It’s a touch odd to think, so many years on, that The Beatles were ever simply just ‘a band’, in fact, they were often even further degraded and referred to as a ‘boy band’ for much of their early rise. But they were once as desperate for attention and acclaim as any young hopeful.
This, as well as a rigorous marketing campaign via Brian Epstein, led to the band engaging in some somewhat ridiculous promotions and publicity events. Around The Beatles is one of the funnier ones we’ve ever seen.
Let’s go back to 1964, three years on from their formation under Epstein, The Beatles’ star was beginning its truly meteoric rise. The Fab Four had a plethora of pop tunes only equalled by the mop-top looks to make young girls go wild. But that wasn’t enough. Epstein wanted Beatlemania to keep on growing and to do that he needed to find other avenues.
One such avenue was television. Epstein was blessed not only with a band of expert players (yes, even Ringo) but a quartet of sparkling personalities who so happened to be very good actors. He decided to put them to work on a TV special called Around The Beatles, as they performed a hilarious parody of Act V, Scene I of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as part of a celebration of Shakespeare’s 400th birthday.
Originally broadcast on BBC on the 28th April 1964, the skit is punchy and, in fairness, still as smirk-inducing today in 2020. Pure British slapstick reigns supreme here as John, Paul, George, and Ringo all don Shakespearian garb for their starring roles among the melee of screaming girls. It shows the band at their energised and effervescent best, managing to walk the line between camp and ridiculous with the sure-footed steps of stars. It acts as a testament to their innate showmanship.
The clip, which was just one half of the Around The Beatles show, opens with Ringo firing a cannon in full Elizabethan dress and pulling a range of contorted faces when it comically crashes down to earth. Paul has a starring role as Pyramus while Lennon sneers as Thisbe. George Harrison looks certainly the most uncomfortable as Moonshine while Ringo steals the show as Lion.
As the hecklers continue to throw barbs and jibes at the Fab Four they develop themselves into a band of comedians, using their facial expressions to tell every joke they need. Many have likened rock and roll to comedy before and The Beatles may well be the best at both disciplines.
Watch below as The Beatles take part in a Shakespearean skit in 1964