‘It was a joy’: Vintage Yoko Ono film helped Kevin Godley make Beatles video magic

Twenty years ago, director (and 10cc co-founder) Kevin Godley was approached about constructing a video for the reunited Beatles. The challenge was to craft something fresh from so many old things.

The song was “Real Love,” one of the leftover demos from the late John Lennon that the remaining Beatles had completed, with help from producer Jeff Lynne. Issued as part of a sweeping archival project titled Anthology, it represented both some of the first new music under the Beatles banner since 1970, but also the deepest dig ever attempted into their legend.

Godley had worked with Paul McCartney before, but never under these kind of circumstances. There was enormous pressure to adequately represent history — but within a modern context.

And yet Godley says: “It was a joy.” Turns out, classic images from Yoko Ono provided the creative impetus to accomplish both things.

“There was a film that Yoko Ono shot of John Lennon, way back in the mists of time,” Godley tells Vintage Rock, “at something like 5,000 frames per second — just of his face. She did a lot of interesting things. But I kind of alighted on this, and I thought: Why don’t I do one of each remaining member of the Beatles? So, we had each member of the Beatles doing the same thing — and that was kind of the spine of it, and the rest was the archive footage.”

Released on March 4, 1996, “Real Love” was earlier as part of the gala TV airing in 1995 of Anthology. The song went to No. 4 in the UK and reached No. 11 on the Billboard charts. It was also included on Anthology 2, which topped both charts.

“Essentially,” Godley says, “it was an editorial exercise, more than anything else, in that there was a lot of archive footage. That had just done that huge series, which was terrific. So, there was a lot of archive footage, but I wanted that to be a spine. I didn’t want it to be a documentary, cut down to three minutes.”

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