The Music of Lennon & McCartney

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The Music of Lennon & McCartney
Title frame for 1965 Music of Lennon & McCartney TV special.jpg
The opening title used for the special
Directed byPhilip Casson[1]
StarringJohn Lennon
Paul McCartney
George Harrison
Ringo Starr
Cilla Black
Peter Sellers
Marianne Faithfull
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Production
Producer(s)Johnnie Hamp
Running time44 minutes[2]
Release
Original networkIndependent Television
Original release16 December 1965

The Music of Lennon & McCartney is a 1965 British television special honouring the Lennon–McCartney songwriting partnership of John Lennon and Paul McCartney of the English rock band the Beatles. It was produced by Granada Television and aired on that network on 16 December 1965 before receiving a national broadcast the following evening. The program mainly consisted of other artists miming to their recordings of Lennon–McCartney songs,[3] interspersed with scripted commentary from Lennon and McCartney. In addition, the Beatles performed both sides of their current single, "Day Tripper" and "We Can Work It Out". Peter Sellers performed a comedic interpretation of "A Hard Day's Night", in the style of stage actor Laurence Olivier's portrayal of Richard III.

The special served as further recognition for the Beatles, particularly Lennon and McCartney, outside the usual parameters of pop music. It followed the band's appointment as Members of the British Empire in late October 1965 and led to a surge in the number of cover versions of Lennon–McCartney songs. The special was not shown again until December 1985, when it aired as part of Channel 4's celebration of 30 years of Granada Television.

Background and filming[edit]

The Music of Lennon & McCartney was a project initiated by Johnnie Hamp,[4] who had championed the Beatles on Granada Television in 1962, a year before the band achieved national fame. Hamp intended the 1965 special to be a tribute to the Lennon–McCartney songwriting partnership. Negotiations to ensure the Beatles' participation were held for two months.[5] The format was a variety special.[6] Paul McCartney later said that the show "wasn't really our thing", and that he and John Lennon only agreed to participate out of loyalty towards Hamp.[7] While the band committed to the Granada project, they turned down an invitation to perform at the Royal Variety Show and refused to reprise the Beatles Christmas Shows they had held over the 1963–64 and 1964–65 holiday seasons.[6]

Granada's television centre on Quay Street, Manchester (pictured in 2006)

Filming took place at Granada's studios in Manchester on 1–2 November 1965.[8][9] The Beatles interrupted the recording sessions for their album Rubber Soul, which they were under pressure to complete for a pre-Christmas release, in order to appear on the program.[10] Lennon and McCartney's contributions included delivering the scripted links between other artists' performances of their songs. George Harrison and Ringo Starr joined their bandmates to film mimed performances[6] of the Beatles' forthcoming single, "Day Tripper" and "We Can Work It Out".[11] The set design featured scaffolding around the walls, and steps and ladders.[11] The harmonium played by Lennon during "We Can Work It Out" was the same instrument seen in Granada's popular soap opera Coronation Street.[12] The Pamela Devis Dancers provided the choreography for some of the musical segments.[13]

Peter Sellers filmed his contribution in advance at a studio in London,[11] due to his other film commitments. The Beatles admired R&B singer Esther Phillips and had her flown over from America to give her first performances in the UK.[14]

Program content[edit]

All information per John Winn's book Way Beyond Compare: The Beatles' Recorded Legacy, Volume One, 1962–1965,[15] unless otherwise noted.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Broadcast[edit]

McCartney and Lennon on a Dutch television show in June 1964

The special aired on the Granada network in the north of England between 9.40 and 10.35 pm on 16 December,[11] and then received a nationwide broadcast on 17 December.[20] It followed four days after the end of the Beatles' final UK tour and was the only television appearance they made in conjunction with the release of Rubber Soul and the "Day Tripper" / "We Can Work It Out" single. At the time, Lennon said of his and McCartney's songs: "There are only about a hundred people in the world who really understand what our music is all about. Ringo, George, and a few others scattered around the globe … The reason so many people use our numbers and add nothing at all to them is that they do not understand the music. Consequently they make a mess of it."[21]

The recognition afforded the Lennon–McCartney partnership followed BBC Radio's Songwriters program on the pair's achievements[16] and Time magazine's laudatory appraisal of the Beatles. In his book 1965: The Making of Modern Britain, Christopher Bray writes that such was the band's ascendancy that year, the Beatles were "everywhere", as not only leaders of a "new aristocracy" but also recipients of MBEs. The latter was an unprecedented appointment for pop stars at the time and a reflection of British politicians' recognition of the Beatles' influence and mass appeal.[22] Combined with the critical and public acclaim given to Rubber Soul, the show resulted in a surge in cover recordings of works from the Beatles' Northern Songs publishing catalogue. In author Bob Spitz's description: "By mid-1966, an astounding eighty-eight Lennon–McCartney songs had been recorded in over 2,900 versions. Gershwin finally had competition."[23]

The Music of Lennon & McCartney was not aired again until 30 December 1985. It was shown on Channel 4 as part of an evening of programs recognising 30 years of Granada Television.[24] Due to this broadcast, the program began circulating among bootleg collectors for the first time.[25] The "Day Tripper" segment was included in the Beatles 1+ CD and DVD set, released in November 2015.[12][26]

Among Beatles biographers, John Winn describes the Granada special as a "semisuccessful attempt to spotlight John and Paul's songwriting abilities". He says that the pair's "scripted banter is delivered awkwardly" and "neither are comfortable with the whole idea of the show, let alone the corny manner in which they are participating."[11][nb 2] Hunter Davies similarly finds Lennon and McCartney's spoken contributions "corny", although he gives the program a score of seven out of ten with the assessment: "Great tribute show, with two fine Beatles performances as well."[12] Rolling Stone critic Rob Sheffield recognises Sellers' segment as an "offbeat highlight" in which the comedian renders "the lyrics as a Shakesperean monologue … making them sound even filthier".[27]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ A friend of McCartney through her artist husband John Dunbar,[18] Faithfull was eight months pregnant and was filmed only from the shoulders up.[19]
  2. ^ In Winn's description, the clear admiration for Esther Phillips evident in Lennon's introduction marked the sole example of sincerity in the two Beatles' otherwise embarrassed delivery of their dialogue.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Womack, Kenneth (2014). The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. p. 653. ISBN 978-0-313-39171-2.
  2. ^ Winn, John C. (2008). Way Beyond Compare: The Beatles' Recorded Legacy, Volume One, 1962–1965. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press. p. 372. ISBN 978-0-307-45239-9.
  3. ^ Everett, Walter (2001). The Beatles as Musicians: The Quarry Men through Rubber Soul. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. p. 335. ISBN 0-19-514105-9.
  4. ^ Harry, Bill. "The Early Beatles [cont.]". triumphpc.com/Mersey Beat. Retrieved 7 July 2018.
  5. ^ Davies, Hunter (2016). The Beatles Book. London: Ebury Press. ISBN 978-0091958619.
  6. ^ a b c Everett 2001, p. 335.
  7. ^ The Beatles (2000). The Beatles Anthology. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books. p. 198. ISBN 0-8118-2684-8.
  8. ^ Miles, Barry (2001). The Beatles Diary Volume 1: The Beatles Years. London: Omnibus Press. pp. 213–14. ISBN 0-7119-8308-9.
  9. ^ Lewisohn, Mark (2005) [1988]. The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Story of the Abbey Road Years 1962–1970. London: Bounty Books. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-7537-2545-0.
  10. ^ Lewisohn 2005, pp. 66–67.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Winn 2008, p. 371.
  12. ^ a b c d Davies 2016.
  13. ^ "Pop and Music Television 1965–1969". Sixties City. Archived from the original on 8 July 2018. Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  14. ^ Huey, Steve. "Esther Phillips". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 July 2018.
  15. ^ Winn 2008, pp. 371–72.
  16. ^ a b Womack 2014, p. 653.
  17. ^ Everett 2001, p. 412.
  18. ^ MacDonald, Ian (1998). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties. London: Pimlico. p. 140fn. ISBN 978-0-7126-6697-8.
  19. ^ Hodkinson, Mark (2010). Marianne Faithfull: As Years Go By. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-857129932.
  20. ^ Womack, Kenneth (2017). Maximum Volume: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin – The Early Years, 1926–1966. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press. p. 309. ISBN 978-1-613731895.
  21. ^ Miles 2001, p. 220.
  22. ^ Bray, Christopher (2014). 1965: The Year Modern Britain Was Born. London: Simon & Schuster. pp. 263–64. ISBN 978-1-84983-387-5.
  23. ^ Spitz, Bob (2005). The Beatles: The Biography. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company. p. 595. ISBN 1-84513-160-6.
  24. ^ Badman, Keith (2001). The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After the Break-Up 1970–2001. London: Omnibus Press. p. 363. ISBN 978-0-7119-8307-6.
  25. ^ Winn 2008, p. 372.
  26. ^ Rowe, Matt (18 September 2015). "The Beatles 1 To Be Reissued With New Audio Remixes ... And Videos". The Morton Report. Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  27. ^ Sheffield, Rob (2017). Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World. New York, NY: HarperCollins. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-06-220765-4.