Tomorrow (Wednesday, Nov. 25) the History Channel will begin broadcasting The Beatles On Record, a mostly new documentary about the Beatles’ work in the studio.
I say “mostly new” because the project, while technically new, includes photos, video and interview snippets and studio chatter that have largely been seen and heard elsewhere. However, there are a few bits I haven’t heard, including some cool studio chatter between songs.
And more importantly, the story those snippets tell is remarkable, and it’s quite worth retelling.
This version of the Beatles story eschews peripheral subjects like their hair or their love lives and focuses squarely on the studio. We get to hear some early takes of some of their songs, and we listen as producer George Martin confesses that he didn’t really think much of their music at first. “Love Me Do,” he said, “was the best of the lot” — in a tone that clearly communicates his distates for “the lot.”
But starting with their very next single, “Love Me Do,” the group began an unprecedented ascension to become pop music icons — and studio masters.
Check out this YouTube excerpt:
The Beatles On Record was directed by Bob Smeaton, who directed the mammoth, award-winning “Beatles Anthology” project of the 1990s. Like Anthology, TBOR includes only the voices of the four lads and Martin. Such a technique effectively captures the story from the inside. (Hearing Lennon in faux-conductor voice, intone “Quite quite brisk, moderato, fox trot” before a take is quite a hoot.) Yes, some of the quotes were also used in Anthology, but there’s enough fresh material to keep even the most fanatical Beatle-heads interested.
The music, photos and videos are skillfully woven together, producing an appropriate awe at the inventiveness, daring and joy that the Beatles’ canon represents.