The Beatles plan their first-ever “live” album

Saturday, January 4, 1969

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AS exclusively forecast in the NME two weeks ago, the Beatles are to record their first live album — consisting of 12 or 14 original new songs by Lennon-McCartney and George Harrison — at their London concert on January 18. The show will not now be open to the public, but will last at least 90 minutes and will be taped in colour for screening on British and American TV. An Apple album is likely to be released in March or April. No new venue for the performance has yet been decided, although it is definite that no other artists will appear with the Beatles. Discussions have also taken place with a view to the group appearing with Donovan on a future edition of Andy Williams’ U.S. TV series.

The live concert will be taped for the group’s own Apple Films, and will be produced by Dennis O’Dell and directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, former director or “Ready Steady Go.”

Andy Williams is taping an hour-long special for U.S. screening on March 19 and, according to the singer’s manager Alan Bernard, the Beatles and Donovan will guest. An Apple spokesman agreed that discussions took place during Williams’ pre-Christmas visit to London, but added that no definite decision had yet been reached.

From New Musical Express, January 4, 1969
From New Musical Express, January 4, 1969

The Beatles are to record their first-ever “live” album. Just a few weeks after the release of their phenomenally successful double LP “The Beatles,” Apple Records announce that the next Beatles LP will be recorded in front of an audience.

The album will be taped at the special live TV show, before an invited audience, which has been planned for some time.

Apple press officer Derek Taylor told MM at presstime: “The group start writing and rehearsing a number of songs this weekend. There is no shortage of material — Paul has eight or nine songs finished, John has a few and George also has some material. They are writing all the time. It’s a question of selecting the right material for the show.”

The Beatles’ first live appearance for over two years was scheduled to take place on January 18. The plan was to have a run-through, a rehearsal and then a complete show — each with a different audience so as many people as possible could see the group in action again.

But, said Taylor, this date was now doubtful. And the venue has still to be fixed. Places mentioned have included the Roundhouse In London and Liverpool’s Cavern, but Derek Taylor stressed this week that the venue still had not been selected.

“The date that we originally stated for the spectacular, which was to be recorded for television, was our own date,” said Taylor. “Because of that, we are not fixed by it. If we can’t do it then, it doesn’t matter. The best thing I can say at this moment, is that we hope the shows will happen before the end of the winter.”

The Beatles will do at least 12 songs for the album, and it will probably be 14.

It will be the first live album to be released, although one of their concerts in America — at the Hollywood Bowl – was recorded but never released. The only other live recordings they have made were with singer Tony Sheridan in their early days in Hamburg.

From Melody Marker, January 4, 1969
From Melody Marker, January 4, 1969

The Beatles were this week writing new songs and rehearsing in London for their long-awaited first public appearance together since 1966 – and, as reported in last week’s NME, the January 18 concert will be recorded for an Apple album for release in the spring. The performance will be staged at Twickenham Studios.

From New Musical Express – January 11, 1969
From New Musical Express – January 11, 1969

Rehearsals for the group’s previously-planned concert have now definitely become the basis of a TV documentary; some of the specially-written songs were heard by startled passers-by in London’s Savile Row last Thursday, when the Beatles gave a spontaneous performance on the roof of Apple and were filmed for the programme.

It is understood that almost all 12 tracks of the new album, centred around the documentary, are now complete. Final recording will take place within the next fortnight, with a view to the LP being released in April or May.

From New Musical Express – February 8, 1969

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 16, 2021

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