30 September 2010 | paskuniag
The Fab Four play, stand aside, and ham it up
This is a rare piece of nostalgia that features the Beatles starring in their own 1964 British TV special. It portrays them as musicians, music fans, and stage performers, as well. The show opens with them singing some of their hits. But the bulk of the next part of the hour consists of performances by artists the Beatles are fans of, though not all of the stars on this special were known in America. So while Millie Small sang her hit, "My Boy Lollipop", Cilla Black, who was known more as a Brian Epstein client than a chart-maker in the US of A, sang a number, as did John Baldry, who was still several years away from fame over here with his "Boojie Woojie" music. The instrumental group, Sounds Incoporated, became more well-known later on as the horn players on "Good Morning, Good Morning", and as a warm-up act on many of the Beatles tours. PJ Proby was, indeed, from the states, but made the charts in England a few years later. A less-knowing British music fan might have asked why Billy Fury and Cliff Richard weren't invited on this show, ditto Adam Faith. The answer is simple- though the Beatles might never had publicly stated it, they had little use for the Brit-pop idols listed above who were making the British charts while the Fab Four were still paying their dues in Hamburg dives. The boys chose, instead, the artists that they genuinely admired. The surprise to me was seeing Baldry here. I had known he had been a blues pioneer in England, along the lines of John Mayall, and that he would later sell a ton of records as a crooner, but I had never before seen him appear as a pop star. Having done so, I'm glad he grew a beard later on; he looks kind of nerdy and awkward here.
The highlight of the evening, besides seeing them play live, was the Moptops' appearance in a skit that featured themselves- plus the British comedy team of Morecomb and Wise- doing a lampoon of Romeo and Juliet, played, respectively. by Paul and John. It was wonderfully dopey and silly, and allowed them to ham it up like crazy.
TV specials like this are worth watching still, some forty-plus years later, because they don't exist anymore, at least in 21st century America. You'll never again see a group featuring young men such as these performing in prime-time for a whole hour. Their audience today would watch them on VH1, the chat shows, and "Saturday Night Live". So "Around The Beatles" is a rarity, and worth searching out by anyone curious to find out what all the fuss was about back in the days of the Invasion. It would illuminate the viewer who is learning about the Beatles, the 60s' most vibrant and influential group, by showing him or her that, yes, they were musicians, but they were also pop fans just like everyone else who, once in a while, also liked to dress up and act silly on stage just for their own amusement- and yours.