There's So Much More In TV Times Part 8: Put Your Shirt On The Beatles!

As everybody in the early sixties knew only too well, there was one group of celebrities whose star status eclipsed all others. Who inspired a 'mania' so huge and all-enveloping that it consigned their contemporaries to pop cultural historical footnote status. Whose vocalisations and distinctive appearance were emulated in playgrounds across the nation and eventually across the world. Whose artistic endeavours changed highbrow and lowbrow culture so fundamentally that their collective name became an actual word in its own right. And who were so popular and successful that they knocked Bruce Forsyth making something out of 'leftovers' into a cocked novelty oversized chef's hat.

But unfortunately for TV Times, The Daleks were on the BBC, and so they had to settle for giving relentless coverage to The Beatles instead. Here are just a few of their spurious attempts to pad out their pages with tenuous excuses for printing a photo of one or more of the Fab Four, to the delight of those who just couldn't get enough of John, 'Dinners', George and Ringo. Even if they had to wade through acres of features on the holiday plans of the cast of Ghost Squad: G.S.5 to get there...

Conveniently for magazine editors, the fact that there were four Beatles allowed them to spin any given feature out across a month's worth of issues, even if this resulted in each 'part' amounting to little more than two gigantic photos and three words. From the confusingly titled Hancock-evoking TV Times series 'Reada Beatla Week', here's the entry on 'Our' Ringo, in which the other three indulge in some trademark surreal dialogue about how he used to play the bins on the drums or something and take delivery of, quote, "a bottle of whisky and a crate of 'coke'". Note also the entirely coincidental and not at all stage-managed interruption from fellow Brian Epstein protege Billy J. Kramer. Anyway, join them again next week for another Fab Four profile and a special 'Beatle Bonus'. Hope it's Carnival Of Light!

Ringo Starr was lucky enough to have a name that lent itself punningly to pretty much every magazine feature imaginable. Here he is making an appearance in - boom boom - TV Times celebrity horoscope box-out 'Star Destiny', in which they correctly and uncannily deduce a dazzling array of facts that everybody on the entire surface of the planet already knew. Even their one attempt at predicting the future wouldn't impress anyone bar gullible buffoons; it was hardly a daring leap of faith to suggest that The Beatles might release a successful new album 'early' the following year. Meanwhile, not a single mention of The Concert For Bangladesh, Ognir Rrats or FROM THE EIGHTY FOURTH OF OCTEMBER, NO MORE AUTOGRAPHS.

Earlier on in their career, The Beatles were often to be found larking around with full-time comedians on television variety shows, and here TV Times' 'slice of life'-friendly 'lighter side of showbiz' reporter Dave Lanning paired them up with hot ITV stars (though they had to go to the BBC to become properly famous) Etic and Ern for a meeting of humorous minds that he presumably hoped would be dripping with rib-tickling comedy gold. Sadly it was nothing of the sort, though it's interesting to see Ernie Wise making an innocent gag that would doubtless turn him into the target of ferocious Twitter outrage if made today. Unless he said it when they went to Thames at the end, of course.

Essentially a Ready Steady Go! that you could take home to meet your parents, weekly family-friendly pop extravaganza Thank Your Lucky Stars was once one of ITV's biggest shows, and considered so pivotal and essential to the average beat combo's chances of pop success that its subsequent forgotten status is little short of bewildering. Certainly The Beatles continually fell over themselves in an apparent attempt to make as many appearances on it as possible. That, however, is an inexcusably flimsy pretext for this competition, in which lucky readers could win their very own Thank Your Lucky Stars t-shirt if they could think up a funny enough caption for this photo of a crazed teenage girl trying to grab the disembodied lower half of a 'Beatle Suit' while George attempts to make his escape by vaulting over a giant shortbread biscuit. Which, you can't help but notice, is even larger than the actual competition itself.

Occasionally, even TV Times would have to run a slightly more substantial feature on The Beatles, and on this occasion we get their long-serving press man Derek Taylor dishing the dirt on why John stole his trousers, explaining why they hate 'mayors', and finally revealing the real reason why Ringo collapsed just before a massive world tour. Probably got asked for too many autographs.

One of THE faces of Swinging London, by the mid-sixties Jane Asher had caused a sensation in The Masque Of Red Death and Alfie, become a major shareholder in Private Eye, and thoroughly immersed herself in the Capital's avant-garde art set, introducing her Beatle paramour to pop-artists, electronic musicians and classical ensembles that would have a profound effect on his songwriting and his band's recordings. To TV Times, however, she was simply 'Paul's Girl'. Not that we should really have expected anything better of them, mind...

As so often happened, the Great Beatle Debate soon spilled over into the TV Times letters page. Above you can see a staunch Beatlesceptic foaming at the mouth and demanding his Light Entertainment 'sovereignty' back, fundamentally misunderstanding the point that the 'Hit Parade' is compiled from statistics based on which records are selling in the largest quantities to the most people in the process. There's also some desperately unfunny satire at the expense of, apparently, electricity. It won't be doing THAT again! Next up is a bewildering pro-Beatle missive from someone who, it seems, was enjoying one of their performances so much that it made her keep knitting. And finally, one of those perplexing 'I'm funny, me!' efforts that you can still find in TV listings magazine letters pages to this day, from someone who assumes that combining reference comedy with a joke that nobody in the universe including them actually understands makes them into a comic genius. You will find absolutely none of that around here, of course. Not before The Grimleys is on, anyway.

And finally, here's a special Beatle Quiz, with twenty five fiendishly difficult questions to test your knowledge of the Fab Four. The answer to number seventeen is 'Warrien'.

Yeah, you can't fool us, Ian Butlin. That hottie with the suspiciously-angled pout won't actually BE at any of your holiday camps, will she? No matter how much your 'free coloured brochure' might try to suggest otherwise. And where in the name of sanity is Mosney? Anyway, join us again next time, when we'll be taking a look at some of the ways in which TV Times attempted to expand its readership by reaching out to our furry friends...

If you've enjoyed this, you can find more articles about sixties pop music and television in my book The Camberwick Green Procrastination Society, available in paperback here, from the Kindle Store here, and as a full-colour eBook here.