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Filming the Beatles American Invasion

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Albert Maysles Albert Maysles | 14:10 UK time, Wednesday, 2 September 2009

In February 1964 I got a call from Granada Television saying that The Beatles were arriving at Idlewild airport in New York in two hours, and would I like to make a film of them.

Watch Albert talk about the Beatles' arrival in the US.

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I put my hand over the phone and turned to my brother David and said, "Who are the Beatles? Are they any good?" Fortunately he knew and with a big smile on his face, the two of us got on the phone, made the deal and rushed out to the airport in time to see the plane coming down. Soon we were filming them in a limousine and then upon their arrival at the Plaza Hotel.

Watch Albert talk about filming in the Plaza Hotel.

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The next seven days we were with them day and night. When they went into the TV studio to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show, we knew that we wouldn't be able to film because of union technicalities so instead we walked down the street, went into the first tenement we saw and as we walked through the corridor, we heard Beatles music coming from one of the apartments. We knocked on the door and the mother let us in. We filmed the whole family watching the Beatles on television.

Watch Albert talk about the Beatles' photo op in Central Park.

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Watch Albert talk about the Beatles' night at the Peppermint Lounge.

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But that's not the end of it. When John Lennon and Yoko moved into the Dakota building, we were already there, so we got together a number of times. There was a time when John and Yoko thought we should do some more filming, perhaps go to the pyramids of Egypt where they would bury themselves in the sand with only their heads protruding and we would film them. I was in Paris at the time but my family was home and heard the shots that killed John.

So many coincidences... In 1965, before John had met Yoko, I filmed her doing one of her happenings called Cut Piece, and more recently her 70th and 75th birthday parties. As the Beatles film was the early bookend to the 1960s (1964), my film Gimme Shelter is the bookend to its close (1969).

Related Links
Maysles Films - official site
The Beatles - official site

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