A Day In The Life Of The Beatles

A Day In The Life Of The Beatles

By Don McCullin

Jonathan Cape – £20.00

Where pictures tell a thousand words, pictures of The Beatles tell several thousand. Naturally, this is somewhat dependent upon several differing factors: the degree to which one is a fan, the degree to which one is still yearning to find out more, the degree to which one is able to read between the lines.

As regular readers of this site might by now have ascertained, I am in indeed, an unquestionably serious fan of The Beatles. Along with Liam Gallagher – who, at the mere mention of the magical words John Lennon, devolved into childlike wonderment before my very eyes when I interviewed him – and several thousand (possibly million) others, The Beatles are intrinsically special. Special beyond reason. Special beyond determination. Almost special beyond special in fact.

And why is this?

More importantly, why does it continue to continue as such? Why can one still venture into the deepest depths of no-where, almost anywhere on the planet, and still make some kind of a connection by way of partaking in a Beatles song? The power and the persuasive potential of their musical majesty, is (relentlessly) beyond all comprehension – which may partially explain my unceasing quest to continue finding out more.

A Day In The Life Of The Beatles is made up of a sparkling collection of images by hardened war photographer, Don McCullin, who, prior to taking these photographs, covered the bitter fighting during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam in 1968 – the same year The Beatles recorded The White Album. But on Sunday July 28th, he met the band at the Sunday Times studio in London, and photographed them in colour for a Life magazine cover.

The day that followed has, for whatever reason, become known in Beatles lore as ‘The Mad Day Out.’

Looking at some of these jocular photographs, in which all four-band members appear to be openly having a lot of fun, it’s hard to contemplate the impending doom that was about to descend within the next eighteen months. Although for McCullin, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity: ‘’It was a strange Sunday. I drove in from Hertfordshire to be with the most famous group of people in the world. In a way, I did it in a haze […]. I’m not a studio photographer. I’m a battlefield photographer. I knew how to deal with certain photographic calamities, but not on this scale. I was slightly in awe and out of my depth. I wasn’t accustomed to the speed of their world. I was used to running street battles and this was something different. These four, at the height of their power, were very different personalities. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were clearly the leaders. George Harrison was the most subdued, and Ringo appeared to step back a little. The wind machine was throwing their hair around and their famous faces looked like the figures on Mount Rushmore. To my amazement it worked and we got a beautiful cover.’’

Indeed, some of these photographs – both colour and black and white – are rather beautiful in as much that they capture a certain moment and a certain poignancy, a certain mood and, dare I say it, a certain innocence. As Paul McCartney touches on at the outset: ‘’At this point, in 1968, we were looking for something different. We were working on the ‘White Album’ and it was a dark period. It was a great album, but difficult to make […]. We knew of Don McCullin from his war photography. We were all interested in photography. It was at the forefront of the culture at the time.’’

A Day in the Life of The Beatles contains a wonderful selection of photographs, which more than anything, substantiates both of the above view points made by Messrs. McCullin and McCartney. Thus making for a very worthy addition to that of any serious Beatles library/collection.

David Marx


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