Beatles 50th Blog

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 13, 1966

John Lennon Interview: Look Magazine 12/13/1966 (Part One)

 In the fall of 1966, Look magazine's European editor Leonard Gross and photographer Douglas Kirkland visited John Lennon on-location during the filming of 'How I Won The War.'

 The article, entitled 'John Lennon: A Shorn Beatle Tries It On His Own', would be published in Look magazine's December 13th 1966 issue.

 John Lennon was chosen for this film role by director Richard Lester who had directed Lennon previously in the Beatles' first two films, 'A Hard Day's Night' in 1964 and 'Help!' in 1965.

 The Look article is Gross's firsthand account of events on the movie set. It also contains extended excerpts of conversations with John Lennon, which have been highlighted in blue for easier referencing.

Whoever would have dreamed that beneath that mop lurked a Renaissance man? Yet there, shorn, sits John Lennon, champion minstrel, literary Beatle, coarse truthsayer, who turned Christendom on with one wildly misunderstood gibe at cant. Now, face white, tunic red, playing wounded in a field of weeds, this pop-rock De Vinci is proposing to act for real. Relaxed to all appearances, he is all knots inside.

"I was just a bundle of nerves the first day. I couldn't hardly speak I was so nervous. My first speech was in a forest, on patrol. I was suppose to say, 'My heart's not in it any more' and it wasn't. I went home and said to myself, 'Either you're not going to be like that, or you're going to give up.'"

As he casts his weak brown eyes at the camera, the entire movie company jockeys for a glimpse. "I don't mind talking to the camera -- it's people that throw me."

  Sure enough, he blows his lines. He waggles his head in shame. "Sorry about that." But under the low-key coaxing of Director Dick Lester, Beatle John becomes Private Gripweed, a complex British orderly, in an unorthodox new film, How I Won The War.

Lennon on his own -- rich for life at 26, yet poor still in what men of all seasons crave -- full knowledge of himself. Beatling by itself, he has found, is not enough. "I feel I want to be them all-- painter, writer, actor, singer, player, musician. I want to try them all, and I'm lucky enough to be able to. I want to see which one turns me on. This is for me, this film, because apart from wanting to do it because of what it stands for, I want to see what I'll be like when I've done it."

They stood silently in the deserted German square that Sunday morning, three young British actors costumed like the soldiers who had taken the town 22 years before. Then the one whose notorious locks had recently been chopped short observed, "I haven't seen so much fresh air together for about four years."

For John Lennon, the Beatles' leader, it had been one swift crazy ride to the top. But now, there were distortions, and he had recoiled. Grownups were twisting a Beatles' kids' song into an LSD trip -- an ingenious lament that he and Beatle Paul McCartney had polished off one wild night was, current rumor had it, actually the synopsis of an opera so bitter it could not be sung. A passing remark about religious hypocrisy had made Lennon a devil or a saint, depending on your tastes. Others might enjoy them, but to Lennon, who is nothing if not honest, the distortions had become a threat.

"I don't want people taking things from me that aren't really me. They make you something that they want to make you, that isn't really you. They come and talk to find answers, but they're their answers, not us. We're not Beatles to each other, you know. It's a joke to us. If we're going out the door of the hotel, we say, 'Right! Beatle John! Beatle George now! Come on, let's go!' We don't put on a false front or anything. But we just know that leaving the door, we turn into Beatles because everybody looking at us sees the Beatles. We're not the Beatles at all. We're just us."

"But we made it, and we asked for it to an extent, and that's how it's going to be. That's why George is in India (studying the sitar,) and I'm here. Because we're a bit tired of going out the door, and the only way to soften the blow is just to spread it a bit."

In that kind of mood, a Dick Lester set was just the therapy for Lennon. Each man is the kind who makes the New Theologians jump. To them, the individual is more thrill than threat -- a unique being who should be taken for what he is. Lester, who directed both Beatle films, gratefully recalls his first meeting with the group, when the movies were just an idea. "They allowed me to be what I damn well pleased. I didn't have to put on an act for them, and they didn't put one on for me."


The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 12, 1966

The Beatles are in-between sessions and taking a break

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 11, 1966

Brian Epstein presents legendary American rock ‘n’ roll singer Little Richard in two concert performances at the Saville Theatre. After the concert, Brian offers Richard a management contract, which is rejected.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 10, 1966

UK album release: A Collection Of Beatles Oldies

Since 1966 was to have no new Beatles long-player released for the UK Christmas market, EMI decided to release its first greatest hits compilation.

A Collection Of Beatles Oldies contained eight tracks which had previously appeared on UK albums, and a further eight singles tracks which were issued here on LP for the first time. Just one song, Bad Boy, was previously unreleased. This made the album an essential purchase for 1966 Beatles completists, although it was less value for money for other fans.

The album was issued as Parlophone PMC 7016 (mono) and PCS 7016 (stereo). It entered the UK charts on 10 December 1966, and peaked at number seven. In all it spent 34 weeks on the charts.

A Collection Of Beatles Oldies was the first Beatles album to fail to reach number one. At the time Revolver was still selling strongly, and the top seller that Christmas was the soundtrack to The Sound Of Music.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 9, 1966

Studio Two, EMI Studios, London

With much overdubbing still to be done to "Strawberry Fields Forever", the previous night's edit of takes 15 and 24 were reduced to just the track on the four-track tape and called take 25 at the start of this 2:30-10:00 pm session. All manner of overdubs were then applied onto this, everything from backwards cymballs to a swordmandel (an Indian instrument, not unlike a table harp). For the purpose of cutting more acetates a quick mono mix was prepared halfway through the session.


The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 8, 1966

Studios One/Two, EMI Studios, London

The other Beatles were not present when Paul overdubbed his lead vocal onto "When I'm Sixty-Four" during a 2:30-5:30 afternoon session in EMI Studio One. However, all four were around for the long evening session in Studio Two, 7:00 pm 3 3:40 am. It was during this night that the group set about what is best described as the "orchestral re-make" of Strawberry Fields Forever", recording rhythm track tapes nine through to 24 (there was for some reason no take numbered 19, nor was there an eight). And then, at the end, engineer Geoff Emerick edited together the first three-quarters of take 15 with the last quarter of take 24. An attempt to reduce the resulting edit into take 25 was started but aborted, to be continued the next day. Emerick and Producer George Martin did not attend the entire session, spending the early part of the evening at the premiere of Cliff Richard's feature film, "Finders Keepers".In their place, although he shouldn't really have been so involved, technical engineer David Harries temporarily produced /engineered the Beatles, diving out of the control room when he heard Martin and Emerick returning.

Source: The Beatles Complete Chronicle

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 7, 1966

The Beatles in-between recording in London

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 6, 1966

Recording: Christmas radio messages, When I’m Sixty-Four

Studio Two, EMI Studios, London

The Beatles remained public champions of the "Pirate" radio stations which operated from ships moored off the British coastline.

The Beatles recorded the first song for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on this day, along with Christmas message for pirate stations Radio London and Radio Caroline.

The session took place from 6.45pm, and ended at 1.50am the following morning. The Christmas messages were the first to be recorded.

The previous year The Beatles had recorded seasonal greetings for pirate stations from their dressing rooms while on tour. In December 1966, having finished touring, they agreed to record new messages in the studio. They were scripted spoken-word items, some of which had a simple Mellotron backing.

Four of the messages, one from each Beatle, were incorporated into the outtake of Christmas Time Is Here Again which was included on the 1995 single "Free As A Bird".

The main purpose of the session, however, was the recording of the basic track of McCartney's song When I'm Sixty-Four. Two takes were recorded with McCartney on bass guitar and Ringo Starr on drums, with some electric guitar performed by either Lennon or Harrison towards the end.

Both of the takes were complete, with the second considered the best. McCartney then overdubbed a piano part before the session came to a close.


The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 5, 1966

The Beatles in-between recording at EMI Studios in London.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 4, 1966

The Beatles in-between sessions at Studio One/Two in London