You Won’t Believe This 1965 Beatles Promo Clip

beatlespromoIt is true that The Beatles invented the music video, but this invention was not the result of some kind of creative epiphany from the four lads. Instead, the “promotional film clip”, as it was known, was the brainchild of Beatles’ record label EMI/Capitol, who figured out it was the only way to satisfy the global demand for a glimpse of the band.

By 1965 the Beatles had already become the biggest entertainment act in the history of mankind. During this peak period they were churning out four or five singles and two or three albums per year – each and every one a number one hit – and couldn’t possibly tour anywhere near enough to support each release.

The promo clip was a brilliant solution to the problem. By way of global distribution to broadcast outlets around the world, fans everywhere could see the Beatles perform their latest single on or around the day of its release, allowing the band to help maintain the stratospheric demand for their records.

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So on November 23, 1965, the Beatles gathered at Twickenham Film Studios in London to perform in the first batch of promo clips. They were there specifically to shoot clips for their current double-sided single “We Can Work It Out/Day Tripper”, but the label decided that since the studio was already booked, they might as well shoot promo clips for three older songs: “Ticket To Ride”, “Help” and “I Feel Fine”.

There wasn’t much thought put into the visual content. The idea was that the band would simply lip-sync to the record, and that would be enough to satisfy the fans. (Millions of music videos by thousands of artists would later prove this idea to be on point.) They would shoot a few takes, and the Fab Four could ad-lib anything they wanted.

Watching these promo clips now (they are all on the Beatles 1+ DVD package), you can clearly see that the lads didn’t think very highly of this new performance format. They can barely contain their boredom as they haphazardly mime their way through the songs, making minimal effort to fake-play their instruments.

But this promo clip for “I Feel Fine” is something else altogether. It is either a brilliant, meta-deconstruction of the publicity machine, or just some bored and hungry musicians eating fish and chips and not giving a shit. I suspect a little of both. I was absolutely amazed at these images of the Beatles eating off the newspaper wrappings on the floor of the studio, while occasionally mouthing a lyric or two from the song.

Their manager Brian Epstein was said to be appalled at the take, but not because they made no effort to look as if they were playing the song. No, he was appalled because they were eating the fish and chips with their fingers, which he felt was “demeaning”. Not surprisingly, the promo clip never saw the light of day until this package of Beatles videos was released.

For me, the takeaway is that despite all the record label and management involvement, the Beatles already knew in November 1965 that they had earned the freedom to do anything they damn well pleased, and nobody was going to stop them. Total creative control was the only option. Just one more way the Beatles helped set the parameters for the Rock revolution, I suppose.

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3 comments to “You Won’t Believe This 1965 Beatles Promo Clip”
  1. These guys where prety young just kids at the time and I’ll bet a crazy schedule Yha give them some food wouldnt really matter what it was kids are always hungry lol man what those guitars are worth now $$$

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