Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Beatles Anthology

The Beatles Anthology is a documentary series on the career of The Beatles. It was broadcast on television in six abridged parts between November and December 1995. An eight volume VHS set and an 8 disc Laserdisc set were released on 5 September 1996. The series was re-released on DVD in 2003, with an 81-minute special-features disc.

The Long and Winding Road

An official documentary on The Beatles career had been in the pipeline as far back as 1970. Long time friend and Apple Corps manager Neil Aspinall had compiled footage from various sources around the world of concert, interview and television appearances. From this archival footage, Aspinall assembled a 90 minute feature film which was tentatively titled The Long and Winding Road and was completed in 1971. At this point, none of the former members had any involvement with the project and plans for its release lay dormant until 1980, when John Lennon stated as part of a legal deposition against the producers of the musical 'Beatlemania' that: "I and the other three former Beatles have plans to stage a reunion concert," an event to be filmed as a finale of The Long and Winding Road (which was now to be a television special). According to Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, the concert would have been held in England: "Just days before his brutal death, John was making plans to go to England for a triumphant Beatles reunion. His greatest dream was to recreate the musical magic of the early years with Paul, George and Ringo...(he) felt that they had travelled different paths for long enough. He felt they had grown up and were mature enough to try writing and recording new songs." The plans for a reunion were abandoned after Lennon was murdered on 8 December.

Project Resurrected

In 1992 the project was once again resurrected, as a six part documentary series. This time, the surviving members (later to be dubbed in the press as 'The Threetles'), were directly involved, giving interviews on film with Jools Holland. Also interviewed were insiders Neil Aspinall, the band's press agent Derek Taylor and their long time producer George Martin. The title of the documentary was now changed to The Beatles Anthology as George Harrison was against naming the entire Beatles career after a Paul McCartney song. This new title was to be a working one but it eventually stayed as it suited the parties concerned.

A rough cut was completed in 1993, which was much more interview based and focused on the events as opposed to the final cut, which included more concert and television performances. This early version of the series has since leaked and been released via bootleg.

The documentary was broadcast on television in six abridged parts between November and December 1995, and released on VHS and Laserdisc the following year.

When the Anthology was first shown on American television, on ABC, the tag line for the network during the time was "A Beatle C."

New Music

The plans for a concert were abandoned and replaced with the intention that the surviving three members would play some more "incidental" music in between segments and interviews. It was then put forward that some "new" songs should be written for the project by the Beatles. Both McCartney and Harrison wrote some material, which became the song "All For Love", but it was then suggested to ask Yoko Ono if Lennon had any material he had left unfinished that they could work with. In 1994, after appearing on stage with McCartney at Lennon's posthumous induction to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Yoko gave Paul three cassette tapes containing four song demos that Lennon had been working on: "Free as a Bird", "Real Love", "Now and Then" and "Grow Old With Me". The latter two were left unfinished by the group, but "Real Love" and "Free as a Bird" were completed with producer Jeff Lynne in 1994/95, and premiered during the Anthology's initial broadcast.

Production credits

* Editor: Andy Matthews
* Production Manager: Bryony Cranstoun
* Archive Consultants: Julian Adamoli/Geraldine Royds
* Design/Art Direction: Richard Ward /The Team
* Cover Concept: Klaus Voormann
* Cover Painting: Klaus Voormann /Alfons Kiefer
* Picture Grading & Image Restoration: Ascent Media, London
* Picture Aspect: 4:3
* Sound: LPCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, DTS 5.1 surround sound


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