More details and rumors about the Beatles’ live TV show project

December 1968

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The story about a Beatles’ live TV show project had been developing since September 1968. Early November, it was announced that The Beatles would play three successive nights and record a live TV show, from December 14 to 23, 1968.

It’s unfortunate that all the publicity came out about doing live shows when it did. We were only thinking about it vaguely, but it kind of got out of hand.

John Lennon – From “The Beatles Diary Volume 1: The Beatles Years” by Barry Miles

On November 30, New Musical Express announced that the London Roundhouse was not considered as a venue anymore, putting the December dates in jeopardy. Paul McCartney suggests the concerts could be held in Liverpool rather than London.

The Beatles’ eagerly-awaited concert appearances are NOT now expected to take place at London’s Chalk Farm Roundhouse. Paul McCartney told the NME that discussions with the venue’s management “are on the verge of breakdown,” and that the Beatles are already searching for a suitable alternative venue. In view of this late decision, it now seems probable that the concerts themselves will have to be delayed until after Christmas — although the group is still hoping to fit them into the originally planned December 14-21 period. Paul added that the concerts could now conceivably take place in the group’s home-town of Liverpool, instead of London.

From New Musical Express – November 30, 1968
From New Musical Express – November 30, 1968

The group’s projected live appearances will now probably be postponed until January, said press officer Derek Taylor. But they will take place at London’s Round House, probably in mid-December.

“With George Harrison returning from his American trip by liner, it would be excessively adventurous to think we could get the shows together by mid-December”, said Taylor. “It’s likely they will be postponed until mid-January. But they will take place, and that’s a promise”.

From Melody Maker – November 30, 1968
From Melody Maker, November 30, 1968

On December 7, music magazine Melody Maker has Apple press officer Derek Taylor contradicting Paul McCartney and explaining that Liverpool was not an option.

MYSTERY OVER BEATLES ‘LIVE’ VENUE

The Beatles’ live show now takes place on January 18. But, said press officer Derek Taylor on Monday, the venue is still in doubt. “It does not look as though it will be the Round House and reports that it will take place in Liverpool are also unlikely“.

Taylor said the show will probably be in London because it is being taped in colour for TV and all the colour equipment is in London.

The taping is fixed for January 18, but the Beatles will also have an invited audience for a rehearsal and a run-through possibly on January 16 and 17.

From Melody Maker, December 7, 1968
From Melody Maker, December 7, 1968

Another December article in Melody Maker mentioned that American singer Andy Williams might appear in this live TV show.

Andy Williams may guest on a Beatles TV spectacular being made by the Beatles on January 18. Andy dropped into London for a brief visit to the Beatles Apple headquarters last week, en route back to America from Paris.

Says Apple spokesman Derek Taylor, “Paul McCartney went to see Andy’s show in London earlier this year, and the two of them got on very well. We had dinner on this latest visit and George Harrison dropped in. Nothing was definitely arranged, but Andy would like the Beatles to do a guest spot on his show and he may in turn appear on the new Beatles show“.

The venue for the Beatles spectacular has still not been decided, said Derek Taylor at presstime.

From Melody Maker, December 14, 1968
From Melody Maker, December 14, 1968

In its December edition, The Beatles Monthly Book fanzine gave more context about the project, in a long article. It also organized a competition for 100 tickets to be won.

The news that the Beatles are planning to appear on stage again has absolutely delighted every Beatles admirer. But their decision to perform in front of an audience once more seems to be a very sudden turn-about — a complete reversal of everything they have been saying for the past two years.

Many people have already been surprised that the new album has strong tinges of early Beatles about it. Simple cover, simple title, simple tunes. With certain exceptions of course (who said “Revolution”).

Their intention, therefore, is to put on a series of shows which will culminate in a final performance which will be filmed for transmission in this country and overseas. Apple Corps managing director, Neil Aspinall, has already been negotiating for the sale of the programme to one of the major companies in the United States.

These are the essential ingredients to every Beatles enterprise now because, as they are running a very big empire with a very large and costly staff so, in turn, anything they do must make a hell of a lot of money to pay for it all.

BIG PROFITS

It is not that they need the money, of course. As you may have read in the paper recently, Northern Songs made almost a million pounds profit this year alone and a very large chunk of this will go to Paul and John.

No, Paul summed up the whole basic idea behind the Apple operation the other week when he said on television that they needed this organisation and power and to make money so that they could do the things that they want to do in the future.

This basically means that they can help and back other talented people in show business. They remember the years when nobody would listen to them or Brian Epstein very well. Then, they were dismissed as being of no consequence. Now, when they come across talented singers or songwriters, the Beatles can offer immediate assistance.

Anything is possible, and they have even carried this into the field of big business with Alexis Mardas, the very talented Greek inventor who is coming up with the most extraordinary ideas which could well revolutionise whole areas, not only of British show business, but industry as well.

The New Year concerts will also do many things. Firstly, it will give the Beatles an opportunity to perform in front of their fans once again. Not a very large number admittedly, only a few thousand — but, nevertheless, it will have happened.

Secondly, the performance, by being shown all over the world, will enable their fans in all those overseas countries to see them probably much better than they would if they were sitting in the back row of a local stadium. And remenber that stadiums can only hold a few thousand people whereas on television they are seen by millions.

LAST TOUR

Ever since that last tour of America, they have been voicing their intense dislike of personal appearances. So, what has happened to change their decision?

The total Beatles’ mind is a very complicated thing. It can never be understood fully, but glimpses of the workings of the brains of John, Paul, George and Ringo can help to explain the sharp change of direction.

At the risk of appearing a Beatles heretic, or an infamous follower I, personally, have never believed that they did actually dislike performing on stage. What they got so completely fed up with was the whole business of touring that came before, and after, each performance.

Anyone who has not experienced it can never understand the feeling that they had when they were trapped inside that endless succession of theatres, stadiums and concert halls all round the world. Every hideaway, which was felt to be so impregnable by the local organisers, was found out and surrounded within a matter of hours of their arrival, And to stay in a hotel in the centre of any city was an open invitation to be besieged by thousands of fans every second of every day. Few people can ever have travelled to so many places and seen so little.

The demands of the local adults were also insistent and never ending. Every dignatory and person who felt that they were “somebody” thought that they should be personally greeted by the celebrated English teeny-bopper kings.

I shall always remember when I visited the Beatles on one of their first tours. We were pushed and shoved into a dressing-room by about 30 policemen who were protecting them from the fans. But, as soon as the Beatles were firmly ensconced in their suite, which consisted of a crummy, very narrow room with a table, four chairs and very little else, the policemen promptly started turning round and asking for autographs. No wonder the boys got fed up with it all.

But, at the same time, I remember very clearly the reactions of the Beatles on stage. I cannot believe that the enjoyment they showed was false. George, in particular, has always been completely transparent. If he is fed up, he shows it. If he is happy, he smiles, and he used to smile a lot during their stage performances.

All the Beatles used to bandy remarks amongst themselves during their act and they took a great deal of pleasure in their ability to send an audience into a state of frenzied enjoyment.

Everyone agrees that the atmosphere of a Beatles performance was unique. Until one had actually sat and heard the sheer sound of their amplification, coupled with the solid wall of teenagers screaming, which always accompanied it, one could not understand their personal magnetism. And, before everyone starts accusing them of favouring a few chosen fans during their performances at the Roundhouse, let’s make it clear that they will also be working for all their followers.

REHEARSE

But, there’s still a lot of work to do before they get on stage. Firstly, they will have to rehearse the numbers and work them up into an act once again. Performing their songs in the recording studio will not enable them to perform equally well on stage. The two are not the same and the boys have always accepted this.

What will the performance actually consist of? Well, at the moment, I understand that they intend to base the whole thing on their new double album, with several oldies thrown in for good measure.

From the Beatles Monthly Book, N°65, December 1968

The Beatles are shortly to finalise details for their own one-hour colour television show. It will NOT now take place at the Roundhouse as announced.

After rehearsals they will give a set of separate “‘live’’ performances before invited audiences. All three shows will be recorded on colour videotape and the final television programme will be made up from the best parts of the three. Much of the material will be songs from the Beatles’ current bundle of 30 LP tracks but a few oldies will be included too. Songs selected for each of the three performances may vary slightly. At press time nobody at Apple could say for sure whether or not a late decision would be made to include guest appearances by other Apple recording artists such as Mary Hopkin and Jackie Lomax.

An early idea to sell audience tickets and give the money to charity was dropped because seats for television show performances cannot be sold but must be given away without charge.

An Apple spokesman asks us to emphasise that there is no point in people continuing to write in for tickets to the Apple offices. The letters already received there run to well over 20,000 ticket requests, far more than the number of available seats.

The only remaining opportunity for Beatle People to get TV show tickets is to take part in the Beatles Monthiv Book Lucky Dip through which 100 seats will be allocated to regular readers. For full details please see page 30 of this issue.

No details of British screening date for the Beatles’ show are set nor is it certain which TV channel will get the programme. Different TV companies will see the completed videotape when it is ready and Apple will receive their offers. It is unlikely that the show will be seen here or abroad before February or March next year.

From the Beatles Monthly Book, N°65, December 1968
From the Beatles Monthly Book, N°65, December 1968

Music magazines would give various updates on this “live TV show” project between September 1968 and early 1969. The project would morph a few times and would lead to the “Get Back / Let It Be” sessions in January 1969, the Beatles’ last live performance on the rooftop of the Apple building, and the release of the “Let It Be” film in 1970.

Timeline of events:

  • September 14, 1968 – Paul McCartney said to Melody Maker that The Beatles “will be doing a live TV show later in the year
  • September 26, 1968 – Apple booked the Royal Albert Hall for several days in December, in preparation for a possible live performance by The Beatles, alongside other Apple artists like Mary Hopkin and Jackie Lomax.
  • October 12, 1968 – New Musical Express and Melody Maker reported that the plan to use the Royal Albert Hall was no more and that London’s Chalk Farm Roundhouse was now the likely venue for a Beatles live TV special.
  • November 6, 1968 – Apple announced that the Beatles had booked the London Roundhouse to play three successive nights (a run-through, a dress rehearsal and a final show), between December 14 and 21, 1968.
  • December 1968 – The live show was postponed to January 18, 1969, with a rehearsal and a run-through possibly on January 16 and 17. The Roundhouse was not considered anymore and the venue was still undecided. More rumours came through : that the show could be held in Liverpool, that American singer Andy Williams could join.
  • January 2 – The “Get Back / Let It Be” sessions started at Twickenham Film Studios.
  • January 4 – Melody Maker reported that the Beatles planned their first-ever “live” album, to be taped at the special live TV show. No more dates or potential venus were mentioned anymore.
  • January 19 – Melody Maker reported that the Beatles were rehearsing, and that a documentary film would be made from those sessions, in addition to the live album already mentioned.

Last updated on September 26, 2021

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