Around the Beatles was a 1964 television special featuring the Beatles, produced by Jack Good for ITV/Rediffusion London. It was taped in Wembley Park Studios (now known as Fountain Studios) in London on 28 April 1964, and broadcast internationally, with its initial airing on 6 May 1964, and in the US on the ABC network on 15 November. The show featured other performers as well, with the Beatles providing backing vocals for some of them. The music had been pre-recorded at London’s IBC Studios on 19 April 1964, and The Beatles mimed during the show.
John, Paul and George first appear miming to a trumpet fanfare while Ringo waves a flag with the wording ‘Around the Beatles’ before setting off a cannon. All four are dressed in Shakespearian costume and the audience enter the studio to the sound of the song ‘We Love You Beatles.’
The studio setting is arranged as a theatre in the round, (hence the show’s name) echoing the seating arrangement of the Globe. The opening act is a humorous rendition of the “play within a play”, Pyramus and Thisbe (Act V, Scene I) from William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with Paul McCartney as Pyramus, John Lennon as his lover Thisbe, George Harrison as Moonshine, and Starr as Lion, and also features Trevor Peacock in the role of Quince.
The songs performed by The Beatles in the show were:
- “Twist and Shout”
- “Roll Over Beethoven”
- “I Wanna Be Your Man”
- “Long Tall Sally”
- “Love Me Do/Please Please Me/From Me to You/She Loves You/I Want to Hold Your Hand” (Medley)
- “Can’t Buy Me Love”
The special was directed by Jack Good, the TV producer and manager who gave the world Shindig!, Cliff Richard, Tommy Steele, Billy Fury, Marty Wilde and others of Britain’s first wave of rock and roll stars (he’s also the guy who convinced Gene Vincent to don that Richard III garb—see a pattern here?). Featured on the program along with the Fab Four were Cilla Black, Long John Baldry, PJ Proby, the Vernons Girls, Jamaican teenage ska sensation Millie “My Boy Lollipop” Small, The Jets and Sounds Incorporated, an instrumental group who were Cilla Black’s backing group as well as the opening act when the Beatles toured. (Both Black and Sounds Incorporated were represented by Brian Epstein’s management company, NEMS. PJ Proby was Jack Good’s charge.)
The special was released as a bootleg video by Media Home Entertainment. A video segment from the special appears in The Beatles Anthology documentary film. Songs from the special appear on the Anthology 1 compilation.
The Beatles’ musical set features the only recorded performance of “Shout” by the group. The footage of them singing “Can’t Buy Me Love” is now included on the video portion of the 2015 reissue of the compilation 1.
All of the songs performed by the Beatles in the special were released on home video in 1985 by EMI and Dave Clark Productions as “Ready Steady Go! Special Edition The Beatles Live!”, which was available on VHS and Beta formats and later on an 8″ LaserDisc.
In March 2019, an original ticket for the show’s dress rehearsal was valued at £100 on the BBC television show Antiques Roadshow.