was reached in 1994, reportedly in the neighborhood of $20 million. However, Jackson’s reputation – and some say his earning power as well – began taking big hits in the media and the tabloids. Headlines such as, “Peter Pan or Pervert?”, run by the New York Post in August 1993, hit Jackson hard. Some close to Jackson say the incident marked beginning of a downward spiral for him – emotionally, financially, and legally. In the mid-1990s, Jackson undertook to answer his critics in part with feisty song lyrics and a $30 million publicity and promotion campaign for his 1995 HIStory album, part of which included the use of nine giant Michael Jackson statues, one of which was floated down the Thames River through London. In the 1990s Jackson was also married twice and divorced twice, with costly settlements – first to Elvis Presley’s daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, and then his dermatologist’s secretary, Debbie Rowe, who bore two of his children. Meanwhile, music sales for Jackson in the 1990s, although still formidable, were not at the level they were in the 1980s.
By the late 1990s he had taken out hundreds of millions of dollars worth of loans. He used some of the loan money to invest in risky ventures. “The leading drain on Mr. Jackson’s ample resources may have been monumentally unwise investments that apparently produced equally colossal losses,” wrote New York Times reporters Jeff Leeds and Andrew Ross Sorkin in a later story on the evolution of Jackson’s financial troubles. Among the unwise investments was $50 million or so for deals that never panned out – amusement-park ideas and global-scale entertainments featuring giant Marvel comic-book type characters. Jackson was getting bad advice. By early 2000, Jackson’s biggest burden began shifting to his enormous monthly interest payments on his debt. At one point in 2000, Jackson’s finances were so shaky that one of his financial advisers warned that Jackson’s control of the rights to his own music catalog and that of the Beatles was at risk.
Sell The Beatles?
In early 2001, there had been rumors that Jackson was putting the ATV/Beatles catalog up for sale to cover the maintenance of his Neverland ranch in California as well as legal bills relating to cancelled concert tours. Jackson then made a statement to the press in May 2001 about the status of the Sony/ATV/Beatles catalog. “I want to clarify a silly rumor,” he said in a May 9, 2001 statement, “the Beatles catalogue is not for sale, has not been for sale and will never be for sale.” Still, the catalog was becoming less and less his to control as he diminished his share to hold off his creditors.
Comeback In 2001?
In the fall of 2001, it appeared there might be a re-emergence of Michael Jackson. In September he made a surprise appearance at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards, as he joined ‘N Sync on stage near the end of their act and performed some of his dance moves. At the end of October 2001, Jackson’s new album, Invincible was released, rising to the top of the charts.
In November 2001, Michael Jackson appeared on the cover of TV Guide. The Guide touted his upcoming TV special on its cover — “Michael Jackson: The Star Studded TV Special, The New Album (at last), The Famous Friends, The “Wacko Jacko” Image – Does it Add Up to Comeback?”
In 2002, however, Jackson had some legal troubles. His longtime concert promoter Marcel Avram, sued Jackson for $21.2 million for canceling two Millennium concerts. A court ordered Jackson to pay Avram $5.3 million in damages.
Meanwhile, there appeared to be little change in Jackson’s spending habits. In September 2001, he paid a $1 million fee to Marlon Brando to appear at a Madison Square Garden event and in a video honoring Jackson. In the spring of 2002, he racked up a $100,000 hotel bill on a brief trip to New York. And he could still drop $1 million at a time on any number of shopping expeditions, for antiques, automobiles, paintings, or other luxuries. Forbes scored him as owing a Beverly Hills jeweler $2 million for a watch, and once on a whim he spent $10,000 on a bottle of perfume for his friend Elizabeth Taylor.
By November 2003, it didn’t appear that Jackson was in imminent danger of going broke, as Forbes magazine placed his net worth at $350 million. But he then had heavy liens against his property and his spending was characterized as “out of control”. Forbes also noted of Jackson: “for the first time in four decades, he finds himself without a record contract.” The magazine described him as “a franchise in decline.” Number Ones, a Jackson greatest-hits album, released in 2003, would sell about 1 million copies, considerably less that other Jackson albums.
By 2005, a turn for the worse occurred, especially with Jackson’s very public trial on charges of molesting a young boy. Although acquitted, more of Jackson’s financial turmoil surfaced in the trial. An accountant testified that Jackson spent up to $30 million per year more than he earned. His loans were soon becoming his major liability, with crushing interest payments. By 2005, Jackson was reportedly making monthly payments of about $4.5 million on $270 million in debt, which works out to an annual interest rate of about 20 percent, a rate that usually signals high risk.
Sony Steps In
Logo for Sony/ATV Music Publishing.
Jackson’s partner in the ATV/Beatles catalog, Sony, was now concerned about the prospect of a Jackson bankruptcy. They also wondered who they might have to negotiate with as their partner, especially since Jackson by then had established that his share would be represented by a trust. For Sony, that added to the uncertainty, and they remained attentive to Jackson’s situation.
By April 2006, Jackson was living temporarily in Bahrain after his child molestation trial. Needing money, Jackson again turned to the Sony/ATV/Beatles catalog to help with creditors. It appeared he would have to sell some portion of his share in the catalog to raise funds. Instead, Sony came to the rescue and sent two executives to Bahrain. The Sony executives negotiated a deal for Jackson that resulted in Jackson getting a lower interest rate on his $300 million debt through a refinancing arrangement. In return, Sony gained more authority to operate Sony/ATV/Beatles catalog, and also retained an option to buy a further half of Jackson’s share. This meant, if the option was exercised, Jackson would then only retain a 25 percent share of the Sony/ATV/Beatles catalog.
Michael Jackson in more recent years.
There were also a few wealthy patrons who came to Jackson’s aide during his financial troubles, each also looking for a piece of business from Jackson or his related assets. Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the second son of the king of Bahrain, who took Jackson and his family in for a time following his trial, also helped Jackson keep the lights on at Neverland and paid some of his legal bills in 2005. Al Khalifa thought he had made a business deal with Jackson to do an album and write an autobiography; Jackson claimed the $7 million he received was a gift. Al Khalifa sued. Thomas Barrack, chairman and CEO of Los Angeles-based real estate investment firm Colony Capital set up a joint venture with Jackson to take ownership of Neverland, yielding a $23 million loan. Barrack believed a spruced-up Neverland could fetch as much as $80 million. Colony and Barrack – also involved in Las Vegas nightclubs and casinos – had been talking with Jackson about repackaging his image and beginning a comeback, with the prospect of multiple-year, Céline Dion- type performances in Vegas ( she had grossed $400 million in 4 years), and/or a Cirque du Soleil- type musical production like the Beatles Love production. Then there was Philip Anschutz, whose concert promotion company, AEG Live, had started work with Jackson, planning to do 50 shows featuring him in London beginning in July 2009. AEG also hoped to generate a further $400 million in business with Jackson through tours and merchandizing over the next few years.
Michael Jackson’s Neverland faced fore- closure in 2008.
Jackson, meanwhile, had laid off workers at Neverland by 2006. In 2008, he defaulted on a $24.5 million loan and narrowly escaped foreclosure there. By early 2009 an auction had been scheduled to sell off some of Jackson’s personal property to raise funds. Nearly 1,400 items from his Neverland Ranch were assembled by Julien’s Auction house and set for a sale in April 2009, but the auction was cancelled. A five-volume, 900-page catalog of items had been prepared by Julien’s and was posted at their website for a time.
Through all of Jackson’s difficulties and financial woes, however, his music publishing interests were a key asset, anchored by the 251 Beatles songs. He was personally involved with that business, and the idea of doing more with it in the future appealed to him. In addition to his share of the Sony/ATV/Beatles catalog, he also held his own publishing catalog, called Mijac. That catalog is estimated to be worth $50 million to $100 million, but it too has an unknown amount of debt attached.
The Sony/ATV/Beatles catalog, meanwhile, had grown significantly in size and value since Jackson first acquired it in 1985, especially in recent years. Between November 2001 and May 2007, Sony/ATV had made at least four acquisitions of other music catalogs. There were now more than 500,000 songs in the Sony/ATV catalog – including tunes by Elvis Presley, the Drifters, Little Richard, Hank Williams, Roy Orbison, Taylor Swift, and the Jonas Brothers. At Jackson’s death, the Sony/ATV/ Beatles catalog was said to be worth $1 billion and held more than 500,000 songs. Among songs now found in this catalog, for example, are “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan, “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond, “E-Pro” by Beck, “Crazy” by Willie Nelson, and “No Such Thing” by John Mayer. The works of a number of songwriters are also included, among them: Stevie Nicks, Sarah McLachlan, Destiny’s Child, Garth Brooks, and Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi. Still, in terms of earning power, the 251 Beatles songs are the most significant group, whether in terms of generating regular or “mechanical” royalties from CD sales, or future use in advertising and other commercial ventures. Bachman Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care of Business,” is one example of a Sony/ATV song licenced for a major advertising campaign, in this case, for Office Depot.
At Jackson’s death in June 2009, the Sony/ATV/Beatles catalog was said to be worth $1 billion. How much of that would accrue to the Jackson estate, however, was unclear given his indebtedness and other possible liabilities.
Paul McCartney, at premiere of the show 'Love' by Cirque du Soleil, Las Vegas, June 2006.
Paul McCartney, of course, had not forgotten about his old friend’s ownership of the Beatles tunes. In recent years, it still bothered McCartney that someone else held the publishing rights to the Beatles’ songs, and he said as much in 2006. “You know what doesn’t feel very good, is going on tour and paying to sing all my songs,” he said. “Every time I sing ‘Hey Jude,’ I’ve got to pay someone.” That someone, of course, was Michael Jackson/Sony/ATV.
After Jackson’s passing in June 2009, McCartney publicly offered his respects and condolences, commenting on his time working with Jackson. “I feel privileged to have hung out and worked with Michael,” McCartney said, calling him “massively talented” and a person with a gentle soul. “His music will be remembered forever and my memories of our time together will be happy ones,” he said. With Jackson’s passing, there had come rumors that Jackson had planned to give the rights back to the Beatles. In fact, it was rumored that Jackson had intended to do so in his will, in order to make amends with Paul McCartney. But when the will surfaced, there was no mention of such a transfer. And Sony stepped in to say that the Beatles portion of the Sony/ATV catalog was going nowhere and would remain in their custody. McCartney, for his part, seemed to be mellowing somewhat on the whole matter, explaining that with time, certain rights would revert to him anyway.
Logo for McCartney Productions, Ltd., Paul McCartney’s music business.
McCartney, in any case, was doing pretty well for himself without the Beatles tunes that Jackson had acquired. Since the Beatles broke up in 1970, McCartney had become a major music publisher himself, going well beyond what he showed Jackson at the McCartney dinner table back in 1981. McCartney’s music publishing business uses the name MPL Communications and has bought or secured publishing rights to hundreds of songs, including a few early Beatles songs issued as singles that were separate from the others – such as “Love Me Do,” “P.S. I Love You,” “Please Please Me,” and “Ask Me Why.” He also holds other rock ‘n roll songs such as those by Buddy Holly.
MPL stands for “McCartney Productions Limited,” the company that operates out of London and New York. MPL has grown over the years and is now comprised of 25 subsidiary companies, some with names such as Desilu Music Corp, ARKO Music Corp., and others. MPL owns a wide range of copyrighted material stretching over 100 years, including songs such as, “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody” made famous by Al Jolson, to show tunes, pop music, and rock ‘n roll songs such as 1960s classics from the Four Seasons, “Sherry” & “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” There are also standards in the MPL collection such as “Autumn Leaves,” “Sentimental Journey,” and “Stormy Weather.” MPL also represents musicals and their songs such as: “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” by Frank Loesser, and “A Chorus Line” by composer/arranger Marvin Hamlisch and lyricist Edward Kleban.
The Jackson Legacy
Promo for Michael Jackson concerts that had been planned for London in July 2009.
Michael Jackson’s own music catalog, meanwhile – including previously unreleased material – is likely to become one of the all-time most valuable music catalogs in modern music history. Given the popular reaction to his music since his death, with his past albums dominating the charts in June and July 2009 – plus the prospect of all kinds of uses for his music in the years ahead — it is expected that a music business legacy equivalent to, or exceeding that, of Elvis Presley, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, and other famous music names will be quite possible. Only time will tell, of course, with history as the final judge.
A former YouTube video (since taken down), “Michael Jackson …How He Came to Own The Beatles Songs,” included a Paul McCartney press conference in 1990 in which he discussed how Michael Jackson came to own the lion’s share of The Beatles’ Lennon & McCartney song catalog. That press conference was held during a Paul McCartney tour, April 14, 1990, at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miramar, Florida. See related audio clip and transcript of McCartney’s remarks at: MJJinfo.Blogspot.
Brian Southall, Northern Songs: The True Story of the Beatles Song Publishing Empire, Omnibus Press, 2008.
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.