The Beatles Top TV Moments: 1. Royal Variety Performance

The Beatles
Courtesy of Everett Collection

Hey there, The Beatles fans! Join us in our 10-day countdown to the premiere of The Beatles: Get Back on Disney+, sizing up the 10 greatest TV moments in the long and winding history of the lads from Liverpool.

This is an excerpt from TV Guide Magazine’s The Beatles on TV Special Collector’s Edition, available for order online now at BeatlesonTV.com and for purchase on newsstands nationwide.

1. Royal Variety Performance

Prince of Wales Theatre, London, Nov. 4, 1963

Broadcast in the U.K. on ITV, Nov. 10, 1963

The Big Picture

The Beatles enter the British mainstream by rocking—and not rattling—the royals.

Behind the Scenes

By late 1963, Beatlemania had captivated the young British faithful thanks to a string of hits from the band’s debut album, Please Please Me. Their concerts were drowned out by screaming fans, but to the general public they were, potentially, still a fad four. A golden opportunity came when John, Paul, George and Ringo were invited to perform at the annual fundraiser for the Royal Variety Charity, a show always attended by members of the royal family and seen as the biggest night in British show business. Also on the slate that evening: Marlene Dietrich, Burt Bacharach and a slew of elite names—the Beatles were the seventh act out of 19 on the program.

They didn’t waste the opportunity, opening their riveting set with “From Me to You” and segueing from “She Loves You” to an older crowd-pleasing cover, “Till There Was You,” from their second album, With the Beatles. The audience—including the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret—quickly got behind them, dropping their usual formality to clap and cheer.

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But history would recall the evening for the cheeky moment to come. The mop tops may have been dressed in natty suits, but they’d only recently emerged from playing the cellars of Hamburg, Germany, and Liverpool’s famed Cavern Club. They had something the other acts didn’t: rock ’n’ roll attitude. And John Lennon proved that, strolling up to his mic and announcing, “For our last number, I’d like to ask your help. The people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands. And the rest of you, if you’d just rattle your jewelry.” For a moment, there was silence; then laughter rolled in. “We’d like to sing a song called ‘Twist and Shout,’” he added. With John screaming the lyrics, Princess Margaret clapping and leaning toward the stage and the crowd fully won over, it was clear the lads had struck the perfect note.

Fun Fact

The Beatles bowed for the Queen Mother in a receiving line after the show, and she was reported to have raved later, “It’s one of the best shows I’ve seen.” When the performance was broadcast on ITV on November 10, some 21 million viewers tuned in, making it the most watched show ever on the channel up to that time.

Why It Ranks

Using charm, mischief, good chops and great songs, the band earned national praise—and the royal seal of approval.

See It Today

The Beatles: Get Back, Documentary Premiere, November 25–27, Disney+