What We Know About The Relationship Between The Beatles And Jimmy Savile

This article contains mentions of sexual assault and child sex abuse.

The four members of The Beatles, along with radio and television presenter Jimmy Savile, were all British icons who rose to massive fame in the 1960s. As many already know, the Beatles went on to achieve international fame and almost single-handedly changed the trajectory of music. Savile's popularity as the long-running host of the program "Top of the Pops," while immense, was more or less relegated to the United Kingdom. Still, both represented the same era of rapidly shifting popular culture, crossing paths on more than a few occasions. In fact, the Beatles and Savile had, for a time, a kind of a working relationship, with the famously eccentric Savile even emceeing the band's Christmas shows, as The Independent noted in 2012.

Make no mistake, however, that while the band and the presenter's lives intersected and intertwined, their legacies landed in two completely different categories. Though the Beatle's esteemed impact is as strong as it ever was, Savile's was left in shambles following posthumous revelations related to long-swirling rumors of sexual assaults perpetrated against children believed to have numbered in the hundreds, per The Guardian.

Who was Jimmy Savile?

While Jimmy Savile was, for decades, a household name in the United Kingdom, he may not ring a bell for those who grew up elsewhere. According to Britannica, Savile was born in the English city of Leeds in 1926. By the time World War II had drawn to a close, in 1945, the 20-year-old Savile was working as a coal miner when he suffered injuries in an explosion — an accident that would lead him down another path entirely.

After recovering, Savile then began managing a dance hall and eventually landed on the radio airwaves, where he quickly became one of the nation's top DJs. Savile then parlayed his radio notoriety into a hosting spot on the legendary British music television program "Top of the Pops," a chart-tracking series aimed at British youth which ran from 1964 to 2006 and featured countless big-name acts performing in front of a studio audience.

Savile also spent nearly two decades hosting a program called "Jim'll Fix It," in which children wrote letters to the show (and Savile), and he, in turn, granted their wishes. Over the years, Savile developed a comedic style that endeared him to viewers. Along with that, he cultivated an eccentric image, one emphasized by typically long, platinum-blonde hair, a garish wardrobe, and an ever-present, smoldering cigar clenched between his teeth.

The Beatles' early days

Around the same time as Savile's rise as one of the U.K.'s preeminent disc jockeys, a group of kids from Liverpool were in the early days of playing music together. According to Biography, Liverpool seemed like an unlikely place for the most successful band in history to hail. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, it was a somewhat poor, working-class city — but the work ethic a Liverpudlian upbringing instilled in Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr paid dividends in their brief but meteoric, unprecedented time together as a band.

All four band members took that work ethic with them across the English Channel and into continental Europe in 1960, where they became a frequent presence in the clubs around Hamburg, Germany. According to a 2019 write-up by the Los Angeles Times, one of the more famous spots they played there was the Indra Club, where the band was hired to perform a grueling five hours a night, six hours per week — all for the princely sum of around 30 Deutsch marks (or $51 USD at that time) each week. Despite this, the Beatles used their employment at the Indra Club to hone their craft. But before they could, or would, eventually take over the world, they needed to take over their home country first — and it was while they were back in England, traveling around, that they met Jimmy Savile.

The Beatles once gave Savile a ride home

Years before the band's Apple Corps headquarters coincidentally sat on Savile Row, they gave Jimmy Savile a ride home from a show. According to a 2012 interview with The Independent, Paul Mccartney recalled how he knew Savile during the band's early days, and on one particular occasion, how they gave the eccentric DJ a lift. "We were working in Yorkshire and we were still living in Liverpool," McCartney recounted. "We were coming back from a gig and he came in our van over the Pennines. We gave him a lift. He told us all these stories about his wartime exploits how he had been buying chewing gum and nylons and all that, and selling them. He had all sorts of stuff going on."

The moment that struck the band members as odd, however, was when they arrived at Savile's home and asked if they could come in for coffee. " He said, 'oh, no, not tonight lads,'" McCartney said. "When he'd gone we thought, 'why doesn't he let us in, what is it, because most people would have let us in that we gave a lift to?' So we always thought there was something a little bit suspect."

Jimmy Savile hosted the Beatles' Christmas shows

By 1963, the Beatles' stock had grown astronomically. That year, the band's manager, Brian Epstein, came up with the idea of the band playing a series of Christmas shows. These weren't straight-up concerts — they were more like variety shows, featuring a series of musical acts with some comedy sketches woven in between. According to The Beatles Bible, those shows were a success (despite some criticism that the band's acting in their comedy sketches was a bit stiff), and they were brought back the following year. This time, however, they included a new addition: a host to introduce the bands. And who better to take on that role than one of the most popular DJs of the day, Jimmy Savile?

Savile emceed these holiday shows throughout their run, from Christmas 1964 into mid-January of 1965, often featuring two shows every night. Some of the guest acts at the time included Freddie and The Dreamers, Elkie Brooks, and the Yardbirds, who at that time featured Eric Clapton on lead guitar.

Jimmy Savile's eventual downfall

Following their Christmas shows in the early 1960s, the Beatles moved forward with what would become a legendary career together until they disbanded in the 1970s. Meanwhile, Jimmy Savile gained popularity as a beloved television fixture known for his charity work in addition to his television duties, per the BBC. He eventually achieved knighthood and became close with members of the royal family — and even Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Despite his high profile, rumors of Savile's seedy personal life permeated most of his career. Reports of sexual assaults perpetrated by Savile were reported as far back as 1955, but the full extent of his atrocities wasn't known until after his death in 2012, as The Guardian reported in 2014. Looking back, authorities identified that much of Savile's abuse occurred in schools and hospitals that he was known to visit frequently, all under the guise of charity work. Many early reports to police were seemingly brushed off, and the files related to them have never been recovered.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.