The Beatles On Camera, Off Guard 1963-69

The Beatles On Camera, Off Guard 1963-69

By Mark Hayward

Pavilion – £25.00

If a picture paints a thousand words, then the pictures contained herein trigger a kaleidoscopic explosion that mere words have no (possible) hope in expressing – let alone painting. Lavishly reproduced, The Beatles On Camera, Off Guard 1963-69 contains over two hundred, unpublished, colour and black and white photographs of the band, from the various stages of their illustrious and visually iconographic career.

As Mark Hayward writes in the Introduction; ‘’Some of The Beatles most potent iconography is found on the five album covers created by their ‘house photographer’ Robert Freeman, from 1963’s With The Beatles to Rubber Soul in 1965, while other images familiar worldwide featured the work of eminent cameramen such as Angus McBean, Robert Whitaker, and Richard Avendon.’’

Indeed, so photographed were the band during the sixties, many of these photographs may at first come across as recognisable and having been seen before. But upon closer inspection, this is most definitely not the case.

As something of a Beatles student, I have to confess to being reasonably well versed in Beatle lore and imagery; and I have to say, that although many of these images may initially seem subconsciously discernible, they really are the real deal and brand new.

As the title suggests, many of these photographs are of the Beatles ‘off guard,’ and it is this, which essentially accounts for the unique insight into this superb collection. As well as photos, the book also contains a menagerie of screen grabs of the band in action, featuring shots from the filming of A Hard Day’s Night at London’s Marylebone Station, the Bernie Winters TV show, The Beatles on Ready Steady Go!, right through to numerous images of John and Yoko at home.

The ‘wow’ factor of The Beatles: On Camera, Off Guard 1963-69
is further enhanced by the ‘size’ factor. This bequeaths much of the immediate perception of the photography with a feeling of being ‘smitten’ at first sight.

For instance, there are a number of pictures of Harold Wilson presenting The Beatles with Show Business Personalities of 1963 Awards at the Dorchester Hotel; the last one of which is a black and white, double page spread, from which the atmosphere of unsullied jubilation and fun, simply drips off the page. And because all four-band members remain so (visually) renowned throughout the planet, it’s as if we’ve stumbled across an old family photo album. As such, we feel comfortable commenting on what uncle George is wearing, just as we do remarking upon nephew Paul’s expression.

Also included with the book is a DVD, which, it could be said, captures the spirit of the band; especially the behind the scenes footage of The Beatles in Blackpool (which is the earliest colour film known to exist of the band), outtakes of Help and scenes from The Magical Mystery Tour – many of which didn’t make it into the final film.

As a result of having forever encapsulated the mayhem, innocence, urgency and personalities of The Beatles, these photographs will stand the test of time by reminding us – as well as perhaps those in the future – of the most exhilarating period of musical history EVER.

David Marx

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