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Lost Footage of One of the Beatles’ Last Live Performances Found in Attic

A man filmed the missing 1966 ‘Top of the Pops’ appearance from his TV set

The 92-second clip that shows the Fab Four playing their song “Paperback Writer.” (BBC and Kaleidoscope)
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More than 50 years after the beginning of Beatlemania, it seems that every recorded moment the Beatles spent together between forming in 1960 and dissolving in 1970 has been archived, restored, remastered and remastered again. But one long-lost Beatles performance recently resurfaced: a 92-second clip that shows the Fab Four playing their song “Paperback Writer” on a 1966 episode of the British TV program “Top of the Pops.”

The Press Association reports that the Beatles’ appearance on the show was believed to be lost to history, since back in the 1960s, the BBC was not as fastidious about recording and archiving its programs. But in the days before on-demand streaming or even VCR recording, music enthusiast David Chandler used his 8-millimeter wind-up camera to record the Beatles’ June 16, 1966 “Top of the Pops” appearance. Chandler gave the film to the television archive organization Kaleidoscope, which is trying to track down lost bits of the U.K.’s broadcast history.

Gianluca Mezzofiore at CNN reports that the film reel had sat in Chandler’s attic for more than 50 years until news broke this spring that a collector in Mexico had found an 11-second clip of the performance.

That find was considered significant: it’s the band’s only live “Top of the Pops” appearance (the show aired pre-recorded songs in previous years). The clip also captured the Beatles as their time on a tour bus came to a close. Later that summer, the Fab Four played their last commercial gig ever at Candlestick Park in San Francisco before becoming a studio band. (They did, however, play a final surprise show on a London rooftop in 1969.)

“[I]f you’re a Beatles fans, it’s the holy grail,” Kaleidoscope C.E.O. Chris Perry told the BBC’s Colin Paterson after the 11-second find. “People thought it was gone forever.”

He’s even more stunned by the longer clip. “Kaleidoscope thought finding 11 seconds of ‘Paperback Writer’ was incredible, but to then be donated 92 seconds—and nine minutes of other 1966 Top of the Pops footage was phenomenal,” he says in a statement.

The raw film Chandler captured is silent. That’s why Kaleidoscope worked to remaster the film, enhance the footage and sync it with audio of the song. The restored clip will debut at Birmingham City University on Saturday during a day-long event celebrating its discovery.

A little over a year ago, Kaleidoscope officially launched a hunt to find the U.K.’s top 100 missing television shows, surveying 1,000 television professionals, academics, journalists and TV nerds to determine what shows they’d most like to see recovered. At the top of the list were lost episodes of “Doctor Who,” while missing performances from “Top of the Pops,” which aired from 1964 until 2006, came in as the second most wanted. So far, the BBC reports, Kaleidoscope has recovered at least 240 musical performances, including Elton John singing “Rocket Man” on “Top of the Pops” in 1972.

“These lost episodes really can end up in the most unusual of places and people might not even know they have them,” Perry said in a statement released when the Kaleidoscope hunt for lost-to-history shows began. In this case, it’s probably best to ignore the Beatles’ advice: If you have vintage film stored somewhere in your attic, don’t let it be.

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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