55 Years Ago: The Beatles Make Their Television Debut

The Beatles’ first television appearance wasn’t the band’s big break, a star-making performance or anything like that. But it did help them sell a few more records.

In the fall of 1962, the Liverpool quartet were just starting out. Ringo Starr had been in the band only a couple of months (having replaced Pete Best in August), and the group’s debut single, “Love Me Do,” had just been released in the U.K. on Oct. 5. When it didn’t hit the charts instantly, manager Brian Epstein cautioned patience among the Fab Four. In the meantime, he worked to gain more exposure for his young charges.

He had been delighted to build a relationship with Johnnie Hamp, a producer at Granada Television in nearby Manchester. In August, Hamp had filmed the group performing at the soon-to-be-legendary Cavern Club in Liverpool, but the rough footage was thought to be unsuitable for broadcast (that is, until 1963, as Beatlemania took root in Britain). “I first saw the Beatles in a club in Hamburg,” Hamp said years later. “They were very scruffy characters, but they had a beat in their music which I liked.”

After the grainy Cavern film was rejected for television, Hamp tried another avenue: The Beatles could come to Granada’s studios on Quay Street in Manchester and perform on the channel’s regular People and Places program. With a new single to promote, the band agreed to play the show. Even if Granada reached only the northern and northwestern portions of England, the lads thought this was “better than nothing.”

On Oct. 17, 1962, the Beatles sandwiched their first-ever TV appearance in between gigs at the Cavern Club. After their lunchtime show that Wednesday, they made the hour-long trip from Liverpool to Manchester, practiced a few times in the afternoon and then performed live on People and Places at 6:30PM. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr played “Love Me Do” as well as their driving cover of Richard Barrett’s “Some Other Guy.” Then, once the program ended, the Beatles drove back home to headline an evening concert at the Cavern.

The very same day, “Love Me Do” entered the U.K. singles chart at No. 49, just one spot back from one of their musical heroes, Little Richard (with “He Got What He Wanted”). Aided by constant performing, and future slots on People and Places – which changed its name to Scene at 6.30 in 1963 – the Beatles’ debut single became a hit, eventually rising to No. 17. Although Liverpool fans were thrilled to see their hometown heroes on the telly, some thought the band’s live energy didn’t quite carry over to TV.

“When they did Granada TV’s Scene at 6.30, as soon as they’d finished it, every single time, George [Harrison] would phone up my mum and say, ‘What was that like?’” recalled Harrison’s first girlfriend, Iris Caldwell. “And she’d say ‘Oh, it was all right, but none of you have got any personality. If you don’t smile, you’re not going to get anywhere.’ So the next time he said, ‘I smiled this time, was it all right?’ She said, ‘It was better, but you still need to smile more.’ She was giving them honest advice.”

Because the Beatles’ first televised appearance was a live performance, it wasn’t recorded, and the footage from that October day remains only in viewers’ memories. They would appear on their first national British broadcast a few months later, in January 1963.

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