The Beatles Top TV Moments: 9. ‘The Beatles Anthology’

The Beatles Anthology

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.

9. The Beatles Anthology

The band’s final song also debuts

ABC, November 19–23, 1995

The Big Picture

The Beatles’ big picture finally emerges in full.

Behind the Scenes

A documentary on the band had been in the works on and off since 1970. Originally, a 90-minute film titled The Long and Winding Road was completed, but with no involvement from the Beatles themselves, the movie was shelved. The idea was dusted off again in 1992 and took a different perspective, asking surviving members to tell the story of the group’s evolution in their own words. (Archival interviews were used for John Lennon, who had been murdered in 1980.)

The final result was a six-episode series shown on ABC over three nights right around Thanksgiving 1995. For everyone who grew up with the Beatles, it was a fascinating dive into the band’s history, going all the way back to their Liverpool childhoods, the early club days in Germany, the explosion of Beatlemania and their stratospheric dominance of pop music, up to the band’s breakup in 1970. Interviews were interspersed with concert and televised performances.

Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, John Lennon of The Beatles

Courtesy of Everett Collection

For TV viewers, Anthology was enormously ambitious—the first real attempt to tackle the entire Beatles story. Recollections were from best friends who, through all the turmoil, never lost their affection, and now shared a common ground of wonder and joy in the music.

A multimedia package followed, along with three albums’ worth of mostly never-before-released demos, outtakes and alternate versions. Most interestingly, a demo of a 1977 song by Lennon, “Free as a Bird,” was taken back into the studio and finished by the three surviving Beatles, with a video made as part of Anthology. The song, released in December 1995, went to No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 (the 34th Top 10 Beatles hit). Another episode featured the remaining Beatles completing a Lennon demo for his song “Real Love.” In 2000, an Anthology coffee-table book was published, with interviews and rare photos.

Today, Beatlemania remains a strong if more remote fever. Paul McCartney is 79 and Ringo Starr is 81. (George Harrison died in 2001.) For those of us who grew up in the 1960s, Anthology preserved all that wondrous screaming in amber; for those born later, it remains a unique musical specimen.

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We're sizing up the 10 greatest TV moments in the long and winding history of the lads from Liverpool.

Fun Fact

The Anthology 1 CD sold 450,000 copies on the first day of its release, the most sales ever of a single album on any one day.

Why It Ranks

For a band that had so dominated the 1960s, a later assessment was overdue. Nearly 30 years later, Anthology still captures the thrill of these lifetimes.

See It Today

On DVD

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