Monday, February 23, 2009

A Report on The Music of Lennon & McCartney

A Report from Granada's Manchester Television Studios where the stars gathered to honour the songwriting of JOHN and PAUL

Granada say this is their biggest-ever spectacular. And everything I saw during the two days of busy shooting in Manchester confirms their claim. The production is built around John and Paul as songwriters. It will be seen throughout the U.K. on the ITV network from 9.40 p.m. on Friday 17 December and it will last fifty fast-moving minutes. Later it will be sold for screening all over the world.

It's to be an all-action show with no expense spared. There are a dozen fabulous-looking models to decorate the studio. There are six lively dancers to prance around the set. And the set itself? That's something else! It's an enormous structure made of scaffolding and massive sheets of mirror-surfaced metal. It fills the entire floor of Granada's giant Studio 6. From ground level it looks like a cross between some half-constructed futuristic building and something from "West Side Story"! From higher up you could guess it was the interior of some fictional space ship.

George Martin Conducts

The stars arrive in batches according to their various camera calls. Amongst the first is GEORGE MARTIN who conducts his 25-piece orchestra through his own amusing and artistic rearrangement of "I Feel Fine". Then Paul is called to do his gag introduction of famous American pianist HENRY MANCINI who plays a gentle keyboard version of "If I Fell".

For "World Without Love" PETER AND GORDON are encased in a huge metallic tower from which they emerge to wander amongst twelve gorgeous gals. Meanwhile diminutive LULU, bursting with energy even on a Monday morning, rehearses "I Saw Him Standing There" for which she is required to run up and down a lot of wooden steps.

Now there's a behind-scenes crisis as word reaches producer Johnny Hamp that French star Richard Anthony won't be flying in because his face has been damaged in a car smash-up outside Paris. Frantic phone calls to the continent result in the booking of DICK RIVERS as a substitute. He'll sing in French.

Next arrival is little ESTHER PHILLIPS who has flown in from the U.S. to sing "And I Love Him" on the show. John and Paul drove up to Manchester in John's macabre-looking all-black Rolls the previous evening. Now they're joined by George and Ringo for the filming of the group's newbie "Day Tripper", the finale of the first half of the programme.

Six members of Liverpool's Philharmonic Orchestra take up their places on the set, which is dressed with antique music stands and flickering candles. Upon the arrival of their leader these six quaintly attired musicians become FRITZ SPEIGEL'S BAROCK AND ROLL ENSEMBLE who feature in a Mozart-styled interpretation of "She Loves You".

At lunchtime, while everyone takes a canteen break, John and Paul go into a work-while-you-eat hustle with director Phil Casson and producer Johnny Hamp. CILLA BLACK joins them just in time to watch the play-back of tapes featuring PETER SELLERS. In no time the entire lunch party breaks up with laughter as everyone watches Sellers in a long wig draped across a massive throne reciting "A Hard Day's Night" in finest mock-Shakespearean tradition.

Soon the shooting schedule gets under way again with BILLY J. KRAMER AND THE DAKOTAS recalling their earliest Beatle-penned successes "Bad To Me" and "Do You Want To Know A Secret". Billy, newly-slimmed to a trim ten stones, looks in great shape wearing a black shirt and dark bell-bottoms which were a gift from Phil Everly at the end of their October stage tour together.

While male dancers perform all kinds of fantastic gymnastic feats around her CILLA BLACK presents "It's For You". Immediately afterwards she's hustled off by the press people to have her new short-with-fringe hairstyle pictured by the news photographers.

Paul and Marianne Sing 'Yesterday'

Now it's Paul's turn to go into the studio. He spends several minutes deciding which guitar to use for "Yesterday". In a darkened setting he's seen singing the first verse of this international hit. Then the cameras pull away from him to reveal MARIANNE FAITHFULL who takes up the lyrics for the rest of this beautiful ballad.

There's a complete switch of mood as organist ALAN HAVEN sits down before the cameras to offer his jazzy interpretation of "A Hard Day's Night". Percussive background support is supplied by ace drumming-man TONY CROMBIE.

All four Beatles take up their positions on the floor now with John seating himself behind a magnificent harmonium. His guitar is missing for this sequence. That harmonium has an interesting history for it has been borrowed from Granada's "Coronation Street" studio just down the passage. Yes, it's the instrument we normally see in Ena Sharples vestry! Paul shares out the vocal action with George and John as The Beatles launch themselves into the lively "We Can Work It Out", the second of the two all-new Lennon-McCartney titles to be showcased in the spectacular.

Jimmy Was There

Incidentally all kinds of celebrities have been visiting during the two days. Almost as many familiar faces can be seen out of camera range. Deejay Jimmy Savile seemed to be everywhere all the time. Herman was here too, having driven Lulu up from London. And most of the "Coronation Street" residents popped their heads around the studio door at one time or another!

I haven't mentioned every single act in this brisk-paced show. I missed for example, Spanish Dance star ANTONIO VARGAS whose fantastic footwork is said to be one of the surprise highlights of the programme. However, I'll be watching my telly along with an estimated 20 million other Beatle People on Friday 17 December to see what promises to be one of the most entertaining small-screen spectaculars of 1965!

No comments: