There’s been no announcement that Americans will get to see the ITV TV special “The Nation’s Favourite Beatles Number 1,” a two-hour show which the British network aired Nov. 11. Which is too bad, because reports we’ve heard from those who have seen it say that while it had the usual cheesy moments many of these roundup specials do, there were some parts that make it necessary viewing.
The show was a promotional event for the new Beatles “+1” DVD and included many of the videos from the set. It also featured a wealth of comments from a long list of people, including many directly associated with the Beatles or that era. They included Freda Kelly (“Good Ol’ Freda”), Michael Lindsey-Hogg, Peter Asher of Peter & Gordon, Ken Dodd, Twiggy, Sandie Shaw, Beatles engineer Ken Scott, Paul Jones of Manfred Mann, Jools Holland, Mersey Beat founder and editor Bill Harry, Joni Crowley from the Beatles fan club, Johnnie Hamp, fan Sue Johnston and British DJ Annie Nightingale. There was also author Paul Gambaccini, journalist Don Short, Dick Fontaine (“What’s Happening”), members of the Merseybeats and the Zombies, fan Bernadette Byrne, Leslie Woodhead (the “Some Other Guy” footage), and Beatles associate Tony Bramwell. Segments of a 1994 interview with producer Sir George Martin were also added.
But not everything played was from the DVDs. One very choice highlight was the now exceedingly rare clip of the Beatles on “Top of the Pops” included in a 1965 episode of “Dr. Who.” That TV episode is the only remaining way to see them on that particular show since the BBC erased the original tape.
And then there were the segments of Giles Martin at a studio control board fiddling with the levers and bringing out some hidden sounds from beneath the layers in the Beatles’ songs. On “Paperback Writer,” he took the double track off of Paul McCartney’s lead vocal so you heard a solo voice singing “I can make it longer if you like the style.” He also isolated the background vocals from the song where you can clearly hear John Lennon and George Harrison singing “Frere Jacques.” And on “A Hard Day’s Night,” he pulled out a few moments of isolated guitar from the opening chord so one could just hear a single guitar.
“I thought it was really good!,” said Donna Jackson, Beatles Examiner Liverpool correspondent. “I absolutely loved all the Beatles footage and there were a few that I hadn’t seen before. The gem for me was the clip of the Beatles on ‘Dr Who’! There was also some new stuff on the songs that I didn’t know like the ‘Psycho’ influence for the violins in ‘Eleanor Rigby.’ Very cool!” She said the ITV crew did some filming at Eleanor Rigby’s grave site, but they decided not to talk to Colin Hanton of the Quarrymen, who was at St. Peter’s Church on that day, nor do any filming inside the Church Hall — the place where Lennon and McCartney met.
In conjunction with the show, ITV took a poll to rate viewers’ favorites of 27 Beatle Number 1 records. As with these polls, some things were a mystery, like “Day Tripper” ranking only 26th, and coming in nine behind “We Can Work It Out” at 17. Nevertheless, here are the full poll results from 27 to 1: “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” “Day Tripper,” “I Feel Fine,” “From Me To You,” “Paperback Writer,” “Get Back,” “Lady Madonna,” “Hello, Goodbye,” “All My Loving,” “Eight Days a Week,” “We Can Work It Out,” “Ticket To Ride,” “Help!,” “Love Me Do,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Something,” “Come Together,” “She Loves You,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “The Long and Winding Road,” “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “Penny Lane,” “All You Need Is Love,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Let It Be,” “Yesterday” and the winner, “Hey Jude.”
One noticeable omission as the end of the show rolled around were the very few parts that featured comments by the Beatles themselves. That’s where viewers found a delightful surprise as it featured newly filmed segments with very heartfelt and grateful comments from Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney thanking UK fans for their years of support.
UK-based or not, this is something that would be wonderful for fans to see in the U.S. You can see a promo on this page. The complete show will be viewable online only for UK viewers for a month after the first airing of the show. But U.S. fans deserve a chance to see it. You can comment about the show online using the hashtag #NatFaveBeatles or send your thoughts to ITV at firstname.lastname@example.org. Three U.S. cable stations that would be likely to pick it up would be Palladia, AXS and VH1 Classic.