Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 21, 2008)
During his nine-year run as the host of NBCís Tomorrow Show, Tom Snyder featured a good variety of musical acts. He showcased a lot of then-new artists but also featured some established legends as well, a list that included three of the four Beatles. Those programs become the focus of John, Paul, Tom and Ringo, a compilation of three separate Tomorrow Show broadcasts.
On DVD One, we get a one-hour, six-minute and seven-second John Lennon Tribute. Aired on December 9, 1980 Ė the day after Lennonís assassination Ė this one incorporates Snyderís April 25, 1975 Lennon interview with then-new comments from journalist Lisa Robinson and music producer Jack Douglas. (Immigration attorney Leon Wildes also appears briefly during Lennonís session.)
The 1975 interview fills about 42 minutes. During the Lennon chat, John talks a bit about the impact of the Beatles and some of those experiences. He also goes into his then-current status, his opinions of the eraís music, various controversies,
Nothing in the Lennon interview proves revelatory, but it becomes a pleasant and enjoyable chat Ė if you can get past the continued nagging ache that goes with Johnís premature demise. I can watch Lennon through about 1973 or 1974 and not get that pang, but anything from 1975 hits too close to home; interviews like this essentially represent some of our final images of John, so they can be painful to see.
Anyway, this doesnít turn into an especially dynamic or informative interview, but it still is interesting to see. After the break-up of the Beatles, Lennon crapped all over the past at any opportunity, but by April 1975, he had mellowed quite a bit. The program depicts a more gentle, magnanimous John. He offers positive comments about his fellow Beatles and looks back on that era with fondness.
And thatís nice. Sure, I suppose itís more provocative to hear sniping and nastiness, but itís tough to take when it comes to beloved figures like these. No, we donít need to be stuck in the Help! fantasy that all four Beatles lived together in a mod rowhouse, but we at least donít want to watch them attack each other. Should we care if John and Paul liked each other? Probably not, but we do, so when they went after each other in the early Seventies, the fans felt the pain.
That makes it pleasant to hear John at peace with himself. I know that when he lashed out in earlier interviews, a lot of that came from his inner demons. Itís good to see John in a more subdued, positive place, especially since this represents one of our final images of him.
As for the other segments, Robinson talks about her interactions with Lennon and what his life had been like over the prior five years. Douglas discusses his work with Lennon and what John had indicated he wanted to do in the 1980s. Both of these interviews are useful as historical elements, and they provide useful perspectives.
But boy, are they painful to watch. The interviews took place less than 24 hours after Johnís demise, and if you were aware of the situation on December 9, 1980, these clips will take you right back to that miserable day. Douglas looks like heís about to break down at any moment. Most of us donít really want to have such an immediate reminder of the experience. Donít take that as a criticism of anything involved, as I do think itís valuable to have this material. Just donít expect me to watch them again anytime soon.
Two more programs appear on DVD Two. A December 20, 1979 Paul McCartney Interview runs 45 minutes and nine seconds. In addition to McCartney, we get some comments from Wings members Linda McCartney, Denny Laine and Laurence Juber. Shot via satellite from London prior to a concert, Paul and Linda appear together, while the others pop up later and we get all four at the same time. (I have no idea why drummer Steve Holly doesnít come along as well.)
With Paul and Linda, they chat about some concert logistics, especially in light of the deaths at a Who concert that took place immediately before this interview. They also chat about the genesis of Wings and aspects of the band, their family life and their relationship, and some reflections on world affairs. When Laine and Juber show up, they talk a little about their work in the band and some musical areas.
I consider this program to be a disappointment. I looked forward to it, as we donít often see much of this era of Wings, but very little useful information comes up here. Actually, I canít think of anything genuinely interesting that occurs here. Snyder asks quite a few moronic questions that border on being patronizing. Paul remains remarkably patient through the interview, and he even tries to keep the conversation going when Snyder doesnít seem to know how to follow up on his questions. Itís a frustrating experience to watch McCartney do his best to create a good conversation but see it sabotaged by a bad interviewer.
Well, at least fans will like the opportunity to see the music video for Wingsí ďSpin It OnĒ. That oneís not on The McCartney Years, so itís nice to find it here. Itís a simple lip-synch performance clip with some silly spinning, so donít expect much, but Iím still glad to see it.
ďThose were the daysĒ footnote: the marquee at the Rainbow in London reveals upcoming shows from Dire Straits, Wings, the Jam, Queen and the Police! Wow Ė thatís a heck of a roster of bands, all appearing in a short time frame.
Finally, we find a November 25, 1981 Ringo Starr Interview that lasts 48 minutes, 24 seconds. Ringoís wife Barbara Bach appears as well, and Snyder also spends time with actress Angie Dickinson. The Starr segment ends at around the 25-minute mark.
Ringo chats about being 40, his then-current album and movie, some aspects of his life, career and personality, his last visit with Lennon, and meeting Bach. When Bach joins in around 19:30, they discusses their relationship and family, and what they planned for the future. We also see part of a music video for ďWrack My BrainĒ.
The final 23 minutes of the program involve Dickinson. I watched this chat, though Iím not sure why. Thatís not a slam on Dickinson, as she is a reasonably chatty and engaging guest. Itís just that I couldnít care less about her then-upcoming TV series or other aspects of her life. Matters become a little more intriguing when Snyder gets into her relationship with JFK, but nothing terribly juicy appears.
As for the Ringo interview, itís better than the frustrating chat with McCartney but not as interesting as the Lennon piece. This time the flaws lay more with the guest than with the host. Snyder gets into some fairly productive areas, but Ringo doesnít look very happy to be there. He comes across as a bit prickly and not very willing to indulge in an insightful chat. Iíve heard that Starr doesnít like to discuss his Beatles days, but here he doesnít seem eager to gab about anything. Ringo occasionally shows a modicum of charm, but the sessions remains off-putting.