Hey there, The Beatles fans! Join us in our 10-day countdown to the premiere of The Beatles: Get Back on Disney+, sizing up the 10 greatest TV moments in the long and winding history of the lads from Liverpool.
This is an excerpt from TV Guide Magazine’s The Beatles on TV Special Collector’s Edition, available for order online now at BeatlesonTV.com and for purchase on newsstands nationwide.
6. Hey Jude/Revolution
The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour Oct. 6, 1968
Top of the Pops, Sept. 19, 1968
The Big Picture
The camera gets close as a kiss for a pair of rousing Beatles numbers that live on powerfully.
Behind the Scenes
It had been a year since the Beatles’ last TV appearance, but the mood in the world had changed. The Summer of Love timed out, the psychedelics soured and America had just been rocked by the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. With the decade darker and nearly done, it felt like autumn.
There was an air of finality with the Beatles too. The band had retreated to an ashram in India, where they composed most of what became The Beatles (aka the White Album) and returned to form Apple Records. Those accomplishments were, however, marred by increasing conflicts within the band. John Lennon had become involved with Yoko Ono and insisted on bringing her to band-only studio sessions; he and Paul McCartney stopped collaborating.
To promote their just-released single “Hey Jude,” with the flip side “Revolution,” the band filmed performances of both songs in Twickenham Studios, with Michael Lindsay-Hogg directing. He had previously directed other videos for the band.
Popular British broadcaster David Frost filmed an introduction for “Hey Jude” so the performance could appear on his show Frost on Sunday. For the song, Paul was seated at an upright piano, John, and George on a nearby podium and Ringo on a separate riser with his drums. A 36-piece orchestra in white tuxedoes sat behind.
It wasn’t a true live performance; McCartney sang along to the studio vocals while the band lip-synched their parts. For the choral finale, 300 extras were brought in and they strolled onstage. It was an inclusive mix of students, parents with kids, hipsters, and older folks, all clapping and singing along. The camera took in each Beatle shoulder to shoulder with fans.
“Revolution” was filmed with the band overdubbing a new vocal track, with Lennon at his countercultural best on lead vocals. The clip was shown on Top of the Pops in the U.K. two weeks later on September 19. For the U.S., the band chose to have both songs air on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, since that show’s controversial reputation for antiestablishment views fit perfectly with the idea behind “Revolution.”
“Hey Jude”/“Revolution” became the top-selling single in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Canada that year.
Why It Ranks
On both sides of the pond, the Beatles showed they would continue to speak for the times — and that they could still rock. Five months later, they’d prove that again in their famed rooftop concert.
See Them Today
The Beatles: Get Back, Documentary Premiere, November 25–27, Disney+