As Peter Jackson’s new documentary about the Fab Four is released, we look back at their finest recorded moments.

When four lads from Liverpool formed a band in 1960, few people could have predicted that they would become the most influential rock band of all time.

They had their first hit with Love Me Do in 1962. By early 1964, they were international stars and everything they touched seemed to turn to gold. With estimated sales of 600 million units worldwide, they remain the best-selling music act ever.

Writing in The New York Times in 2016, Chuck Klosterman summed up their enduring appeal. ‘They were the most popular band in the world during the period they were active and are only slightly less popular now, five decades later.

The Beatles defined the concept of what a ‘rock group’ was supposed to be, and all subsequent rock groups are (consciously or unconsciously) modelled upon the template they naturally embodied.

Their 1964 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show is so regularly cited as the genesis for other bands that they arguably invented the culture of the 1970s, a decade when they were no longer together.

The Beatles arguably invented everything, including the very notion of a band’s breaking up.’

Here, we take a look at their best-recorded moments.

First Radio Interview, 1962

It is almost impossible for us today to picture the band as ‘an up and coming Merseyside group’, which is what they were when this interview took place. Ringo had only been in the band for nine weeks. Nobody had any idea what was to come – but there was everything to play for. Watch it here.

The Beatles On The Morecombe And Wise Show, 1963

It’s still early days and the boys are young, polite and game, playing along with comedic duo like the best of them. Watching them perform Moonlight Bay (decked out in improbable boaters and stripy blazers) with Morecombe and Wise is priceless. Watch it here.

Arrival In US, 1964

You have got to love the bowl haircuts, skinny black ties and shy smiles in this clip. The crowds are wild; the Fab Four say they’ve never known anything like it. As the press conference goes on, the boys gather some swagger and are cheeky as can be by the end. Watch it here.

San Francisco, 1965

They’ve lost their fresh faces by now – but not their senses of humour. Their clipped and sometimes grumpy answers are a far cry from their jollity on the Morecombe and Wise show. You sense that the noise, the crowds and the chaos are beginning to get them. Watch it here.

Interview, 1966

It is interesting to see how much more poised and polished the band were by 1966 – and also how much more jaded. John Lennon and Paul McCartney are dressed in true gaudy sixties style here, leaving the uniform suits behind them. McCartney says: ‘We can’t go on for ever.’ The first hint, perhaps, of things to come? Watch it here.

Funny Studio Outtakes

This is a right old trip down memory lane. The tunes are blaring; the smiles are forthcoming; the sun is shining. Everybody looks as though they are having a great time. It is a pleasure to watch. Watch it here.

Paul McCartney, 1967

During this ITV interview in his back garden, McCartney, aged 25, admits to taking LSD four times. He and the interviewer rub each other up the wrong way in a compelling set-to about whether it is McCartney’s responsibility not to take drugs or the media’s responsibility not to report that he has (and therefore glamorise it to his fans). Watch it here.

Individual Interviews, 1968

This is a sad clip. By now, rumours abound that the group is going to split. The interviewer tries his best to get any one of them to admit that they’re set to go their own ways. Each and every one is reticent, sometimes even truculent. None is prepared to spill the beans. It was, at best, the beginning of the end. Watch it here.

John And Yoko, 1971

In this fascinating segment, a humorous but defensive John and an almost whispering Yoko offer their explanation for how the greatest rock band in the world came a cropper. Watch it here.

Paul McCartney On Desert Island Discs, 1982

This episode was recorded to celebrate 40 years of the great radio show. The Beatle, the show’s 1,630th castaway, tells interviewer Roy Plomley that he credits Elvis Presley with sparking his interest in rock and roll. It is notable that he chooses no Beatles records to take with him to the island. He says: ‘I haven’t chosen any Beatle records. I haven’t chosen any of my records. So to sum up the whole thing I’ve chosen one from John Lennon’s Double Fantasy, which I think is a beautiful song. It’s very moving to me.’ Pretty moving to us all. Listen here.

By Becky Ladenburg
November 2021

Sir Cecil Beaton’s Best Bits
7 Of Nelson Mandela’s Greatest Moments
6 Of The Best Radio Plays To Download

Becky Ladenburg

Features Editor

As the GWG's features editor, Becky has her discerning finger on the cultural pulse. She's also our go-to expert on the property market.