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45 Years Ago: John Lennon and Paul McCartney Appear on ‘The Tonight Show’

The Beatles
Stroud, Express, Getty Images

After their February 1968 trip to Rishikesh, India failed to provide the spiritual enlightenment they sought, the Beatles turned in the opposite direction, towards business matters. A few months later, the company they decided to form in the wake of manager Brian Epstein’s death was ready to launch. In mid-May, John Lennon and Paul McCartney flew to New York to promote Apple Corps.

Their final stop took place on May 14, 1968 on NBC’s ‘Tonight Show.’ The program that night wasn’t hosted by Johnny Carson, but by former baseball great Joe Garagiola (in the ‘Anthology’ documentary, future Apple head Neil Aspinall mistakenly says it was Joe DiMaggio). Actress Tallulah Bankhead was the other guest.

Sadly, NBC, for some reason, decided to erase the videotape of their appearance at some point, so there is no complete document of the show. However, a fan recorded the audio on a home tape recorder, which has been transcribed at the Beatles Interviews Database.

The first segment consisted of typically Beatlesque banter between the guests and host. But in the second, Garagiola asked the duo about Apple, and Lennon outlined the group’s bold plans for the new corporation.

“So, we’ve got this thing called ‘Apple’ which is going to be records, films, and electronics– which all tie-up,” he said. “And to make a sort of an umbrella so people who want to make films about… grass… don’t have to go on their knees in an office, you know, begging for a break. We’ll try and do it like that. That’s the idea. I mean, we’ll find out what happens, but that’s what we’re trying to do.”

After another commercial break, John and Paul spoke about their break from the Maharishi, and Garagiola asked about how their audience has changed over the years. After Lennon said that they had changed along with their audience, McCartney expounded further.

“When we first started we had leather jackets on, you know,” he said. “Little caps and big cowboy boots. But then we changed to suits, you know…And we lost a whole lot of fans. They all said, ‘You’ve gone ponched.’ They didn’t like it, you know, because we were all clean.” So we lost that crowd, but we gained all the ones that liked suits. It happens like that. That’s what keeps happening. And we lost a lot of people with ‘Sgt. Pepper,’ but I think we gained more.”

Shortly after returning to England, John and Paul began the turbulent sessions that resulted in the ‘The Beatles,’ better known as ‘The White Album.’

Next: Top 10 Underrated Beatles Songs, 1966-70

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