AUDIO: Rare pre-Ed Sullivan radio interview.


It’s funny you know.  We get sent all kinds of links and stories sent to us nearly everyday.  I have to say that some of the stories are not so good, or are not really news worthy.  Other links sent to us still are pretty good.  It is really rare that we get a lik to a story that totally blows us away. One of our readers has sent us a link to an outstanding little audio interview that I have not heard anywhere else.

An Air Force broadcaster in 1964 named Hal Kelley did an interview with The Beatles10 days before they first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.

The American Airforces Network dug through their archives and were able to find an original, rarely heard Beatles’ interview.   We all are lucky enough that they sent us the link to their exclusive interview, and wanted to share it with all of you. 

We would like to thank them greatly for sending us this link.  It is rare these days that we get to hear some newly unearthed Beatle material.  Enjoy!  Special thanks to Keith Fenske of the American Forces Network Europe for sending us the link, and the story.  The story listed below is taken from the email he sent to me.

Here’s the story of how they were able to obtain the interview, which can be heard at the end of this post. 

It was 40 years ago, before the Beatles invaded theU.S.A., that Nashuan [N.H.] Harold Kelley’s radio interview preempted Ed Sullivan.

By JOHN COLLINS, The Broadcaster

NASHUA:
He remembers, yea, yea, yea! Harold B. Kelley walks and talks much slower than he once did. After all, he turned85 this on Dec. 12.

But if Kelley, a Nashua resident since 1990, should live tobe 185 there is one “fabulous” event he will never forget.It took place in a swank hotel in Paris on a late January afternoon, 40 years ago this week. That was when AirForce Master Sgt. Hal Kelley, stationed in Europe for more than 30 years as a radio correspondent with the Armed Forces Network, entered a suite of the George
V Hotel on the Champs Elyses toting a studio-quality “Nagra III” tape recorder. He was there to interview the Beatles.

“I had been following their progress by reading theHerald-Tribune, Paris edition,” says Kelley, his eyes sparkling behind large owl-glass lenses as he retells the tale of his (literally) 15 minutes of fame. “They hadn’t been to America yet. They had just come back from a Scandinavian tour. In fact, it was only 10 days before the Fab Four were to make their historical first “invasion” of the United States with an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in early February 1964.

“I scooped Ed Sullivan,” Kelley says. “I had called
their agent to ask for an interview. He told me, ‘Look, you can come over, but I think they’re going to pull your leg. You won’t get much from them.’ Well, they ended up surprising both the agent and me by being quite sincere.”

At this, Kelley offers to play back either a reel-to-reel or audiocassette copy of his four-decades old Sullivan scoop. Cassette it is.

The sound quality of the recording Kelley made of his conversation with Paul, John, George and Ringo as they rubbed sleep from their eyes the day after a late-night concert at Olympia Stadium in Paris, is astounding (as one listener remarks).

The interview, it turns out, has been heard previously only by the most hard-core Beatlemaniacs around the world, but it was almost never heard at all.

“Frankfurt, Germany, was the headquarters for our network,” Kelley explains: “Following the interview, I sent the tape by mail to our headquarters. It was received by a guy in charge of special events, Eddie Pennypecker was his name I think. He had never heard of the Beatles. So, he took the tape and just put it up on a shelf.”

Eight days went by and Hal Kelley’s Beatles tape had not yet aired.

“I called a friend of mine who was an AFN program director, and said, ‘You know, these guys are going to be on the Ed Sullivan Show in a few days. Don’t you want to use it?'”

AFN aired the Beatles interview the next night.

In the interview, in which Paul does most of the
talking, the group’s still innocent enthusiasm shines through. And knowing as all of us do now, about the once-in-a-humankind phenomenon that the Beatles would go on to become, starting with their Big Shew appearance 10 days later, Kelley’s introduction of the group is downright comical in hindsight.

“This afternoon, we’re visiting with four young men who, if I just mentioned their first names George, Paul, Ringo and John I doubt if you’d know about who we were speaking,” Harold Kelley began. “But if I said, ‘We are here this afternoon with The Beatles‘ and we were in England I think we’d get a great big rousing ‘Hurrah!’ Wouldn’t we boys?”

At this, two or three of the sleepy-tongued band
members laughed, replying together, “Yeah. Oh yeah.”

“Well, let’s see,” Kelley continued. “To my right
here, we have Paul McCartney. Paul, why don’t you tell us how the Beatles got going.”

Seated as he was, in fact, to Kelley’s right,
McCartney was the only one not shown in a photograph taken of the AFN interview by the Beatles‘ own publicist. The black and white shot was later featured in Ron Schaumburg’s coffee table tribute book, “Growing Up with the Beatles“, of which Kelley owns a copy.

McCartney answered Kelley’s how’d-you-get-started query with a rambling “really” filled answer. (Clearly, the young and perhaps old Paul McCartney‘s “really” favorite word.) Paul recalls how he, George and John began playing guitars together as young schoolmates.

Throughout the question and answer session, Kelley never wavers from a professional, hard news and by today’s standards especially very
conservative approach.

“Let me ask George Harrison… George, what is the status of rock ‘n roll in England? Is that what you call your music?”

Conversely, the Beatles responses seemed in keeping with their groundbreaking songwriting abilities and radical moptop hairstyles. That is, they exuded down-to-earth, breezy confidence and a joking method of handling such formal interviews that was well ahead of their time.

“No, not really,” Harrison responded to Kelley’s rock’n roll question. “We don’t like to call it anything, except the people who write about it have to call it something… So they decided to call it ‘The Liverpool Sound,’ which is stupid, really.”

(The following is an excerpt of Harold B. Kelley’s
January, 1964, AFN interview with the Beatles in Paris, France, edited down some, for length.)

HAROLD KELLEY: When anyone ever sees your pictures, the first thing that strikes them is, naturally, your hairdo. Eh?

PAUL: Or hair-don’t.

HK: (Laughs) Yes, or hair-don’t! You’ve been referred to as having the “sheepdog cut,” or perhaps an “early Caesar.” What do you call it and how come you cut it that way?

PAUL: Well, to us it just seems a natural thing,
really. Because … you know, (how) it all arose is we came out of the swimming baths one day and you know how it is your hair sort of flops about when you come out of the swimming baths. We never thought to comb it. So we never really called it anything. Until the papers got
ahold of it and they call it the “Beatles Style.”

HK: We’ve been told that there’s this Beatlemania
going on. How would you describe it? That all the
girls scream whenever they see you? And perhaps faint while waiting in line? Let’s perhaps be immodest a moment. Just what is the attraction?

(Group laughter)

JOHN: George’s dressing gown is definitely a big
attraction.

PAUL: No, I don’t know if any of us really know what it is. Um, we’ve been asked this question an awful lot of times. I think it’s a collection of many different things: Happening to be there at the right time at the right moment and (sings) with the wrong face!

(Laughter) No. But a bit of originality in the songs,
a bit of a different sound. Maybe the gimmick of the haircut, as well.

HK: You mentioned songs. Now I understand you boys write your own material?

PAUL: John and I write them.

HK: Well, how do you think of an idea? Do you get
together regularly or is it that an idea pops in your mind and you say, ‘Let’s sit down and do it?’

PAUL: If an idea does pop in your mind then you do sit down and say ‘Let’s do it.’ Yeah. Let’s say we’ve been told we’ve got a recording date in two days time. Then yeah, we’re gonna sit down and sort of slug it out. You normally get, first of all, just a little idea which doesn’t seem bad. Then it builds up from there.

HK: Paul, we’ve seen you here at the Olympia. Could you compare the French audience to what you’re familiar with back in England?

PAUL: Well, there’s a lot of difference. Because in
England, you see, the audiences are 75 percent female. Here, 75 percent male. And that’s the main difference, really, Because you’re still appreciated, but you don’t get the full noise and atmosphere.

GEORGE: No screams.

HK: No screams and fainting. So why is it 75 percent boys (in France)?

GEORGE: I think they just don’t let the girls out at night, is one of the
reasons.

JOHN: (To George) I think it’s your dressing gown.

At this point, Kelley noted that the Beatles latest
single “I wanna Hold Your Hand” was “No. 1 on the Hit Parade.” He introduced the song, pausing the interview in order to insert the song later during a playback on the network.

After the song, the interview wound down with Kelley quizzing the group about their exciting upcoming trip across the Pond.

“How were you selected for the Sullivan show?” Kelley wanted to know.

“We were arriving from Stockholm into London Airport at the same time that the Prime Minister and Queen Mother were flying out,” said George Harrison offering one story they heard. “The airport was just overrun with teenagers, you know, thousands of ’em waiting for us to get back. And Ed Sullivan was supposed to have arrived at that time and wondered what was going on. He found out it was us arriving.”

Hal Kelley interviewed several more celebrity
heavyweights and lightweights during his lengthy AFN tenure in Europe including, namely, John Wayne, Richard Burton and Audrey Hepburn.

But there is no question that his 1964 Beatles “scoop” gives him an immortal epitaph.

In wrapping up the interview, Kelley asked “the boys” whether they had to compose new songs for their first feature film.

“Actually, we’ve got to compose six songs specifically for the film,” answered Paul, sounding as if he relished the challenge. “So we’ve got to get down to that too. Another job.”

That “job,” as Beatles lovers know, yielded A Hard Day’s Night, a hit song that also became the title of the film.

“So you haven’t had much of a chance to see Paris, have you?” asked Kelley.

No, Paul and George responded at once.

Kelley followed up anyway, for some reason, with: “How about the French girls as compared to the British girls?”

“Well, we haven’t seen any yet,” said Ringo, drummer of few words.

“I’m married, so I didn’t notice ’em,” Lennon answered with a smile in his voice.

“French girls are fabulous,” said Paul, single at the
time.

“Well, perhaps when you get to The Ed Sullivan Show there will be more girls for you,” Hal Kelley said.

History quickly showed, of course that no truer
prediction was ever made.

And, with that, the 40-year-old Beatles interview then came to an end.

The Beatles were in their early 20s when the interview took place, Kelley (who never married) was 44. He has outlived two of his famous subjects.

“I wanna shake your hand,” a fellow radio veteran and admirer tells Hal Kelley before he shuffles carefully across Main Street in Nashua toward his parked car, clutching Beatles tape and photo under an arm. “I wanna shake your
hand.”

You can listen to the interview here.

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2 Responses

  1. Hi Matt,

    I was very pleased to discover this Internet repost by you, helping my former interview subject (and now friend) Hal Kelley, who lives here in Nashua, N.H., get a bit of the recognition he deserves for his scoop of a lifetime in interviewing The Beatles in January 1964.

    Hal is one of the nicest humblest and most engaging personalites I have had the pleasure to meet in the news business.

    I have begin posting my newspaper articles and photos from the past 10 years online, and the Hal Kelley/Beatles article was one of the very first that I chose, thinking it would hold the most appeal for readers.

    If you are so inclined please direct your site visitors to the Web page to see more up to date shots of Hal, who is now (as of Nov. 2007) a spry 89 years old.

    the url is:

    ttp://jcbroadcaster.googlepages.com/halkelleyintervwsthebeatles1964

    Keep up the nice work!

    Sincerely,
    John Collins
    Nashua, N.H.
    USA

  2. Just noticed that the web link to my Hal Kelley interviews The Beatles blog page is missing the “h” in “http…”

    If you add the “h” to that address, it will take you to the page. Sorry for not pasting it correctly the first time.

    -john collins

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