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Around the Beatles: a one-off TV variety show from 1964
April 18, 2013 5:42 AM   Subscribe

In 1964, The Beatles put together a one-off variety show, with musical numbers specially pre-recorded for the show, presented in the style of theater-in-the-round. Around the Beatles was aired in the UK and later that same year in the US, but never commercially released. The show includes The Beatles performing a scene from A Midsummer's Night Dream, with Paul McCartney as Pyramus, John Lennon as his lover Thisbe, George Harrison as Moonshine, Starr as Lion, and Trevor Peacock (the only actual actor in the lot) in the role of Quince. A color clip of that was posted previously, but you can watch the entire (almost) hour-long show with The Beatles' segments accompanied by seven other musical acts, on Dailymotion or YouTube, though it's in black and white.

The full show features performances from other hit pop artists of the time, including Long John Baldry, one of the first British vocalists to perform folk and blues, the brilliant mimic of other artists, P.J. Proby, the girl group The Vernons Girls, who were formed by the Vernons Football Pools, singer Cillia Black, Sounds Incorporated, the Kentish 'Wall Of Sound', and the young Jamacian singer, Millie (Small).

More fun facts:
This was one of Trevor Peacock's earliest performances in an adaptation of Shakespeare. He went on to perform in various BBC TV adaptations of Shakespeare plays throughout the 1980s.

Though The Beatles covered a ton of songs over the years, this rendition of Shout, originally by The Isley Brothers, is longer than the version included on Anthology I.
posted by filthy light thief (14 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
To come full circle, here's previous deleted attempt, and the related MetaTalk post.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:51 AM on April 18, 2013


thanks for reposting this, I missed the deleted one. There goes my productivity today....
posted by I am the Walrus at 5:53 AM on April 18, 2013


To answer a question from the prior deleted post on why this isn't more broadly known, there is a lot of Beatles video material that has never been officially released.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:58 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


That time was right on the cusp between nice boy pop singers who did whatever promoters told them and rock stars who did whatever they wanted, and it's neat to see the Beatles move from one side of that line to the other.
posted by smackfu at 6:11 AM on April 18, 2013


there is a lot of Beatles video material that has never been officially released

The Beatles sex tapes were never officially released, but then again they were never "officially" made. Also my lawyer has just handed me a note which says, "You have to wait until Paul and Ringo die before you defame them, idiot". Wow, $500 an hour for such abuse. Anyway, there are NO Beatles sex tapes. So stop asking me about them.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:33 AM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


If Paul were alive to see this he'd be rolling in his grave.
posted by mazola at 6:48 AM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Heck, it was worth it just to see Millie Small.
posted by HuronBob at 7:06 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


This show, apart from the silly Shakespeare skit, is really a blast.

I think the musical section of this show should be broadcast continuously into space as a memorial to the potential for human greatness, so that future species out in the galaxy will say to themselves, 'humans weren't all bad, we have the proof.'
posted by jabah at 7:08 AM on April 18, 2013


The Beatles covered a ton of songs over the years

Indeed they did, and that's a handy list there, with the original artists specified and all. To take just a couple of those covers, I've always thought John sang the hell outta Money: a searing rock vocal that stands as some of his very best. But Barrett Strongs' original is really great, too. And of course Lennon's vocal performance on Twist and Shout is legendary and utterly fabulous, but the Isley's original is damn strong, for sure. Aside from vocals, though, in both cases (and in many others) what changes most dramatically is the overall feel: both Money and Twist and Shout in their original versions had that certain lilt to the rhythm, a hint of shuffle in the overall feel, that was characteristic of so much R&B of the day. They swung in a way that wasn't retained when the Beatles covered them. That's not to say anything about good or bad, but things definitely changed. For want of a better terminology, I guess we'd just have to say that they became more *rock*, vis-a-vis the way we think of what constitutes rock and delineates it from R&B-born proto-rock.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:23 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was in high school, and some of the other kids showed up one day and were talking about this Beatles thing on TV (the cool kids' parents got public broadcasting. . .it was a long way from being easily obtained back then).

The talk was the Pyramus and Thisbe skit. At the time, this gave me the impression that these were the central characters in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

So I know that at least some of this was shown in the US back then. I was very jealous of those who got to see it.

Bonus anecdote: The was a guy in my school, one of the "big" guys, who was holding forth on the Beatles. He said, "they're OK but they will never be really great and popular, like, say, The Kingston Trio." I really hope that some day, I run into this guy, who has to flip burgers, long past the age when his contemporaries are comfortably retired.
posted by Danf at 8:15 AM on April 18, 2013


They swung in a way that wasn't retained when the Beatles covered them.

It would be kinda pointless to cover a song simply in order to produce a clone of the original. Motown artists covered a ton of Beatles songs--including ones that owed very little in their origins to R&B--and, quite rightly, produced versions that were strikingly different from the originals.

Yay for the reappearance of this post, by the way.
posted by yoink at 8:50 AM on April 18, 2013


It would be kinda pointless to cover a song simply in order to produce a clone of the original.

I certainly wasn't arguing that that is what a cover should do.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:58 AM on April 18, 2013


Speaking of Beatles doing cover material, check out the excitement of Lennon's vocal on "Please Mr. Postman" and the difference between that and the original Marvellettes version. Night and day.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 10:13 AM on April 18, 2013


what changes most dramatically is the overall feel: both Money and Twist and Shout in their original versions had that certain lilt to the rhythm, a hint of shuffle in the overall feel

I believe that's known as the "roll," which wasn't always the longest suit of 60's (or later) rockers...
posted by issue #1 at 3:33 PM on April 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


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