55 YEARS AGO: ‘FOLLOW THE BEATLES’ DOCUMENTARY SHARES FAB SECRETS
On August 3, 1964, a month after A Hard Day's Night helped the world fall even more in love with the Beatles, the BBC offered their rabid fans a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Fab Four's debut movie with Follow the Beatles.
The Robert Robinson-narrated documentary, showed off even more of the Beatles' charming and witty personalities, and revealed some very interesting secrets and perspectives on the making of their debut film. Here's six things we learned while re-watching Follow the Beatles all these years later.
The Beatles were bullied and manhandled on their own film set
John Lennon, Ringo Starr, George Harrison and Paul McCartney were constantly grabbed at and pushed around by fans, onlookers, and even the police who were involved in the film. A Hard Day’s Night writer Allen Owen discusses his astonishment with how the calm, relaxed Beatles “just went with it”, despite repeatedly being subject to actual physical pain.
Fans begged the film’s hairdresser for locks of Beatles’ hair
Anything touched, worn, or grown on a Beatle was considered gold to the star-struck youngsters. “I had lots of letters from all over the world asking for pieces of hair,” their hairdresser states. “If I had answered them all, the Beatles probably would have been bald by now!”
No studios were used in the film
A Hard Days Night director Richard Lester strived to make the film feel more authentic by shooting the scenes in real situations, including an actual unsteady train. “There is a certain quality that happens when you are forced to accept the limitations of not having a tripod, not having the proper lighting, not having the proper sound,” he explained.
Ringo was considered the main “Starr"
The documentary describes Ringo Starr as the best actor in the film, the most convincing, and the most real of the four inexperienced actors. Lionel Blair, the film’s choreographer, also reveals Ringo’s other talent aside from drumming and acting...his dancing! Blair states that Ringo’s amazing rhythm earned him the title of “the best dancer of the four.”
Script writer Allen Owen followed the Beatles around for weeks to pick up their dialogue
This experiment was the only method Owen could use to accurately write lines for the actors, since no one wanted the Beatles to play anyone but themselves. Owen thus learned the specific speaking characteristics of each Beatle, which he then transferred seamlessly into a flawless script.
The crew was not used to the screaming girls
Once the theaters for A Hard Days Night concert scenes were opened to the audience, the room was filled with the shrieks of hysterically screaming young girls. While the Beatles had grown accustomed to this chaos, the crew members were shocked and uncertain of how to handle the uproar. “The first time I heard the screaming, I just couldn’t believe it. My ear drums were aching with the noise,” Lester stated. He told George Harrison, “My God, how about that!” and George comically responded, “Yeah they were a bit quiet tonight, weren’t they?”
The Beatles Albums Ranked Worst to Best13. '
Yellow Submarine' (1969)
The soundtrack to the animated Beatles movie (which they didn't provide the voices for, by the way) includes two previously released cuts, a handful of leftover session tracks from the era and an entire side of orchestra music from the film. Completists probably need the four new songs; everyone else can skip them.
12. 'Magical Mystery Tour' (1967)
Released as an EP in the U.K. and as an album in the U.S., 'Magical Mystery Tour' is spotty, especially when compared to the Beatles' other records from the era. But several of its songs – "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Penny Lane" and "All You Need Is Love," especially – rank among the group's all-time best.
11. 'Beatles for Sale' (1964)
Tasked with recording their fourth album in a little more than a year, the Beatlemania-battered quartet quickly shuttled to the studio for a loose set of covers, tossed-off originals and a few gems. Success was taking its toll on the group by now, and the tired, ho-hum 'Beatles for Sale' proved it. Just look at their weary faces on the cover.
10. 'Help!' (1965)
Ostensibly the soundtrack to their second movie, the Beatles' fifth album is their first real declaration of independence. They'd launch a creative whirlwind a few months later on 'Rubber Soul' that would pretty much last until the end of their career. But that album's seeds are planted here on songs like "Ticket to Ride," "Yesterday" and the hit title track.
9. 'Let It Be' (1970)
The last album to be released by the Beatles was recorded before 'Abbey Road,' but tumultuous sessions and a messy post-production schedule delayed its debut for a year. In a way, 'Let It Be' makes a pivotal swan song, with many of the songs coming off as eulogies for a once-great group. They're still mostly excellent here, but the cracks widened beyond repair.
8. 'Please Please Me' (1963)
The Beatles recorded their debut album in one 13-hour session. And it sounds like it. The group is energized as they plow through a stage repertoire of jumpy original tunes (opener "I Saw Her Standing There") and revitalized covers (closer "Twist and Shout"). They'd get sharper and tighter in the studio, but this is the sound of the band in all of its primal, ragged glory.
7. 'With the Beatles' (1963)
The Beatles' second album was sorta reworked as 'Meet the Beatles!' for the group's U.S. debut, and we prefer that version. But the original U.K. 'With the Beatles' stands as the official record these days. And it's not bad, mixing sprightly originals ("All My Loving") with well-oiled covers ("Please Mister Postman"). Beatlemania pretty much starts here.
6. 'A Hard Day's Night' (1964)
The first album to include songs written entirely by the band (well, John Lennon and Paul McCartney), 'A Hard Day's Night' is pretty much 30 minutes of pure Beatlemania. From the shimmering chord that kicks off both the album and the title track, the Beatles never let up. It's easy to get caught up in their enthusiasm.
5. 'Rubber Soul' (1965)
The Beatles responded to Beatlemania, Bob Dylan and pop music in general with their milestone sixth album. It inspired tons of artists – including Brian Wilson, who crafted the Beach Boys' 'Pet Sounds' in reply; the Beatles, in turn, responded with 'Sgt. Pepper's' – to move into a new era, free of commercial expectations and LP filler. They were only just beginning.
4. 'Abbey Road' (1969)
The last album recorded by the Beatles (but released before the temporarily shelved 'Let It Be'), 'Abbey Road' presented a briefly reinvigorated group trying one last time to pull it all together. George Harrison delivered two of his best songs ("Something," "Here Comes the Sun"), John Lennon plugged in and rocked out ("Come Together") and Paul McCartney checked in with a sprawling centerpiece, the eight-song, 16-minute medley that stands as one of his greatest achievements.
3. The White Album (1968)
The Beatles all but splintered into four solo artists on their messy, epic and brilliant self-titled LP (commonly known as the White Album). It took two records to contain all their ideas – some of them great, some of them maddening, all of them fascinating. It was only a matter of time before they went their separate ways; the White Album, for better or worse, leads the charge.
2. 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' (1967)
Pop music grew up in 1967, when the Beatles forged a masterpiece of sound, texture and melody. Its kaleidoscopic approach to record-making – layer after layer of instruments and voices piled on top of each other until it all blurs into one colorful explosion – would become a marker and pattern for everything that came after it. In many ways, it still hasn't been topped.
1. 'Revolver' (1966)
The Beatles turned themselves inside out on 'Revolver,' exercising a creative freedom following their retirement from the road. They used the studio as their playground, turning the record's 14 songs into the sort of mind-expanding musical template that would influence artists for generations to come. 'Sgt. Pepper's' may be the more complete work, but 'Revolver' is way more fun.