More Maysles footage coming?

In a recent interview in Variety, Ringo Starr was asked about the new version “Let It Be” and in his reply, he talked about another thing which is probably coming this year: the first U.S. visit of the Beatles.

That would be appropriate for this anniversary year, but what can it be?

The brothers David (born 1931) and Albert (born 1926) Maysles had been commissioned by Granada TV to document the Beatles’ first trip to the USA in February 1964. They used hand-held cameras and a portable Nagra tape recorder, Albert filmed and David controlled the sound. Their methodology was not to direct, only to document and try to slip into the surroundings of what they were filming and let things unfold as they happened.

The brothers followed the Beatles everywhere, in cars, in hotel rooms, and to concerts, TV appearances (they weren’t allowed in to the Ed Sullivan Show studio), on the train to and from Washington D.C., and elsewhere along the way.

The first 3 days of film footage shot in New York was rushed over to Granada Television in London who quickly edited the footage for a 39 minutes TV special called “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! The Beatles in New York” which was broadcast on February 12, 1964 at 10:25pm. The majority of the footage in this UK special featured their arrival at JFK Airport; Arriving at their hotel room; Fans outside the Plaza Hotel; footage from inside their hotel room with Murray The K; Murray The K interviewing them on the phone from WINS radio station; Walking through Central Park for a photo session; Limo ride to CBS TV Studios; Ringo & Murray The K dancing at the Peppermint Lounge.

In all, there were over 20 hours of filming over five days, and this resulted in a 70 minutes documentary film which was screened in cinemas in the USA in 1964, “What’s Happening! The Beatles in the USA“.

Some of the material has been released for the home video market. A reworked and expanded edition of the theatrical film, “The Beatles First U.S. Visit” came out on laserdisc in 1991, and later appeared on a bootleg VHS cassette in Australia, before it became available on official VHS cassette and DVD from MPI in 1998. In 2004 it was re-released on DVD and then the 81-minute long film received a new commentary track by filmmaker Albert Maysles, plus a “Making of” film of 51 minutes, with several film recordings from the visit and an interview with Albert Maysles.

1991 laser disc, 1998 DVD and 2004 DVD editions of The Beatles “The First U.S. Visit”.

There are still 18 hours of unseen footage from the period. So the question is, how much do we get this time and what form does it take? Is it just a straight re-release, perhaps a new transfer of the footage already used in the “First U.S. Visit” releases? Or maybe this will be fleshed out as a new Disney+ series with several episodes? Certainly, the Washington D.C. concert deserves a bigger audience.

The following year, 1965, the Maysles brothers filmed a performance by Yoko Ono at Carnegie Hall where she let the audience cut off her clothes in the famous “Cut piece”. In 1969, the brothers filmed the Rolling Stones’ USA tour, resulting in the documentary “Gimme Shelter”. The brothers made more than 30 films together. David Maysles died suddenly of a stroke in 1987, while Albert lived until 2015.

In 2001, Albert was commissioned by Paul McCartney to follow and document McCartney’s preparations for the charity concert “The Concert for New York City”, which he organized in the wake of the terrorist attack 11 September. The resulting black and white film titled “The Love We Make” was released on TV, DVD and Blu-ray ten years later, in 2011.

8 Responses

  1. Andy Lyman says:

    Are we sure that’s not CBS TV rather than Canadian Broadcasting?

  2. Paul Denison says:

    An expanded version of this excellent and pioneering film would be a joy to watch. There must be some great unseen footage in the archives and I look forward to hearing more about this project.

    Imagine if Peter Jackson were let loose with it! Unlikely, I guess.

  3. Paul Murphy says:

    Can they just stop releasing stuff until Lewisohn gets book 2 out! Paul’s photograph and lyric books have probably put the release back another 3 years already.

  4. John Kaelin says:

    A Disney + long form series would be great. A perfect forum for such an in depth look.

    Incidentally, I’m not sure we ever see book 2 from Lewisohn at this rate.

    • Paul Murphy says:

      Sadly, so. It has been almost 12 years now, to cover 4 years of the lives of 4 people. Allowing for J, P, G & R sleeping 6 hours a day, it has been longer than their every awake moment in that timeframe! It’s a wonder that the publishers haven’t sued for their advance back, actually. Mark frequently boasts about how large his advance was, that it was probably the last one of its kind, and there is no way they will ever recoup it from book sales. If you think of the number of target demographic that have passed in the last decade+, from age and Covid, that’s a mighty chunk. The recent converts, of which the Fabs are constantly regenerating through their music being timeless genius, will just wait for one book to be published, scanned and uploaded to the Dark Net, and then get it for free. I was listening to an interview of Mark’s from about a year ago on YT, and he says about people moaning about the wait, “Phh, they have no idea how long it takes.” Now, Mark’s a lovely guy, but this is both wrong, and extremely disingenuous – it was HE that had ‘no idea how long it takes’, since he has given release dates of 2018, 2020, 2021, and now … who knows. His mistake was putting everything in there from the start. The sales differential of the original tome, and the cropped-down version, show that. Who wants to know the life of Bob Wooler, Queenie Epstein, Ed Sullivan, et al, with no disrespect to them? Mark should have released the ‘abridged’ versions first, and got them out by 2020, and then gone back and made the full volumes; also giving him the opportunity to add recently-discovered information. He’d have been twice as rich in a fraction of the time, and a gazillion Fabs fans would have been happy.

      • Win Corr says:

        Mark may have actually blown it. But next year 2025 would be a great opportunity if Beatles First Visit project is out this year and they start with early years box sets next year.

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