Watch the earliest known footage of The Beatles, 1958
We’re stepping back in time by revisiting Far Out Magazine’s vault to dig out a rare moment of accidental history after The Beatles were filmed by the Liverpool police force.
While the now-iconic Liverpool band didn’t officially form until 1960, Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison were friends in the years before that. In 1957, when a 16-year-old Lennon formed a skiffle band with several friends from Quarry Bank High School, a fifteen-year-old McCartney would be asked to join and the early foundations of one of the most important groups in history began to form. A year later, of course, in 1958, Harrison joined in and a pivotal swing began to occur.
While the three would continue to play around and practise their instrumentation wherever possible, the three friends would often meet up at the family home of Paul McCartney, at 20 Forthlin Road. It was here, somewhat bizarrely, the band were filmed for the very first time… even if it was a total accident.
Sitting on the rooftop overlooking an annual Police Horse and dog display which is taking place behind McCartney’s home, Paul, his brother Michael and Lennon are all captured by a Liverpool Police recruitment film which was spotted by Beatle fan Peter Hodgson. “I have old footage from 1958. They are seen, stood on top of their outside toilet roof, watching the annual Police Horse and dog display,” Hodgson explained in a post on Facebook, according to Billboard.
Detailing further, Hodgson explains to local Liverpool newspaper the Echo: “I love watching old films about Liverpool on YouTube and I made the connection with Forthlin Road when I saw the Mather Avenue police show footage. Then I worked out which house was the McCartneys’ and thought ‘Bingo!’ I nearly fell off my chair when I saw it. I consulted two local experts, Blue Badge tour guide Jackie Spencer and historian Mark Ashworth—and then I found the information on a Merseyside Police website which confirmed it was 1958.”
While the footage was only used to document the police event, the cameraman accidentally captures Pual McCartney, his brother Michael, and John Lennon in the background of the shot. While the complete footage runs for 41 minutes, the Beatles appear at around 34:33 in the film.
Michael McCartney, who was later contacted by the Echo, confirmed the authenticity of the clip: “Wow! That could definitely be us,” he told the paper. “It was a really big occasion in Liverpool and that’s what we used to do every summer—take deck chairs and climb onto the concrete shed and watch a free show. And I think there is every chance John would have been there that year—absolutely.
“His friend, Pete Shotton, was a police cadet. And George could easily have been there, too. It’s bloody mad—absolutely fascinating and unbelievable!”
While it’s a little difficult to make out, the remarkable footage offers a unique offering in the history of the Beatles. McCartney and Lennon are said to be in the background at around 34:33.