Inside the making of the Beatles' music videos
Today the Beatles release 1+, a reissue of their iconic hits collection 1 that also includes Blu-ray discs featuring restored versions of their best short films. Director Michael Lindsay-Hogg worked with rock’s most famous quartet in its latter years on clips for songs like “Paperback Writer” and “Hey Jude” and spoke with EW about meeting the band, filming its final concert, and pioneering modern music videos.
The Fab Four made promotional videos out of necessity
The group’s rabid audiences made it unbearable for them to tour. “As soon as they’d get on the rostrum, they’d be mobbed,” says Lindsay-Hogg, who directed the British music show Ready, Steady, Go! at the time. “The craziness had gotten too crazy — and it was so loud they couldn’t even hear themselves on stage.” Those factors led the group to tap Lindsay-Hogg in 1966 to film short clips for fans. “They thought it’d be a good idea if they made their own videos,” he says. “Then they wouldn’t have to appear themselves. They could just ship them all over the world.”
They could have pioneered the high-concept music video
For the “Paperback Writer” video, Lindsay-Hogg pitched a plot where McCartney would play a journalist moonlighting as a novelist. Beatles manager Brian Epstein nixed the idea because he “didn’t want anything unusual,” says Lindsay-Hogg, who would go on to conceptualize rock projects like The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, filmed in 1968. The band ended up filming the videos for “Paperback Writer” and its B-side “Rain” in the gardens at West London’s famed Chiswick House — but Lindsay-Hogg says he still tried to add “another ingredient” to the footage of them with their instruments. “With the Beatles, their faces tell you as much as watching them miming guitar,” the director says of the tight shots included in the clips.
They pulled an Ashlee Simpson for “Hey Jude”
Lindsay-Hogg says “Hey Jude” and its lengthy outro presented a unique problem for a video: “Even with the Beatles you just can’t [watch] four minutes of ‘Na na na na na na’.” The solution — largely conceptualized by McCartney and Lindsay-Hogg — entailed assembling “an audience that would represent all walks of life from housewives to the village postman” at Twickenham Studios, outside of London, to sing along on camera. But the September 1968 session garnered extra attention because the Beatles hadn’t played to a public audience since an August 1966 concert at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. The group actually mimed its “Hey Jude” performance at Twickenham, though McCartney did sing live — but Lindsay-Hogg says the band killed time during the shoot by covering Motown tunes: “They got into it!”
Ringo and George almost got cold feet for their last concert
The group’s famous final show, atop the roof of London’s Apple Records in 1969, was filmed for TV broadcast, but Lindsay-Hogg says that even minutes before the gig Harrison and Starr weren’t enthusiastic. “Paul thought doing things as a group collectively would keep them together,” the director says when describing conversations he had with the Beatles and Yoko Ono before the band emerged onto the roof. “Ringo mentioned it was very cold up there [and] it was going to be hard to play. George said ‘What’s the point?’ And John said, ‘F— it, let’s do it.'” Even with the band in its twilight, the performance briefly healed old wounds. “All dispute and rancor from what had been going on over the past weeks and months […] that was all forgotten and they became like when they were in Hamburg again when they were teenagers,” Lindsay-Hogg says. A surprise drop-in from the police only added to the Beatles’ energy: “That made them even happier, being busted!”
They had a rider that would make any pop diva blush
Lindsay-Hogg says when he first met the group at their Abbey Road studios in ’66, the guys had the poshest surroundings: “Bands would have pizza or takeout Chinese for supper, whereas in this room, there was a dining table with a tablecloth, china, crystal glass, and wine. When the door opened, and they came in, it was like a furnace of fame had walked in the room. They were the most famous people in the world.”