Interview for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson • Tuesday, May 14, 1968

Interview for The Tonight Show

TV interview • Interview of The Beatles
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Published by:
Interview by:
Joe Garagiola
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From May 11 to May 15, 1968, John Lennon and Paul McCartney travelled to New York, to promote their newly-formed company, Apple Corps. On May 14, they were interviewed for NBC.

From Beatles Interviews Database:

The first few seasons of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show no longer exist in the NBC vaults. Unfortunately, many videotapes were ‘reused’ by NBC in the fifties and sixties, including Carson’s earliest seasons. Therefore this 1968 Lennon/McCartney appearance is truely a lost interview.

What does still exist is due only to TV-viewing Beatles fans trying to capture the moment, back before the days of home VCRs. A small portion of the interview was captured on silent home-movie film by a Beatles fan aiming an 8mm movie camera at their TV set. The 2 minute home movie of the TV screen, while producing a poor-quality picture and only a very small fraction of the full 22 minute appearance, unfortunately is the only known ‘video’ in existence of John and Paul’s 1968 appearance on the Tonight Show.

Luckily, all of the audio was recorded by another Beatles fan who decided to capture the TV interview by placing their amatuer audio recorder next to their TV set.

There have been some fairly successful attempts to synchronize the surviving 2 minutes of silent, low-quality video with the segments of audio that correspond with it. The 9 photos presented below are enhanced still-frames from one such video which circulates among collectors. […]

From “The Complete Beatles Chronicle”, by Mark Lewisohn:

John and Paul’s appearance on The Tonight Show was taped in studio 6B at the Rockefeller Center early on the Tuesday evening for screening a few hours later. In New York it went out from 12.00 pm (midnight) to 1.00 am, and the two Beatles watched it back at their residence for these few days in New York: the apartment of lawyer Nat Weiss, Brian Epstein’s principal business partner in the United States, at 181 East 73rd Street. In the absence of Johnny Carson, the regular presenter of The Tonight Show, this edition was hosted by the major-league baseball player Joe Garagiola, who was somewhat surprisingly at a loss for questions to put to the two Beatles in what was, after all, the first appearance either had made on a US television chat show. And the situation wasn’t exactly helped along by the shared presence on the Tonight sofa of Tallulah Bankhead, the 66-year-old gravel-voiced actress who didn’t seem too kindly disposed to being upstaged by the young men at her side. (She was the show’s first guest, before John and Paul came on.) All in all, it was a somewhat disappointing appearance, reportedly watched in stony silence by John and Paul a few hours later back in the comfort of Nat Weiss’s apartment.

Mark Lewisohn

[…] Then they said, ‘Now, who is this man who’s going to interview us, this Joe Garagiola person?’ I told them who he was, all in praise, but they had apparently already made up their minds that they didn’t want Joe to interview them. What they wanted, to my horror, was for me to interview them. I spent five or ten minutes trying to explain to them that that was not possible, but it still didn’t sink in. At one point they even threatened not to do the show unless I would go on with them and do their interview. My life flashed before my eyes, because there was no way I was going to go out in front of that camera with the two Beatles. Not only would it have been a ridiculous condition upon which to end my tenure on The Tonight Show, but I knew that it would also cripple my career permanently! Eventually, I talked them out of it and they agreed to go on. But when they finally joined Joe, disaster struck. He started by asking one or two really silly questions and they went downhill from there. He just sat there saying things like, ‘Gee, I hope my kids get to see this,’ and ‘Boy, am I going to be a popular guy in the neighbourhood.’ It was so inane that the two Beatles became visibly uncomfortable, and Joe had to actually let them leave. The two Beatles left believing that this guy had sloughed them off, and in a way, I guess they had been. […]

Craig Tennis – The Tonight Show staff member – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman

JG: “Ladies and gentlemen, from the Beatles– John Lennon and Paul McCartney!”

(excited screams and applause as they walk out)

JG: “Good evening, good evening. Can I ask you something? How did you get here? Not from England, but from the hotel with all the people out there?”

PAUL: “Uhh, by car.”

JG: “Did you have any problems?”

JOHN: “No, no. All under control. (jokingly) Well how are you, Johnny?”

JG: “Well, I figure you’ve been interviewed all day– if there’s any questions you’d like to ask us…”

JOHN: “What are you doing?”


PAUL: “Mmm, where’s Johnny?”

JG: “Where is he? Gaithersburg!”

ED McMAHON: “Gaithersburg!”

JG: “A wonderful town.”

TB: “May I ask you, a big favorite all over the world, a question? Are the other two gentlemen… of the four of you… are they still in India?”

JOHN: “No, they’re in England.”

TB: “I want to ask you something, because I wish I’d learned to meditate, and I can’t… I don’t know how you do it. I would love to.”

JOHN: “Well you gotta go and find out, haven’t you.”

TB: “Well I’m not going that far.”

JOHN: “Oh well.”


PAUL: “Forget it.”

TB: “If it’s taken me this long, and couldn’t do it, I couldn’t learn there.”

JOHN: “Well, you can’t learn to swim if you keep inland, can you? Unless you’ve got a pool around you.”

TB: “Oh honey, I can float sitting up. Don’t be silly.”


JG: “I get the feeling there are two different conversations here!”

PAUL: “Yeah right, yeah. We had a bit of trouble today– this fella– We did an interview for the educational program. And he started asking us questions, and they were quite sort of serious questions, you know. So it was a choice between just laughing it up, or answering seriously.”

JG: “So what did you do?”

PAUL: “We were a bit serious.”

JG: (jokingly) “You? Serious?”

PAUL: “Yeah. We were just sort of– (clears throat comically) –not too serious, you know, just sort of.”

JG: “Listen, of all the…”

PAUL: “So tell us a joke!”


JG: “I don’t really have that many jokes, you tell me a joke.”

JOHN: “We don’t know any.”

TB: “I think they’re very serious fellows.”

PAUL: “That’s it. We are, you know.”

JOHN: “We can never remember ’em, you see.”

JG: “Would you like to be a comedian?”

JOHN: “No.”

JG: “In many ways you are.”

JOHN: “Well…”


JG: “The four of you, socially, are you that close, or are you…?”

PAUL: “Yeah.”

JOHN: “We’re close friends, you know.”

JG: “Sometimes when you work together– I’ve been with groups that when the job’s over, that’s it. Do you have houses pretty much together?”

JOHN: “Within twenty miles all together.”

JG: “If you couldn’t have been in music– if it hadn’t happened for you– what do you think you would like to do?”

JOHN: “Ahh, I don’t know. Films for me.”

(Paul relaxes back comfortably)

JG: (pause) “How about you, Paul… I’m not breaking your mood, am I?”

PAUL: “No. You’re doing great, you know. But, umm…”


PAUL: “So, what would I like to have been?”

JOHN: “A policeman.”

PAUL: (to John) “…no. Not a policeman.”


PAUL: “Uhh, I don’t know, you know. I was nearly gonna be a teacher but that fell through, luckily.”

(music swells for a commercial break… Paul begins humming along… girls scream)

JG: (to John) “Why don’t you read that (cue card) and see what the reaction is.”

JOHN: “And now a word from your local stallion.”


JG: “…a word from your local STATION!” [COMMERCIAL BREAK]

JG: “Listen. Paul, you said something that’s hard for me to believe. You were in Central Park, and no one recognized you, Sunday?”

PAUL: “Yes, that’s true. Yes.”

JOHN: “We were very pleased, you know.”

JG: “You just kinda wandered around? You just walked around? The police weren’t with you?”

JOHN: “No, we just walked out, you know. We often do it. If people don’t know– expect us, what are they gonna do but see a bit of long hair walking around like all the other long hair.”


JG: “How long have you been in New York now? We just found out about it.”

PAUL: “Three days.”

JOHN: “Is it three, now?”

PAUL: “Three days.”

JOHN: “And we still haven’t got a tan.”

PAUL: “And it’s been enough, you know, actually.” (laughs)

JG: “When you get into a city– You were on tour, and you got to alot of cities. How much of it do you really see? It’s ballpark to a hotel, I think.”

JOHN: “You just pick up the vibrations. We never saw it, you know.”

PAUL: “The room.”

JOHN: “A castle full of rooms all over the place.”

JG: “How about this new organization, ‘Apple’?”

JOHN: “Oh yeah. Well you see, our accountant came up and said, ‘We got this amount of money. Do you want to give it to the government or do something with it?’ So we thought…”

JG: “Which government?”

JOHN: “Oh… Any old government.”


JOHN: “So we decided to play businessmen for a bit, because, uhh, we’ve got to run our own affairs now. So, we’ve got this thing called ‘Apple’ which is going to be records, films, and electronics– which all tie-up. And to make a sort of an umbrella so people who want to make films about… grass… don’t have to go on their knees in an office, you know, begging for a break. We’ll try and do it like that. That’s the idea. I mean, we’ll find out what happens, but that’s what we’re trying to do.”

PAUL: “If you want to do something, normally you’ve got to go to big business and you’ve gotta go to ‘them,’ the big people, you know.”

JOHN: “You don’t even get there. Because you can’t get through the door ‘cuz of the color of your shoes.”

PAUL: (laughs) “But you know, people are normally… Big companies are so big that if you’re little and good it takes you like 60 years to make it. And so people miss out on these little good people.”

JOHN: “It just takes ’em longer.”

PAUL: “So we’re trying to find a few.”

JG: “Paul, is that because of your background? You came from a poor background.”

JOHN: “No, it’s no sort of… it’s just a common thing.”

PAUL: “There’s a little bit of that.”

JG: “If you didn’t feel it as a youngster, you wouldn’t feel it now.”

JOHN: “Yeah.”

PAUL: “Yeah that’s right, you know. It’s just ‘cuz, we know what we had to fight to, sort of…”

JG: “Was it tough for you to get started?”

JOHN: “Well, no tougher than anybody else, you see, but George said, ‘I’m sick of being told to keep out of the park.’ That’s what it’s about, you know. We’re trying to make a park for people to come in and do what they want.”

PAUL: (comical voice) “Symbolically speaking.”


JG: “Is he the spokesman, would you say, John?”

JOHN: “Well, if his spokes are working, he is. And if mine are…”


JG: “Do you have the privacy that you’re leading me to believe you have, or is it a tough job?”

JOHN: “We have enough to keep us sane, you know. If we are sane– we have enough.”


JOHN: “But it’s not like touring. Our life isn’t like a tour, or like ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ or any of those things. That’s only what we’re doing now. We create that, or that is created. But when we’re just living, it’s calm.”

JG: “Is it calm, Paul?”

PAUL: “Yeah. Not at the moment, you know. It’s hectic– New York. Very hectic place. ‘Cuz we came over from England and it’s a very sort of quiet place, you know.”

JG: “What’s so different about New York?”

JOHN: “Louder.”

PAUL: “It’s very… (imitates cars honking and police sirens) …you know.”


JG: (jokingly) “You’ve got a hit record on your hands already!”

PAUL: “You know, that happens alot here.”

JG: “Don’t you like that kind of life?”

JOHN: “It’s alright. You get into it. I mean, three days isn’t enough to get used to that.”

JG: “Would you ‘like’ to get into it?”

JOHN: “Ahh, not today.”

TB: (laughs) “Are you nervous on a show like this?”

PAUL: “Always nervous.”

JOHN: “Yeah, sure. Sure.”

JG: “Why would you be nervous?”

JOHN: “Because, uhh… It’s not natural.”


JG: “I don’t know, I’m just kind of visiting with you… I would feel it’s natural. I feel like I’ve read about you and I want to meet you.”

JOHN: “I mean, this ‘situation’ isn’t natural.”

PAUL: “If we meet you and talk at your house, then that’s alright you know, because we can actually talk naturally. It’s a bit difficult when you know you’re going out into a million homes.”

JG: “So you’re guarded, pretty well, in what you say then?”

JOHN: “No, not guarded.”

PAUL: “No, but it’s still difficult, you know. (gesturing to the camera crew) There it is!! Look!! It’s going out!!!”


JOHN: “Well, aren’t you nervous at all?”

JG: “I am nervous because of the… uhh…”

JOHN: (comically) “Well, because– because– because!!! But it’s the same thing!”


JG: “Except that you are very successful in what you do.”

JOHN: “It doesn’t make any difference.”

JG: “So what you’re telling me is that you have fears and anxieties like everybody else?”

JOHN: “Sure! We’re human, man!”

PAUL: “You know that old showbiz thing everybody says, ‘Well, you know, you always get nervous before you go on the stage.’ Uhh, I think we get ’em all the way. When you go on stage it’s just one of those things.”

JG: “But you get over that alright.”

JOHN: “Oh sure. It’s part of the game.” [COMMERCIAL BREAK]

JG: “Listen now, I have something in common with both of you. I met the guru, the Maharishi. And I noticed that he went out with an act– the Beach Boys. And it folded.”

JOHN: “Yeah. Right.”

JG: “What do you think of the Yogi as an act?”

JOHN: “Yeah. Well, we found out that we made a mistake there.”

PAUL: “We tried to persuade him against that, you know. I thought it was a terrible idea.”

JOHN: “We believe in meditation, but not the Maharishi and his scene. But that’s a personal mistake we made in public.”

JG: “When did you find out it was a mistake?”

JOHN: “Well, uhh, I can’t remember the date, you know, but it was in India. And meditation is good, and it does what they say. It’s like exercise or cleaning your teeth, you know. It works, but uhh, we’ve finished with that bit.”

ED McMAHON: “Has he changed? Is that what…”

JOHN: “Well, no. I think it’s just that we’re seeing him a bit more in perspective, you know, ‘cuz we’re as naive as the next person about alot of things.”

PAUL: “We get carried away with things like that, though. I mean, we thought he was… uhh… magic, you know– just floating around and everything. Flying.”

JG: “Do you think the kids in America have turned him off?”

JOHN: “Well, it could be something to do with it. But I wouldn’t say, ‘Don’t meditate’ to them, because alot of them would get a great deal from it.”

PAUL: “You know, the system is more important than all those things.”

JOHN: “He’s surrounded with, it seems like, the old establishment that we know so well.”

JG: “Are you saying, ‘Meditate, but not with the Yogi’?”

PAUL: (long pause) “Yeah. I mean, he’s good. There’s nothing wrong with him. But we think the system is more important than all the two-bit personality bit. You know, he gets sort of treated like a big star. He’s on the road with the Beach Boys, and it’s all that scene. And also… It folds, you know. That’s the silly thing.”


TB: “Does he giggle as much as…”

JOHN: “Yes. It’s his natural asset.”


JOHN: “Well, you see, it depends on what way you’re looking at it at the time. If it’s not getting on your nerves, it’s ‘Oh, what a happy fellow.’ It depends how you feel when you look at him.”

JG: “I had him on the show, and he just giggled and giggled the whole time. I figured there was something, maybe my tie was loose. Who was the first one that met the Yogi?”

JOHN: “We all met him at the same time.”

JG: “Can you tell us the circumstances?”

JOHN: “Well, he was just doing a lecture in London at the Hilton. So we all went and we thought, ‘What a nice man.’ And we were looking for that. You know, everybody’s looking for it, but we were looking for it ‘that day’ as well. And then we met him and he was good, you know. He’s got a good thing in him. And we went along with it.”

JG: “But now, you just got off the train, huh?”

JOHN: “Right. Nice trip thank you very much.”


JG: “Do you think that your own careers have kind of switched? Not that you lose a group, but you seem to be changing your audience.”

JOHN: “See, everything changes. So we change as well. And our audience changes, too, all the time. We don’t sort of put our finger on ‘What age group or why.’ But we know– everything changes, and us too.”

PAUL: “When we first started we had leather jackets on, you know. Little caps and big cowboy boots. But then we changed to suits, you know.”

JOHN: “We thought, ‘That’ll get ’em.'”


PAUL: “And we lost a whole lot of fans. They all said, ‘You’ve gone ponched.’ They didn’t like it, you know, because we were all clean.”


PAUL: “So we lost that crowd, but we gained all the ones that liked suits. It happens like that. That’s what keeps happening. And we lost alot of people with ‘Sgt Pepper,’ but I think we gained more.”

(crowd applauds in agreement)

JG: “Do you think you’re going to be able to top ‘Sgt. Pepper’?”

JOHN: “Well, you know, it’s the next move, and I can’t say ‘yes or no,’ but I think so. Why not? ‘Cuz it’s only another LP really… it’s not that important.”

JG: “Well, you have to be the most imitated group.”

JOHN: “Well maybe. Yeah.”


JG: “When you talk about Lennon/McCartney songs, do you work together, or one writes one, or…”

JOHN: “It’s all those combinations you can think of. Every combination of two people writing a song… inasmuch as we can both write them completely separately, and together, and not together. But we obviously influence each other, like groups and people do.”

JG: “I can think of my favorite– ‘Yesterday.'”

(crowd applauds)

JG: “What are the circumstances behind that, Paul? How does that happen?”

PAUL: “I don’t know. I woke up one morning…”

JOHN: (singing as blues) “‘I Woke Up One Morning…'”


PAUL: (pauses, then continues, rhythmically) “‘Piano By My Bed…'”

JOHN: (sings blues lick) “‘duh-dut duh dut-a-la-dut!'”


PAUL: “‘Went To The Piano…'”

JOHN: “Yeah?”

PAUL: (rhythmically) “And This- Is What- I Said!'”


PAUL: “You know, I just started playing it and this tune came. ‘Cuz that’s what happens. They just, sort of– they COME, you know. It just came and I couldn’t think of any words to it, so originally it was just, ‘Scrambled Egg.’ It was called ‘Scrambled Egg’ for a couple of months…”


PAUL: “…until I thought of ‘Yesterday.’ And that’s it.”

JG: (pause) “Are you putting me on?”

PAUL: “No, that’s true.”

JG: “‘Scrambled Eggs’? You write a song about scrambled eggs?”

PAUL: “True story.”

JOHN: “‘Scrambled Egg’ was over here as an instrumental first.”

PAUL: “That’s true, you know.”

JOHN: “Didn’t do so well with that title, you know.”


JG: “How long are you gonna stay here?”

JOHN: “Uhh, It could be any minute now.”


JG: “I know we’ve probably kept you out here longer than we should have, but I’m going to take a…”

(members of audience groan, realizing the interview is almost over)

JG: “I have a reverse question I’m going to ask you, and feel free not to answer it. What is the one question that bugs you the most. About your hair?”

JOHN: “No. We’re past being bugged by questions, unless they’re very personal. I mean, you just get normal human reactions to a question. You know, but there used to be one about, ‘What are you going to do when the bubble bursts?’ and we thought we’d have hysterics because somebody always asked it.”

JG: “Let’s go down the list of the questions. What are you going to do when the bubble bursts?”

JOHN: “I haven’t a clue, you know. I’m still looking for the bubble.”


JG: (to Paul) “I’ve heard you on interviews, you have fun with reporters! You stay right with him.”

PAUL: “No, no. I’m serious. Serious.”

JG: “You are? I think you’re the kind of a guy that would say, ‘Here’s a match– I wonder how much gas is in the tank.’ Would you be that kind of a guy?”

PAUL: “Yeah, sure.”


JG: “Paul, John, I know that you’ve got a busy, busy schedule.”

(groans from the audience)

JOHN: (comically, to the crowd) “That’s the way it goes, folks!”


JG: “We have to say goodbye. Does that make you sad to have to leave me, John?”

JOHN: “All goodbyes are sad aren’t they, Joe.”

JG: “Why don’t you write a song. Call it, ‘Say Goodbye To Joe.'”

JOHN: “‘Goodbye Joe. See You In The Morning.’ …oh, that’s some other line.”


JG: “Paul, you got any ideas?”

PAUL: “Uhh… no… Joe…”


PAUL: “Ok, umm… No, I can’t think of a song.”

JG: “When you get home and you start to write ‘Scrambled Eggs Number Two’ will you think about me?”


JOHN: “And I’ll join you somehow.”

JG: “Thank you very much.”

(applause and screams)

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Last updated on May 15, 2023


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