The Long and Winding Road (found workprint of unfinished Beatles documentary; 1970s)

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Tmoq.jpg

The cover of the TMOQ Gazette #19 bootleg DVD. Which contains a poor quality videotape transfer of the workprint.

Status: Found

Date found: 2015

Found by: TMOQ Gazette

The Long and Winding Road was the title of a proposed documentary by a long-time insider of the British group The Beatles, Neil Aspinall. The original concept was a documentary that was to be the first official account of the band's career, told from the perspective of the group via use of interviews and archival footage.

Background[edit | edit source]

During The Beatles' Career (1968 - 1970)[edit | edit source]

The project's beginnings date back to 1968, when the head of Apple Films (the film subsidiary of The Beatles' own company Apple Corps), Denis O'Dell began contacting television stations, film and newsreel companies for footage of the band. That same year, the group had authorized writer Hunter Davis to write the group's official biography. The band themselves (reportedly not happy with the final book), would release their own version as a proposed documentary from The Beatles themselves.

Work on the film continued into 1970. In February, The New York Times reported that their upcoming film Let It Be was the biographical documentary titled The Long and Winding Road. At this time, Apple Corps Manager Neil Aspinall was in charge of the film. Working with researcher Nell Burley, Aspinall continued work on the film during 1970, eventually producing a rough workprint.

After The Beatles' Break-up (1970 - 1990's)[edit | edit source]

A scene from The Long and Winding Road work-print where split-screen effects are used to illustrate Beatlemania.

On April 10th, 1970, Paul McCartney officially announced to the press that he was leaving the group. This, however, did not stop any further work on The Long and Winding Road film. Shortly after McCartney's announcement, Apple continued to promote the film. Now stating that the documentary would be shown in the split screen format, much like the recently successful Woodstock movie, Apple said the film would be in cinemas by Christmas 1970.

The October 1970 issue of Beatles Book Monthly (the group's official fan magazine), would also report that Aspinall was close to completing the film and still cited a Christmas release date. However, the film did not make the Christmas season release as it would be tangled up in the group's legal battles in late 1970. During which, McCartney had stated in court that he would have no further involvement with the project. Aspinall had no choice but to shelf the project until the band's legal issues were resolved.

In 1972, Apple Corps announced that production on the film had resumed and it was now titled: Ten Years in the Life of the Beatles. The film's production would continue throughout the 1970s. During John Lennon's appearance on the Today Show (December 16, 1974), he mentioned the film was still in production.

The late 1970s saw The Beatles enjoy a resurgence of popularity. Due to the group's original record contract expiring. EMI and Capitol were free to release new compilation albums. One of these included their first official live album of their 1964/1965 Hollywood Bowl performances.

The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978)[edit | edit source]

Amongst this new wave of Beatlemania, Monty Python's Flying Circus member Eric Idle was approached by Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels to produce a TV special based on a parody of The Beatles featured on Ide's own show Rutland Weekend Television. The special would be titled The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (a play on The Beatles song "All You Need Is Love"). Beatle George Harrison was a close friend of Idle's. He even guest starred in an episode of Rutland Weekend Television where he played himself wanting to be a pirate instead of a pop singer. Harrison lent a videotape copy of Aspinall's workprint of the documentary to Idle for research.

The Rutles film included scenes that parodied Beatles footage that was not available to the public in the 1970s. One scene was identical to Dezo Hoffman's 8mm movies of the group from 1963, and the general public would not see the Beatles version of this footage until 1980. All You Need Is Cash was screened on NBC and BBC 2 in March 1978 and has since become a cult classic among Beatles and Monty Python fans.

A scene from The Long and Winding Road work-print. Spilled screen footage of The Beatles with the Maharishi Yogi at Bangor Station mixed with the Our World performance of "All You Need Is Love".

The Beatlemaina law-suite and other legal issues (1980's - 1990's)[edit | edit source]

Also banking on the Beatle's popularity, a Broadway musical called “Beatlemania” which opened in May 1976. The Beatles did not approve of the performance and on November 28, 1980, John Lennon wrote a legal statement using the unreleased documentary as a reason for the production to cease. His statement read:5

“I and the other three former Beatles have plans to stage a reunion concert, an event to be filmed and included as the finale to “The Long and Winding Road,” the official Beatles produced a documentary that is to be released in the mid-1980s.”

Sadly, ten days after writing his statement, John Lennon was murdered, putting a tragically unexpected end to any chance of a reunion of the four Beatles. His statement was read in court on June 7th, 1986, the producers of “Beatlemania” had to pay Apple $10.5 million for using the Beatles’ songs and likeness during that period.

According to Yoko Ono, the reunion concert would have happened in England:

"Just days before his brutal death, John was making plans to go to England for a triumphant Beatles reunion. His greatest dream was to recreate the musical magic of the early years with Paul, George, and Ringo … (he) felt that they had travelled different paths for long enough. He felt they had grown up and were mature enough to try writing and recording new songs." - Yoko Ono

Lennon's death brought put plans of the release of the film on hold indefinitely. It wasn't until 1992 after years of legal issues between the surviving members and their record company EMI when the Long and Winding Road project was rebooted from starch as The Beatles Anthology TV series.

Discovery of Neil Aspinall's Work Print and TMOQ Gazette[edit | edit source]

For decades, fans of The Beatles had longed to see any video footage from The Long and Winding Road project. In 2015, the bootleg label HMC released what appeared to be a workprint of Neil Aspinall's documentary on DVD. The DVD was Volume 19 of their TMOQ Gazette series.

This version of the film was compiled of existing archival footage with no new interviews, no narration, but the optical spilled screen effects mentioned in interviews. The structure of the Aspinall workprint is very similar to Patrick Montgomery's 1982 PBS documentary The Compleat Beatles, but without the retrospective interviews or external narration. Unlike the The Beatles Anthology TV series, the workprint features no retrospective interviews with any member of The Beatles or their inner circle (Neil Aspinal, producer George Martin, publicist Derick Taylor). All footage is contemporary to the period that The Beatles were a recording group (it begins in 1962 and ends in 1969).

The archival footage is not remastered or restored since the restoration technology to do so did not exist in the 1970s. However, the rough quality of the footage may also be due to it being a workprint and just a guide for the final edit. There is no opening or closing credits or titles, instead, the workprint uses the opening of the Yellow Submarine (1968) movie and the closing credits of The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour (1967) film as placeholders. The workprint presented on the DVD appeared to be sourced from a low-resolution videotape dub.

To date, the original source of the leak is a mystery.

The Long and Winding Road workprint (circa 1970s) (Internet Archive)


Screenshots from the Work Print[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]