On this day Paul McCartney flew to France on a plane-ferry from Lydd airport in Kent, England.
The intention was to take a driving holiday. In order to escape the attention of The Beatles’ fans, McCartney wore a disguise, although his brand new dark green Aston Marton DB5 was enough to attract the attention of even the least observant bystander.
I was pretty proud of the car. It was a great motor for a young guy to have, pretty impressive.
McCartney donned his disguise after passing through French customs. Wig Creations, the film cosmetic company used by The Beatles on A Hard Day’s Night, had made him a moustache to wear.
They measure you and match the colour of your hair, so it was like a genuine moustache with real glue. And I had a couple of pairs of glasses made with clear lenses, which just made me look a bit different. I put a long blue overcoat on and slicked my hair back with Vaseline and just wandered around and of course nobody recognised me at all. It was good, it was quite liberating for me.
McCartney planned to drive to Paris before heading south to Bordeaux, where he had arranged to meet Mal Evans under the clock on the Saint-Eloi church on 12 November 1966. They then intended to follow the Loire river from Orleans.
It was an echo of the trip John and I made to Paris for his twenty-first birthday, really. I’d cruise, find a hotel and park. I parked away from the hotel and walked to the hotel. I would sit up in my room and write my journal, or take a little bit of movie film. I’d walk around the town and then in the evening go down to dinner, sit on my own at the table, at the height of all this Beatle thing, to ease the pressure, to balance the high-key pressure. Having a holiday and also not be recognised. And re-taste anonymity. Just sit on my own and think all sorts of artistic thoughts like, I’m on my own here, I could be writing a novel, easily. What about these characters here in this room?
McCartney’s journal was later lost, as was his film of his trip. Some of the reels were stolen by fans who broke into his home on Cavendish Avenue, London.
Kodak 8 mm was the one, because it came on a reel. Once it became Super-8 on a cartridge you couldn’t do anything with it, you couldn’t control it. I liked to reverse things. I liked to reverse music and I found that you could send a film through the camera backwards. Those very early cameras were great.
If you take a film and run it through a camera once, then you rewind it and run it through again, you get two images, superimposed. But they’re very washed out, so I developed this technique where I ran it through once at night and only photographed points of light, like very bright reds, and that would be all that would be on the first pass of the film. It would be like on black velvet, red, very red. I used to do it in my car so it was car headlights and neon signs, the green of a go sign, the red of a stop, the amber
The next day, when it was daylight, I would go and shoot and I had this film that was a combination of these little points of light that were on a ‘black velvet’ background and daylight. My favourite was a sequence of a leaning cross in a cemetery. I turned my head and zoomed in on it, so it opened just with a cross, bingo, then as I zoomed back out, you could see the horizon was tilted at a crazy angle. And as I did it, I straightened up. That was the opening shot, then I cut to an old lady, facing away from me, tending the graves. A fat old French peasant who had stockings halfway down her legs and was revealing a lot of her knickers, turning away, so it was a bit funny or a bit gross maybe. She was just tending a grave so, I mean, I didn’t need to judge it. I just filmed it. So the beautiful thing that happened was from the previous night’s filming. There she is tending a grave and you just see a point of red light appear in between her legs and it just drifts very slowly like a little fart, or a little spirit or something, in the graves. And then these other lights just start to trickle around, and it’s like Disney, it’s like animation!
One thing I’d learned was that the best thing was to hold one shot. I was a fan of the Andy Warhol idea, not so much of his films but I liked the cheekiness of Empire, the film of the Empire State Building, I liked the nothingness of it. So I would do a bit of that.
There were some sequences I loved: there was a Ferris wheel going round, but you couldn’t quite tell what it was. And I was looking out of the hotel window in one French city and there was a gendarme on traffic duty. There was lot of traffic coming this way, then he’d stop ’em, and let them all go. So the action for ten minutes was a gendarme directing the traffic: lots of gestures and getting annoyed. He was a great character, this guy. I ran it all back and filmed all the cars again, it had been raining so there was quite low light in the street. So in the film he was stopping cars but they were just going through his body like ghosts. It was quite funny. Later, as the soundtrack I had Albert Ayler playing the ‘Marseillaise’. It was a great little movie but I don’t know what happened to it.
Also on this day...
- 2015: The Beatles’ 1 collection is reissued with remixed audio and restored video
- 1990: US album release: Tripping The Live Fantastic by Paul McCartney
- 1969: Recording: Stormy Weather by Ringo Starr
- 1967: Mixing, editing: Hello, Goodbye, I Am The Walrus, Your Mother Should Know, Magical Mystery Tour
- 1966: John Lennon returns to England from Spain
- 1966: The Beatles turn down a benefit request for victims of the Aberfan disaster
- 1965: Recording: I’m Looking Through You
- 1964: Live: Gaumont Cinema, Southampton
- 1964: UK EP release: Extracts From The Album A Hard Day’s Night
- 1963: Live: ABC Cinema, Northampton
- 1962: Live: Star-Club, Hamburg
- 1960: Live: Kaiserkeller, Hamburg
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.