This television music spectacular was conceived by Johnny Hamp of Granada Television, the producer and station which had given the Beatles their first TV airing. Hamp had been made Head of Light Entertainment for Granada and after deciding he wished to pay tribute to the song writing talents of John and Paul he had discussions with them which resulted in ‘The Music of Lennon & McCartney’, the biggest spectacular yet produced by Granada Television.
Johnny produced and Phil Casson directed.
The 50-minute programme was filmed over a two-day period in one of Granada’s largest studios, Studio 6, on specially constructed sets at a cost of £20,000. The completed show was initially screened in the London area between 9.40 – 10.35pm on Thursday 16 December, and then networked to the rest of the country at 9.40pm on Friday, 17 December 1965.
The Beatles had wanted Ella Fitzgerald to sing ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, but she wasn’t available. French singer Richard Anthony had been due to appear but was involved in a road accident shortly before the recordings and was replaced by Dick Rivers who sang ‘Things We Did Today’ in French.
George Martin led a 25-piece orchestra in a rendition of ‘I Feel Fine’ and ‘Ringo’s Theme’ and Paul introduced the American composer, Henry Mancini with the words, “Now we introduce our favourite composer, Henry Mancini, who is known to all his friends as Hank. Welcome to the Beatles’ show, Henry.”
Mancini played ‘If I Fell’ and Peter and Gordon performed their major hit ‘World Without Love’, with a dozen attractive female models decorating the background.
Esther Phillips flew in from America especially to perform ‘And I Love Him’ and Lulu, who had been driven up from London by Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits, belted out ‘I Saw Him Standing There.’ The Beatles closed the first half of the show with a rendition of ‘Day Tripper.’
Six members of the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra appeared under the name Fritz Speigel’s Barock And Roll Ensemble to perform ‘She Loves You’ in the style of Mozart. Peter Sellers, with a long wig and Shakespearean costume in the style of Richard III rendered a theatrical interpretation of ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ although his contribution was filmed in a London studio. Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas performed their two hits ‘Bad To Me’ and ‘Do You Want To Know A Secret.’
Cilla Black performed ‘It’s For You’ and was followed by Paul McCartney who began singing ‘Yesterday’ and Marianne Faithfull appeared and completed the song.
Organist Alan Haven performed another interpretation of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, with backing from drummer Tony Crombie, and then the Beatles performed ‘We Can Work It Out.’ For the number John Lennon played harmonium – it was the instrument used in ‘Coronation Street’ which was familiar to viewers of the soap opera as the harmonium in the corner of Ena Sharples’ (Violet Carson) room.
Incidentally, among the spectators who were witnessing the production were members of the ‘Coronation Street’ cast and disc jockey Jimmy Saville (who, after his death, was revealed to be a serial rapist and paedophile). Also appearing on the special was the Spanish dance star Antonio Vargas, who performed ‘She Loves You.’.
Johnny Hamp originally booked the Beatles for his ‘People and Places’ programme on 17 December 1962 and used the group regularly.
A few years later he was to comment, “I first saw the Beatles in a club in Hamburg, They were very scruffy characters but they had a beat to their music which I liked.”
Esther Phillips was born Esther Mae Jones in Houston, Texas on 23 December 1935. At the age of 13 she began singing with the Johnny Otis Revue under the name Little Esther. She dropped the ‘Little’ in 1962 and had a number of hits, including ‘Release Me’ and ‘What a Diff’rence A Day Makes.’
She recorded the Lennon & McCartney composition ‘And I Love Him’, issued by Atlantic Records on 22 May 1965. Paul McCartney was so pleased with her rendition of the song at the time that he said it was the best cover version of any Beatles number. When John and Paul were involved in the making of ‘The Music of Lennon & McCartney’ they sent a cable to Esther, who was performing in cabaret in Bermuda, inviting her to appear on their show to sing ‘And I Love Him.’ She completed her engagement in the West Indies and flew to Manchester to appear in the special.
She was thrilled that they’d contacted her and said, “I wanted so much to meet the Beatles in the States but every time I hit town on my own tour, they’d either just been or were coming the next week. I never met four young men before who are all in the genius class.”
Esther died of liver and kidney failure on 7 August 1984.
‘A World Without Love’ was the first of four songs Paul gave to Peter Asher, brother of his girlfriend Jane Asher. The Beatles never recorded the number and it wasn’t part of their repertoire. John Lennon was particularly amused by the opening words to the song: ‘Please lock me away…”
Cilla’s performance of ‘It’s For You’ was particularly amusing because, wearing a tiny mini skirt, she slowly sang as she walked down the stairs of a scaffolding section of scenery with John and Paul waiting at the bottom – with John looking up her skirt and making a rude comment which caused those who heard it to burst out laughing. He was also to say to her, “You’re a lovely girl, Cilla, you’re a lovely girl!
‘Yesterday’, of course, was also written by Paul. Paul had originally told Marianne that he’d give her a song and actually wrote one for her called ‘Etcetera’, but decided it wasn’t good enough to record. As a result, Marianne became Paul’s personal choice to record ‘Yesterday’ and during one evening at a party he played her an acetate of his version. When she recorded ‘Yesterday’, he attended her recording session at Decca Studios on 11 October 1965 and the record was released on 22 October 1965.
When she appeared on the special, Paul began singing the number for 22 seconds and the camera them moved to Marianne, who completed the song. The eighteen-year-old singer was three months pregnant at the time, so the camera concentrated on a head and shoulders shot throughout.
However, it was singer Matt Monro who reached No. 8 in the British charts with the number while Marianne barely scraped in, her highest position being No. 36.
Dick Rivers was one of the major French rockers of the Sixties, along with Johnny Hallyday. He was born Herve Fornieri in the south of France on 24 April 1945. He called himself Dick Rivers after the name of the character played by Elvis Presley in the film ‘Loving You’ and he recorded French versions of Lennon & McCartney numbers.
Fritz Spiegl was born in Austria in 1926 and moved to England at the age of 13, eventually settling in Liverpool where he became Principal Flautist with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. He died in March 2003.
Henry Mancini was a major film music composer with songs such as ‘Moon River’ to his credit. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio on 16 April 1924 and died on 14 June 1994