Iconic Spotlight : The Beatles, by Terry O’Neill

“I’ve told this story a thousand times, but it is worth repeating. In 1962 I wanted to be a jazz drummer. But I needed a day job—no fool was I in terms of my talent! I thought that if I worked for an airline, I could travel to New York City and play in the jazz clubs there. I was hired by BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) in the photographic unit. My job was to take reportage images at Heathrow. By chance, I took a photo of this very dapper gentleman napping in the midst of some African chieftains. A reporter saw what I was doing, asked for that photo and it ran. The photo was of Rab Butler, a senior government official, and I was paid £25 for it. My drumming career took a backseat and I was hired by the Daily Sketch as their new, young photographer.

“Because I was young, I was assigned to take photographs of the new bands just emerging in Britain. The papers quickly discovered that a young bunch of musicians on the cover of one of their papers meant the papers sold…and sold quickly… in incredible numbers.

“These shots are from 1964, only a year after their first big hit. They were recording a television special at Wembley Studios. At the time, television was an increasingly important medium to get the word out on your band, your new single or new album. Image was everything and a popular band on television meant your song was heard by hundreds of thousands of fans in an instant. The Beatles, along with The Rolling Stones and all the other bands in the 1960s, knew how to work the camera—my camera as well as the television cameras. They were magic on film and what we were doing behind those cameras was to propel them from club bands to number one recording artists.

“As we were compiling this book, we came across a packet of negatives from a party. On closer inspection, I remembered that these were photos from the opening night of The Beatles’ Apple Boutique. Twiggy eating an apple was the giveaway. They also served apple juice, I recall, because the store didn’t have a liquor licence. The Apple Boutique opened in December 1967 and was attended by anyone and everyone who was in town; Cilia Black was there, along with Twiggy and her manager Justin de Villeneuve. Only John Lennon with wife Cynthia and George Harrison with Pattie Boyd were there representing The Beatles.
I think Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were in Paris at the time. It was a great opening and, for once, I wish I’d used colour film because the inside of the store (along with the outside) was electric.”

The Apple Boutique closed after only eight months. Unfortunately, the freewill style of the Swinging Sixties transcended retail, as many of the customers assumed the merchandise was free. Suffering financial losses, as merchandise was going out but no cash for the merchandise was coming in, The Beatles closed the shop in style, giving away all the stock to adoring fans.

Extract taken from ‘Every Picture Tells a Story’ available SIGNED by Terry O’Neill from the Iconic Images Store.

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