Hilly Rose Interviews The Beatles
KCBS Radio, San Francisco
August 19, 1964
ABOVE: THE ORIGINAL BEATLES INTERVIEW TAPE BOX (DETAIL)
A backstage interview conducted by Hilly Rose with Paul McCartney and George Harrison of The Beatles, notable for the considerably thoughtful and mature line of questioning — especially in light of the timbre of other contemporary interviews of the band by mainstream reporters.
The location of the interview was not noted (Mr. Rose, at the time a reporter and program host with KCBS, closes the interview with “This is Hilly Rose, CBS News, San Francisco”), but if the date on the tape label — as shown in the above photograph — is the true recording date, The Beatles were actually appearing in concert in Houston, Texas, on August 19, 1965; they would not arrive to play in San Francisco until August 31.
(Other errors are obvious on the box, with both “Hilly” and “Beatles” being misspelled, and the typist displaying uncertainty about who the specific subjects of the interview were.)
Clearly, the actual date of this recording may have been a year earlier — Wednesday, August 19, 1964 (or maybe even the 18th) — owing to several clues: that year, the group had arrived in the Bay Area on August 18, greeted by 9,000 feverish fans at San Francisco International Airport, followed by a raucous press conference there (photo, right). On the 19th, they were ensconced downtown at the Hilton, ready to kick off their first full tour of the United States with a sold-out concert that evening before an audience of more than 15,000 patrons at the Cow Palace in Daly City.
Hilly Rose, in a February 2008 email to the curator of the Bay Area Radio Museum, recollected the events of that day:
I can only tell you that they held a press conference the evening of their arrival, and the recording was done the following day in their hotel suite at the Hilton. Many hotels would not house them because of the unruly crowds, but the Hilton was so large with so many entrances it worked for both parties.
The story behind the interview is that they were NOT giving interviews. I was working for KCBS and felt it was worth the try. I phoned their tour manager at the Hilton. I am sure it helped that I was with KCBS and they felt beholden to Ed Sullivan for their great welcome on his program.
At least the tour manager was willing to listen to my pitch, which was that with all the unruly crowds at the concerts it was beginning not to be safe. I wanted the Beatles to do an interview telling the youngsters the Beatles wanted them to calm down and make it safe for others. He told me to hang on, which I did for forty minutes. He came back on the line and said incredulously, “You’re still there?” He thought surely I would have hung up by then, but I had made the contact and I wasn’t going to let go.
He told me to hang on a couple of minutes and I heard him phoning the Fab Four in their suite. He had to cajole them saying, “Yes, this is really important. Yes, I want you to do this.” When he came back on the line to me, I got a room number, a time, and a special knock to use on the door.
I showed up at the appointed time, which I remember was somewhere around 3 PM, and all four were in their underwear lounging around. John and Ringo didn’t want to do the interview, but happily Paul and George did. John was so annoyed he went into the bathroom and flushed the toilet continuously attempting to foil the sound. I was using a recorder that was unidirectional and blocked out peripheral sound, so it foiled his efforts as you can tell by the quality of the recording.
When I went outside the Hilton the groupies saw me with a tape recorder and demanded to know if I had seen THEM. With the straightest face I could muster I said “Are you kidding? No way.” Otherwise they would have torn my recorder to pieces, and maybe me, too.
Into 2009, Hilly Rose continued to be active in broadcasting, hosting his eponymous show on FateMag.com each week, and occasionally filling in for Art Bell and George Noory on the syndicated Coast To Coast AM radio program. His memoir, “But That’s Not What I Called About,” was published in 1978. He was inducted into the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame in 2016.
Hilly Rose died on December 27, 2017, in San Francisco. He was 91.
The Beatles cemented their place as the greatest musical group of all time before disbanding in 1970.
Hilly Rose Interviews The Beatles (August 19, 1964; 6 mins.)
Audio remastered from the source audio tape by David Ferrell Jackson, who also wrote the text included here. Special thanks to Steve Marinucci and John C. Winn, author of “Way Beyond Compare: The Beatles’ Recorded Legacy, Volume One, 1957-1965,” for additional information that helped clarify the origin date of the recording. Beatles press conference photograph from the Oakland Tribune archives.