Friday, March 22, 2013

It's fifty years today since The Beatles became icons

The Beatles first LP was released fifty years ago today. The cover was shot by Angus McBean, a celebrated theatrical photographer of the time, known for his surrealist style.

He didn't do anything weird with "the boys". They met him in reception at EMI's HQ in Manchester Square, he looked up at the stairwell and said "why don't you go up there and look over?"

They did. McBean lay on his back in reception and shot a few frames. Job done. An image was created in those brief moments that resounds down the years.

The Beatles restaged the shot themselves for the cover of their Red and Blue hits albums at the end of the decade. The Sex Pistols posed in the same place for the same picture. When EMI left Manchester Square it took the staircase with it and installed it in new offices in Hammersmith.

I can live without the album, which is weedy compared to what was to come. But the cover of that record is the first thing The Beatles did that you could call "iconic".

It wasn't the last.


  1. Weedy? I Saw her Standing There? There's a Place? Twist and Shout? Weedy?

  2. I was writing a long, well thought-out comment agreeing with Keith, but I realised I was boring myself. In 1963, weedy it wasn't. It was electrifying.

  3. I miss your column in Word magazine David, but I would like to join Keith in being righteously outraged by such, what's the word...bollocks, that's it.

  4. Iconic must be one of the most over/misused words in the media today.

    But not in this case.

  5. Anonymous5:13 pm

    Lovely shot. Still not sure the yellow of the band name works well over the light top-left background, though. It'll never sell...

  6. One of the notable things about Angus McBean is that he rarely took many shots of a subject/scene. He was known, for that reason, as 'One-shot McBean'.

    Heaven knows what he would have made of the digital era, when we can't stop ourselves taking many many shots.

  7. When I was young, I thought it was almost mystical the way they'd somehow known, when they shot the cover for the Blue album, that they would have needed to have taken the same photo seven years earlier, for the Red one.

  8. Here's another photo which didn't make the Blue album cover.

    Keep the captchas (or whatever they're called)