Having established earlier in the conversation that there will be two live shows to cap the documentary of which filming is already in progress, the band — primarily Paul — plus Yoko Ono, George Martin, Michael Lindsay Hogg and a few other insiders (probably the likes of Mal Evans, Neil Aspinall and Derek Taylor? I don’t know them as well by voice) — continue their lengthy discussion about the show, potential venues and the composition of an audience.
For a show plan first hatched more than a month earlier, things remain in total flux.
Paul latches onto Yoko’s idea of playing to an empty house, at least for one of the two proposed shows, with the second night’s performance before a conventional audience.
Hey, maybe there will be some traction here! Paul’s on board with Yoko’s ideas up front and early on (and John doesn’t seem to care, not chiming in at all during this chat), so a huge part of the battle here is over, George’s independent streak — which is about to erupt — notwithstanding. And it’s not much of a surprise, really, given Paul’s avant garde leanings.
Alas, Lindsay-Hogg punctures that idea, saying there’s no need to eschew a crowd “partly [because] the documentary is playing in silence. I know it’s not for an audience, but it’s the same thing.”
Paul replies to say that the band has ignored the camera from the moment they started filming at Twickenham a few days earlier, repeating the “performance might be — should be — two cameras or two audiences … two something.”
But Yoko pressed on — with Paul again agreeing — saying the audience isn’t the draw for people watching the film at home, unless it’s something different, like “kings or queens coming to see it.”
The director keeps pressing back.
MLH: What I think is if you got in front of an empty house and played, it makes you look too … rich, in the bad sense. In other words, whats the point? This is the negative aspect of that. What’s the point in you getting up and playing for an empty house when you could be giving people happiness with whatever kind of full house we decided?
Yoko: Nobody’s going to think that. They’re going to think it’s a very poetic situation. And they know the Beatles are rich …
Voice of reason George Martin, as he did earlier in the conversation, again sides with Lindsay-Hogg on just what a waste a live performance to an empty room would be, putting it succinctly:
There’s no point in doing a live performance, it’s like going into a recording studio and doing one take.
He then repeats the point that an audience would give an extra something to the band they wouldn’t get otherwise.
Someone chimes to suggest one of the more exotic venues that had been in the mix, presumably since December,as the band hatched the live-show idea.
You’re going right back to Sabratha, [then].
Sabrathra was alluded to on the first day of filming by the director, promising a scene replete with “snake charmers, holy men … torchlit, 2,000 Arabs and friends around.”
And a beautiful, unique venue the former Roman amphitheater outside Tripoli, Libya, would have been and with such an unusual audience. It’s certainly something that would one-up recent rock films like Cream at the Albert Hall and the recently completed Rolling Stones Rock & Roll Circus.
Paul agrees with a remark that a bit of a focus on the audience (wherever it may be) isn’t a bad thing — seeing the reaction of people who have seen the band before in the Beatlemania era and how they’d react to the band now, post-1966 and the end of their live era.
Yoko: Then it should be a real scene. You have to announce in the newspaper say that it’s going to be a real alive show. It’ll be a crazy scene, like everybody queuing for it and everything.
Neil? Mal? Derek? Then it should be an Albert Hall scene.
Lindsay-Hogg, who joked earlier in the day about a Beatles show at “the Albert Hall with those quick cuts,” said a few hours later that he’s not opposed to a show at the nearly 100-year-old stage. But…
MLH: I just think it slightly smells of a few years ago. The Shea Stadiums, wherever it has been.
Yoko: Say anything, and it will slightly smell of a few years ago or slightly less than a few years ago because they topped it.
MLH: I’m not particularly supporting this idea, but it is an idea we can then say no to and go away from if we can top it. But [Sabratha] is a location which is marvelous in itself, by the sea.
Perhaps this is just calling Ringo’s bluff. As Paul said on Jan. 2, “I think you’ll find we’re not going abroad, because Ringo just said he doesn’t want to go abroad. And he put his foot down.”
And calling the drummer’s bluff is something the Get Back book and Let it Be Naked’s “Fly on a Wall” disc proves was done repeatedly. But for the second time this day, Paul shoots down an overseas trip, saying, “Look, it has to be in England. An outdoor scene has to be in England, because we’ve decided we’re not going abroad.”
To someone responding that a performance under the skies couldn’t be done in wintertime England, which is “too bloody cold,” Paul doubles down, after agreeing to the sentiment.
We have decided, it’s a definite decision, that we’re not going abroad, so we should sort of rule that out. It’s not even to the two-way, should we go abroad, we like, we definitely said no to that.
So as usual these days, they’re back to Square One, crossing the seas and back in just a few minutes, only to end up again home in England — and potential venues therein as the discussion continues.
An odd postscript to the Sabratha flirtation: More than 40 after the Beatles toyed with the idea of playing at Sabratha just eight months before Khadafi led a coup to take over Libya, former Apple exec and Beatles assistant Peter Brown had his PR firm hired to improve the dictator’s image.
Tune in next post, where we resume this Jan. 6, 1969, conversation about the forthcoming show.