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Candid photos show a new side of the Fab Four
Words by Richard Jenkins in The Lifestyle · Oct 19th, 2014
At what point did The Beatles change from mop-topped teenyboppers to internationally acclaimed, legacy cementing musical geniuses? The precise moment is hard to define, but you wouldn't be far wrong to cite the band's 1964 tour of the US as the starting point. After half a decade of sustained success in their home country, The Beatles were losing their passion for the circus that followed them everywhere they went. They began to evolve as musicians and people, and the man that captured the process was photographer Robert Whitaker. The Beatles: Inside and Out was a remarkable exhibition that has just come to an end at London's Proud Chelsea gallery. On display there were Whitaker's striking images of the band from the period 1964-1966, many of which were previously unseen but are now available to buy as a novel artwork for your home. The photographer was first introduced to the band during their 1964 tour of Australia, at which point he was asked by Brian Epstein, the group's manager, if he would accompany them on their first ever US tour.
Whitaker initially turned the opportunity down, and then he watched the band play - from that point on, everything changed. Whitaker was brought into the band's inner circle and became a trusted confidante and friend. In turn, Ringo, Paul, John and George allowed the photographer to take ever more daring photographs of them, which in turn led to the group taking more risks musically - a powerful mutual collaboration that would yield incalculable success for all parties. Occasionally Whitaker took the group over the line - his infamous 1966 "Butcher" cover featured the band in white butchers' smocks, holding decapitated dolls and covered in raw meat. The image was used as a cover on the American release of "Yesterday and Today", but was quickly withdrawn from circulation after Capitol Records recognised the offensiveness of the image - it turns out there were certain things even The Beatles couldn't get away with in the '60s. That said, the band themselves were grateful for the opportunity. John Lennon said at the time: "It was inspired by our boredom and resentment at having to do another photo session and another Beatles thing. We were sick to death of it. Bob was into Dali and making surreal pictures."
Whitaker's photographs show the band at their most personal and unguarded. They lark around with flowers, their musical instruments and pretty much anything they can get their hands on - showing that despite the pressures of fame, being in The Beatles was actually rather quite a nice thing to do for a living. Whitaker shared a dark sense of humour with John Lennon, and his part British, part Australian outlook on life helped put the rest of the band at ease. It's not overstating matters to say that Whitaker's influence helped the band achieve their full potential - and in turn, they provided him with some of the most iconic music photography ever taken.