When Paul McCartney Brought Johnny Carson a Birthday Cake

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Lennon and McCartney on The Tonight Show, May 14, 1968

On May 14, 1968, John Lennon and Paul McCartney famously appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. However, the legendary host wasn’t in his customary seat behind the desk that night. His frequent substitute at the time, former baseball catcher-turned-broadcaster, Joe Garagiola, was there that night. The pair of Beatles had returned a month earlier from their famous trip to India and had just announced the formation of Apple Records. Listen to the interview below.

Video of that historic appearance no longer exists. Incredibly, only 33 complete episodes of the pre-May 1972 Carson show are known to exist. NBC actually recycled the tapes to record other programs. Thus, even Carson’s debut as the show’s host on October 1, 1962, no longer exists.

On that 1968 night, the program was still based at NBC’s studios in New York’s Rockefeller Plaza. “Paul,” says Garagiola, “you said something that’s hard for me to believe. You were in Central Park, and no one recognized you, Sunday?”

“Yes, that’s true,” McCartney, just 25 years old at the time, answers. “We were very pleased, you know,” adds Lennon, 27.

“You just kinda wandered around? You just walked around? The police weren’t with you?”

“No, we just walked out, you know,” says Lennon. “We often do it. If people don’t know– expect us, what are they gonna do but see a bit of long hair walking around like all the other long hair.”

Listen to Lennon and McCartney on The Tonight Show in 1968

The entire interview is expertly transcribed here. Two weeks later, The Beatles would be back in London to begin recording sessions for the double album known as The White Album.

Related: Pattie Boyd’s photos from The Beatles’ trip to India

It’s Johnny’s birthday! McCartney delivers a cake to Carson on Oct. 23, 1984

Sixteen years later, still just 42 years old, McCartney finally made a return visit to The Tonight Show. By now, the program was produced in Burbank, Calif., and its famous host turned 59 that day, Oct. 23, 1984.

McCartney was booked as a guest to allow him to plug his film, Give My Regards to Broad Street, which was released that very day.

The pair had never met beforehand. Carson asks him if he realized that Garagiola would be hosting his 1968 appearance with Lennon. “No, I didn’t,” says McCartney good-naturedly. “I thought I was going to meet Johnny. I met Joe.”

Later, in the extended segment, Carson asks his guest, “Do you get a little bonkers after a while with the same questions? What haven’t you been asked yet?”

“I dunno. I’ve been asked that one.” The audience roars.

Watch McCartney’s visit with Carson

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  1. 122intheshade
    #1 122intheshade 25 October, 2021, 01:40

    Ed was tweaking Johnny. “I got ’em first!” It’s criminal (short-sighted at least) that NBC recorded over those early shows.

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