Saturday, June 24, 2006

Images of Beatles on eve of fame revealed

Previously unseen photographs that show the Beatles on the cusp of international fame are published in The Times for the first time today.

The images, shot only hours before the group were to learn that they had made No 1 in the charts, were taken in February 1963 and show Paul McCartney and George Harrison wearing leather coats over their suits — which Brian Epstein, their manager, asked them to remove to increase their appeal to the middle classes.

The Beatles spent the day with a young photographer, Michael Ward, who had been commissioned to cover the band, then little-known, for Honey, a now defunct girls’ magazine. There was so little interest in the Beatles from Ward’s editor that he used only one image, and the rest of the photographs remained undeveloped and unseen until now.

Ward, now 77, was just as uninterested in the group, dismissing their music as “awful”. A lifelong jazz fan, he said yesterday: “I still don’t like it.”

But he warmed to the Fab Four when he photographed them in locations across Liverpool and in rehearsals at The Cavern for one of their last performances at the legendary nightclub. The two images above show them in an area of the city that was bombed during the Blitz. Ward got the band to pose next to the Queen Victoria monument in Derby Square, which survived the attack.

The photographs will go on show at an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from July 5 to October 22.

Terence Pepper, the exhibition’s organiser, likened the excitement of seeing unpublished Beatles material to finding new photographs of Marilyn Monroe.

He said: “You think you’ve seen them all and then someone suddenly remembers they might have more. Michael Ward sent them up and it was just marvellous to see.”

Recalling his day with the Beatles, Ward told The Times: “They were very friendly and helpful, up to a point. They didn’t know what had hit them. The eggshell was just about to break.”


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