T his October Sotheby’s presents an exceptional collection of photographs, posters, ephemera and precious manuscript records celebrating the Beatles. As well as signed items and rare posters, highlights include John Lennon and George Harrison’s joint autograph manuscript editing notes for the video of ‘Hello, Goodbye’, 1967, original illustrations by Alan Aldridge, and a rare proof copy of the unpublished book, Power to the People: The Political Thoughts of John Lennon. The sale traces the band from their earliest years, through Beatlemania and the experimentation of the later 1960s, and into their solo careers.
The Beatles and their video for ‘Hello, Goodbye’
“…all we needed was a couple of cameras, some good cameramen, a bit of sound and some dancing girls…”
The video opens with the band waving to camera wearing the Beatles suits in which they first found fame but soon cuts to the four young men on stage miming to their new single, ‘Hello, Goodbye’. There are multiple versions of the promotional video: the Beatles can be seen in their street clothes or in their Sergeant Pepper suits; they can be seen miming with some attempt at seriousness, or goofing around on stage.
And whichever version you watch the Beatles end up dancing with girls in hula skirts, in a geographically imprecise nod to the song’s supposed “Maori” finale. It is a golden moment, a video that captures the band at a moment of unparalleled creativity and success, enjoying themselves playing (and playing with) their latest song. The finished videos are deceptively simple, but splice together footage from numerous different camera shots.
The Beatles were the first major artists to produce promotional videos for their latest release on a regular basis. What sets ‘Hello, Goodbye’ apart is that it was directed by the band themselves. ‘Hello, Goodbye’ was recorded just after the Beatles had filmed the Magical Mystery Tour, which itself came just months after Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Paul McCartney was the nominal director but, like so much else, this was a collaboration. A highlight lot of this October’s Beatles sale is a page of notes by John Lennon and George Harrison from the editing suite, reviewing the footage from the day’s recording at the Saville Theatre earlier in November 1967.
It is exceptionally rare to find a working manuscript of any kind by the Beatles, especially one written by two band members, and this fascinating fragment shows us the care and attention that the band took to their work as they work their way through the various different shots that were taken when filming. It is a manuscript that takes us directly to the Beatles’ creative processes.
Iain Macmillan | The Beatles, Abbey Road, 1969