Sixty Years Later — New Photographs Of The Young Beatles

June 3, 2023

Paul McCartney uncovered some photos he’d taken long, long ago:

Although this bit of news might be old hat already (it was first revealed in January this year), McCartney’s photographs will be on display at London’s National Portrait Gallery starting at the end of this month. Reportedly, he took the pictures between December 1963 and February 1964 in New York, Washington, London, Liverpool, Miami, and Paris — an insider view of the initial tsunami stages of Beatlemania.

Yes, a heady time. I was in ninth grade then and unknowingly more than ready to near-drown in the Beatle flood to come.
McCartney also has published a companion book to go with the galley exhibit, “1964: Eyes of the Storm – Photographs and Reflections,” which contains 275 photographs taken on a 35-millimeter camera during that way-must-have-been one freaking, freakish period.
McCartney discusses such matters in a decently in-depth, edited extract of the book at the Guardian this morning — some snips:

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I always knew I had taken some pictures in the 1960s. At first, I couldn’t pinpoint the year, but I was certain we were quite young, just when the Beatles were really taking off. I never tried to find this collection – consciously, that is – but I kind of thought that it would just surface at the right time. There’s often a certain amount of serendipity involved. And while we were preparing for an exhibition of my late wife Linda’s photographs in 2020, I learned that my own had been preserved in my archives. When I first saw them after so many decades, I was delighted that these images and contact sheets had been finally located.

Anyone who rediscovers a personal relic or family treasure is instantly flooded with memories and emotions, which then trigger associations buried in the haze of time. This was exactly my experience when seeing these photos, all taken over an intense three-month period, culminating in February 1964. It was a wonderful sensation because they plunged me right back. Here was my own record of our first huge trip, a photographic journal of the Beatles in six cities, beginning in Liverpool and London, followed by Paris (where John and I had been ordinary hitchhikers just over two years before), and then what we regarded as the big time, our first visit as a group to America – New York, Washington DC and Miami – to the land where, at least in our minds, music’s future was being born.

It was a period of – what else can you call it? – pandemonium. We four guys from Liverpool couldn’t possibly realise then the implications of what we were doing. By the end of February 1964, after our visit to America and three appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, we finally had to admit that we would not, as we had originally feared, just fizzle out as many groups do. We were in the vanguard of something more momentous, a revolution in the culture.


President Kennedy had been murdered only a little over two months before our arrival in the United States, and his assassination had ricocheted throughout the world, so we figured the atmosphere might still be subdued. But the minute we landed in New York, we knew instantly that we were not in store for any kind of funereal time. It was a Friday in early February when we touched down, and it felt like thousands – and later, through television and The Ed Sullivan Show – millions of eyes were suddenly upon us, creating a picture I will never forget.

The airport scene that February was bedlam, mass hysteria. Not in Liverpool or London, not in Paris was there anything comparable. But the airport (which had only recently changed its name from Idlewild to Kennedy) was just the start of it, because caravans of folks lined the streets and highways to get a glimpse of us as our car crawled into Manhattan. The journalists and photographers followed us in vehicles and mini-trucks, well-wishers thronging both sides of the road, as if we were some sort of triumphant athletes celebrating a victory lap.

Go read the whole piece, it’s fascinating, wistful-like for a time so long ago. And there are also plenty of photos from McCartney’s book, not only of the Beatles (‘holiday snaps,’ off-stage situations), but crowds, street scenes, fans, pix of the photographer mob that surrounded them all the time, Pictures mostly in black-and-white, but a few in color,
Including a pix of George accepting an obviously, alcoholic drink from a waitress In Miami — oh, no! He then was a couple of weeks shy his 21st birthday.
McCartney notes: ‘One of my favourite photos in the collection shows George Harrison, his face hidden by sunglasses, being handed a drink – probably a scotch and Coke – by a girl, and although we don’t see her face, we do see her dazzling yellow swimming costume. The composition was deliberate, and I’m glad that I didn’t move further away but kept George as the focus of the image. In looking back on these photos of the good life, I’m not at all surprised that the colour pictures started happening when we got to Miami, because, suddenly, we were in Wonderland.

So we all were at the time, trying to make sense of JFK and learning to live with this new ‘wonderland.’

And on that TV show:

Beatle-crazed, or not, yet here we are once again…

(Illustration out front: The Beatles, circa 1965, and found here).

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