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13 November 2014

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You are in: Wiltshire > History > Rock 'n' Roll Wiltshire > The Beatles on Salisbury Plain

The Beatles on Salisbury Plain

Read the story of when The Beatles came to Wiltshire to film scenes from their second film Help! on Salisbury Plain in 1965.

Beatles Help!

The Beatles on the Help! album cover

By May 1965, The Beatles truly ruled the world. Topping the charts for the seventh consecutive time with 'Ticket To Ride', America well and truly conquered and massive success for their first film A Hard Days Night, the year before. 

This had been little more than a fun fictional account of the adventures of four lads in a pop group, shot at a few London and provincial locations and filmed in black and white, for a budget of around £200,000. 

But now their second film, Help! (provisional working title Eight Arms To Hold You) was to be a much grander affair.  Double the budget, in colour, with filming at such exotic locations as the beaches of Nassau, the ski slopes of Austria and... Salisbury Plain. 

The simple storyline revolved around Ringo Starr and one of his many rings. Unbeknownst to him, it was a mystical 'sacred' ring from the Far East, which its real owners wanted back. 

Cue the movie with Ringo being pursued all over the place by the ring-chasers, with all sorts of madcap stunts surrounding their efforts to retrieve the ring from his finger. And that was about it!

In the movie, The Beatles need to do some more recordings. However, Ringo isn't safe anywhere, so they decide to make their next record in a place of absolute military security . Where else? Salisbury Plain!

So, late in the evening of Sunday 2nd May 1965, The Beatles checked into the Antrobus Arms Hotel in Amesbury, their home for the next three days whilst on location.

Ringo and George filming 'Help!' on Salisbury Plain

Ringo and George filming Help! on Salisbury Plain

The filming took place at Knighton Down, near the Larkhill army base, where the Beatles were to be shown recording their latest song. 

In fact, the Salisbury sequence in the film sees them miming to the George Harrison song 'I Need You', which of course, he took the lead vocals for. Ironically for George, this  was never a Beatles single, only appearing on the movie soundtrack album.

The lads were ferried from the Antrobus Hotel to Larkhill each day, in a black Austin Princess limousine, with their departures and arrivals attracting huge crowds of teenagers, blocking the street through Amesbury.

Amazingly, the limo was left unlocked in the hotel garage during the day and the Salisbury Journal reported that fans looted it of Beatle caps, various items of Beatle clothing and even emptied the ashtrays for Beatle dog-ends! 

The Journal also said the group were besieged, mostly by girls and had to endure some pretty dismal Salisbury Plain weather, despite it being late Spring.

The army 'security' for the film storyline, came via troops from 3 Division, Royal Artillery who were on exercises there at the time.

The army even kindly supplied tanks for the Fab Four to climb over and have scouting around whilst they made their recording!  It's hard to imagine that happening today, but back then The Beatles had all doors opened for them, such was their celebrity.

On the afternoon of Thursday 6th May, with the location filming completed, The Beatles checked out of their Amesbury hotel, heading back to London.

Next day they were back in a proper film studio at Twickenham, as the making of Help! continued.

The movie had its world-premiere on 29th July 1965 at the London Pavilion, in the presence of Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon, and with the title song already sitting at number one in the UK singles chart. 

It opened at 250 leading cinemas across the country on August 11th and went on to win first prize at the International Film Festival in Rio de Janeiro that September.

There was talk of a third film, but sadly, this didn't happen. The filming of the making of the album Let It Be in 1969 being a fly-on-the-wall documentary, not  a proper scripted movie.

The Beatles never returned to Salisbury, but they left behind a multitude of memories for those who either saw, met or even worked with them, during those three days in May, 1965.

But one thing’s for sure; that bit of Salisbury Plain was certainly immortalised for all time, by the biggest musical phenomenon the world has ever seen.

last updated: 09/03/2009 at 14:04
created: 09/03/2009

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