Across The Universe –
The Beatles On Tour And On Stage
By Andy Neill
Haynes Publishing – £19.99
One has to only leaf through the pages of Across The Universe: The Beatles On Tour And On Stage to ascertain the sheer mayhem and madness that accompanied the band throughout their live touring schedule of the mid-sixties. Regardless of it being an altogether different era, there’s not a band in existence that has come anywhere near close to creating such a twist of testosterone induced chaos and excitement. Not The Who. Not The Stones. Not Led Zeppelin. Not The Clash. Not Nirvana. Not U2. Not Oasis. Not anyone.
To be sure, such a high-octane outbreak of genuine goose pimples and cathartic adoration hasn’t been seen since the band last performed at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park on August 29th 1966. As such, with the possible exception of the film A Hard Day’s Night, this book captures a piece of vital and frenetic rock’n’roll history – the likes of which will never again be repeated (simply because it can’t be repeated – but that’s another story altogether).
A life-long Beatles fan, Andy Neill has herein compiled a selection of predominantly black and white photographs that go a long way in substantiating the dictum: a picture paints a thousand words. By utilising over three hundred images – many of which haven’t been seen before – as well as rare memorabilia, Neill examines The Beatles frenetic existence as live performers. The result is a quasi-collision of innocence and expectation, as countless words and emotions leap forth off the pages.
From a 1964 press conference in the chapter ‘Rattle Your Jewellery,’ George Harrison is quoted as saying ‘’When we got back to Britain, after we’d been touring Sweden, this Beatlemania thing had started, but we didn’t hear anything about it because we’d been away. We just landed in London and everybody there was smashing the place up.’’ Indeed they were, and the accompanying photographs underline his words: hordes of screaming girls, hordes of fainting girls, hordes of concerned policeman, hordes of smiling policemen, broken barriers at gigs, no on-stage monitors, chaotic photographs in corridors, the lads running, ducking, diving, smiling, waving, playing, leaving theatres, arriving at theatres, boarding planes (besieged by fans), descending down the steps of planes (besieged by ground-staff), smoking cigarettes, drinking cups of tea, signing autographs, making yet another hasty retreat…
Were it not for the fact that Britain’s Daily Mirror has the world’s largest newspaper archive of Beatles images, many of the photographs within this book might never have been seen. On page 164 for instance, there’s a great photograph of The Beatles on the ABC Theatre fire escape in Blackpool (which I’ve never seen before), in which all four, seemingly content members of the band, look totally different from one another: Paul’s happily looking into the camera whilst George faces the lens with something of a far more serious gaze; a clearly haggard Ringo in jeans looks away as does a smoking and bemused John. Overlooking the lads is the town’s notorious tower, standing strong and proud – which takes up at least half of this more than poignant, yet telling shot.
Suffice to say, there’s the usual plethora of posed photographs, but it’s the slightly off-guard moments that accounts for Across The Universe: The Beatles On Tour And On Stage being a very worthy addition to that of any serious Beatles collection.