One man’s mission to restore The Beatles’ BBC recordings

BY Arts Desk  January 1, 2014 at 5:34 PM EDT


The Beatles in 1965. Photo courtesy of the Michael Ochs Archive/Corbis

You might be surprised to learn that all of the The Beatles’ BBC performances were not well archived.

In fact, Kevin Howlett, a BBC radio producer and the co-producer of a new Beatles album “On Air: Live at the BBC, Volume Two,” said that they were practically nonexistent.

“I first investigated this material way back at the end 1981 and you could discover all the paperwork related to the Beatles radio programs, what songs they covered, but finding the tapes, that was another matter.”

Howlett recently published a book to accompany the new album, “The Beatles: The BBC Archive” and stopped by the NewsHour to speak with chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown about his work.

On Wednesday’s broadcast of the PBS NewsHour, you can watch the full conversation, but for now, a sneak peak: below are some images from Howlett’s book along with quotes from the interview.



The Beatles performing for their 15 part series broadcast called “Pop Go The Beatles” in 1963. Photo courtesy of Getty Images


“This is very early days for The Beatles. It’s 1963; they haven’t broken internationally, but they’re gathering momentum in the UK. It’s their breakthrough year and they’re desperately trying to make it and they’ll do anything to appear on the BBC.”


In February 1964, The Beatles jumped in the ring with Mohammed Ali. Photo courtesy of Getty Images


“They’re really going for it. There’s no question of going back and doing it again.They have to get it right so you get that wonderful feeling of ‘This is it boys, lights on don’t make a mistake cause it
will go out on air like that.’”



The Beatles shake hands with the host of the Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. Photo courtesy RB/Staff


“They had a great influence on the way that British people got into American Rhythm and Blues and discovered Motown.”


In October 1965, The Beats pose with their MBE, or Members of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, medals. Photo by Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images


“The Beatles were absolutely vinyl fanatics.”


The Beatles performed for their “Top of the Pop” live appearance in June 1966. Photo by Redferns


“The BBC in those days had a monopoly on broadcasting … it was a very kind of formal institution and The Beatles really shook it up.”

Watch chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown’s conversation with Kevin Howlett..