A Beatles Marketing Stunt That Went Very Wrong

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One of the great things about being a Beatle in the late Sixties was that any idea you came up with—no matter how far out of left field – would be taken seriously by the people around you. This kind of free-association creativity helped create magic in the studio, with idea after idea leading to innovation after musical innovation. Outside the studio, however, the list of great Beatle ideas was a lot less legendary.

Don’t forget this was the late Sixties when everyone was supposed to get high and share their grand ideas with everyone around them. The Beatles believed they had the means and maybe even the obligation to make the world a better place, but many of their big ideas at the time were of the nut-job variety. Magic Alex, the Lads’ drug dealer and “tech specialist”, was apparently instructed to explore the feasibility of things like wallpaper loudspeakers and a flying saucer made with the V-12 engines of Lennon’s Rolls and Harrison’s Ferrari. Good thing these guys saved their best ideas for the music.

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I recently came across this Beatles story I never heard before, and it’s another classic tale about a good Beatle idea that wasn’t fully thought through.

It was August 1968, and Apple Records was closing its boutique in downtown London, mostly because sound business planning was never Apple’s long suit. So McCartney looks at the shuttered building in the high-traffic part of town and gets an idea: What if we tease people about our new single due for release in a couple of weeks, and paint the song titles on the shuttered boutique windows? That would really get people buzzing, right?

So later that day Paul and a couple of assistants went and painted “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” in large letters on the windows. Full credit to McCartney for a pretty innovative idea, the guy’s got great instincts sometimes, it’s like guerrilla marketing long before there ever was such a thing. The only problem was he didn’t consider how the words he painted might be misinterpreted. And man, it couldn’t have gone more wrong.

Paul had forgotten some recent world history, in particular the unspeakable evil of Nazi Germany, when the word “Jude” painted on a window represented an act of anti-Semitism and terror of the highest order. The word “Revolution” only seemed to confirm this, the worst of all possible associations. Within hours Apple was receiving angry phone calls about it, and it wasn’t long until someone threw a large heavy object through the window.

The words were quickly removed, and McCartney apologized while admitting that he obviously never made the Nazi connection when he came up with the idea. Apple decided not to press charges against the guy who broke the window. And not long afterward you could paint those three words on anything anywhere in the world and people would know you were talking about the Beatles.

 

 

 

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