40 Years Ago: ‘Beatles Movie Medley’ Cashes in on Two Crazes
Capitol Records took advantage of a pair of very time-specific trends with "The Beatles Movie Medley": A surge in home-video viewing and the brief chart interest in compilation singles.
The Let It Be film had just been released on VHS, LaserDisc and Betamax, while A Hard Day's Night was returning to theaters. Bootlegs of Help! were becoming widespread. (Rights to the movie had recently reverted from United Artists to producer Walter Shenson, and it went out of print.) Home-video release of Yellow Submarine would be held up for years over music-rights disagreements, but the most persistent fans could still find old 1978 VHS and Betamax copies of Magical Mystery Tour in cutout bins.
Meanwhile, the "Stars on 45 Medley" rose to the top of the charts in the summer of 1981 with a Dutch John Lennon soundalike singing snippets of several Beatles songs. Medleys focusing on music from the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, Phil Spector, ABBA, the Hollies, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and others quickly followed, then perhaps inevitable parodies like "Stars Over 45" by Chas & Dave and "Polka on 45" by "Weird Al" Yankovic.
On one level, Capitol's cash grab worked: "The Beatles Movie Medley" soared to No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, after arriving on March 22, 1982, with excerpts from the songs "Magical Mystery Tour," "All You Need Is Love," "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," "I Should Have Known Better," "A Hard Day's Night," "Ticket to Ride" and "Get Back." But the label's British counterpart, Parlophone Records, initially refused to release the single – reportedly deeming it "tacky." Import copies began flooding the market, however, and they relented. "The Beatles Movie Medley" reached the Top 10 in the U.K., as well.
The Beatles themselves didn't appear to have any direct involvement in the single, which was stitched together by John Palladino. It wasn't the first time that the sound engineer, dubbed "Mr. Snips," did that kind of thing on Capitol's behalf. Palladino also cut down Wings' song "Band on the Run" for radio play without ever discussing it with Paul McCartney.
"The Beatles Movie Medley" arrived in conjunction with Reel Music, and the song's picture sleeve mimicked the admittedly cool album cover art. But the LP was ultimately just another completist-only Capitol compilation and went gold largely because it was the first to arrive after Lennon's murder, and also included a few rare mixes of very familiar songs.
Early promotional copies of the single included A Hard Day's Night-era interview with the Beatles, but that was quickly replaced with "I'm Happy Just to Dance With You." (The George Harrison-sung track appeared in the movie and album versions of A Hard Day's Night but not on Reel Music.)
"The Beatles Movie Medley" was the first of two '80s-era U.S. chart successes for the group, both related to films: "Twist and Shout" reached No. 23 in 1986 after its inclusion in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. But the medley was deleted two years later and never reappeared on compact disc, vinyl, download or streaming platforms.
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