On June 23, 1994, surviving Beatles Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr gathered at Harrison's house—better known as Friar Park in Henley-on-Thames, England—to shoot some extra footage for their new project, The Beatles Anthology.
In case you don't remember, Anthology was a hugely successful documentary TV series (now available on DVD), a three-volume set of double albums and a massive coffee-table book that focused on the long and winding road that was the Beatles' incredible career.
According to some sources, Paul, George and Ringo were originally supposed to perform the Beatles' "Let It Be" that day, and the resulting footage would've closed out the series. However, the late John Lennon's absence was apparently so overwhelming and upsetting that, after an unusually long discussion in George's garden, the three former Beatles decided to simply retire to George's home studio and run through a few old songs—tunes that dated back to the Beatles' earliest days as a band.
In the video above, you can watch Paul, George and Ringo—"It was just two acoustic guitars and me on brushes," Ringo confirmed—play bits of "Raunchy" (0:01), "Thinking of Linking" (1:41) and "Blue Moon of Kentucky" (2:27).
At 3:30, the action moves outside to the aforementioned garden, where Paul and George are playing a pair of George's ukuleles as Ringo looks on (they really should've given him some bongos). At this point, they play Jimmy Reed's "Baby, What You Want Me to Do" (3:30) and "Ain't She Sweet" (5:15), the old Tin Pan Alley standard.
"Raunchy" holds a special place in Beatles history. In 1958, a 14-year-old George performed the song—a guitar instrumental by Bill Justis—for John and Paul on the top deck of a bus; it apparently was so note-perfect that John decided to let him into his band, the Quarrymen, which became the Beatles, despite reservations about George's age.
McCartney wrote "Thinking of Linking" when he was about 16. "'Thinking of Linking' was terrible," he said in 1988. "I thought it up in the pictures; someone in a film mentioned it—'we're thinking of linking'—and I came out of there thinking, 'That should be a song. Thinking of linking, people are gonna get married, gotta write that!'"
The Beatles were familiar with Elvis Presley's 1954 version of "Blue Moon of Kentucky" (McCartney also performed it on MTV Unplugged in 1991), and—as any little schoolboy knows—the Beatles covered "Ain't She Sweet" (with Pete Best on drums) in 1961 and ran through it a few times in 1969 during the Let It Be sessions. Although no footage exists, the June 23 session also included run-throughs of "Love Me Do," "I Saw Her Standing There," "Roll Over Beethoven," "I Will" and "Dehra Dune," a song George recorded at Trident Studios back in 1969.
"It was just like a time-warp kind of thing," said producer Jeff Lynne. "We played some old rock-and-roll stuff, a couple of Chuck Berry [songs]—even 'I Saw Her Standing There'."
To see additional footage of McCartney, Harrison and Starr actually recording an official Beatles studio track in the mid-Nineties (with Lynne), watch the "Real Love" music video at the bottom of this story. "Real Love," which was released in 1996 as one of the highlights of Anthology 2, was one of two unfinished Lennon songs that McCartney, Harrison and Starr finished up with Lynne at the helm. The other one is "Free As a Bird," which was released on Anthology 1 (1995).
“It was tricky, but I think we’ve pulled it off,” Lynne said at the time.