Saturday, February 20, 2010

Rare Beatles photoshoot surfaces

An apparently lifeless John Lennon lies on the ground, his fellow-Beatles by his side. The haunting picture was taken in 1968 - 12 years before Lennon was gunned down by a crazed fan, Mark Chapman, in New York City.

It was one of many images taken by society photographer Tom Murray during the Fab Four's last official photoshoot in 1968, which lay forgotten in an envelope for decades.

It was among a number of photographs which were made public today after lying forgotan about for years.
A shirtless Paul joins Ringo and George as they crouch over John Lennon as he plays dead on the floor

The collection, subject of an exhibition, is known as the Mad Day Out because of the shoot's hectic schedule.

It also includes a shot of Ringo Starr and George Harrison sitting on a park bench beside a sleeping man watched by Paul McCartney and Lennon; all four Beatles sparring in mock battle on a roof; and the band in a garden surrounded by hollyhocks.

'We would stay half an hour at each location before too many people arrived,' said Murray. 'I doubt you could do it now. With a band as big as the Beatles you'd be inundated with people in about a minute and a half.'

Such was the secrecy of the assignment that Mr Murray had no idea who his subjects were to be before he met them.

'It was a mad day rushing around London,' he said. 'The man on the park bench never woke while the photos were taken.'

After the shoot Mr Murray was invited back to Paul McCartney's home for tea. 'It was an extraordinary day,' he added.

'From two rolls of film there are 23 surviving shots. The colours are astonishing and it's basically because the original slides were kept in the dark in an envelope for so many years.

'And, of course, the lucky thing is that I shot them in colour instead of black-and-white.'

'I just feel privileged that I was part of this historical day - getting close to The Beatles was a dream come true.'

Mr Murray is selling copies of the photographs for £325 each or £425 with a frame but experts believe the originals are worth £100,000 each.

The pictures were finally discovered when Mr Murray decided to clear out his studio one day.

Although Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were sparring in jest, public-rifts between the band members emerged that year.

During recording sessions for the White Album, Starr quit for a period, leaving McCartney to play drums on several tracks.

Lennon's preoccupation with Yoko Ono contributed to tension within the band and he lost interest in writing with McCartney.

The Mad Day Out exhibition opened at The Three White Walls gallery in Birmingham yesterday and will run until March 29.

Gallery manager Naomi Gall said: 'We are really pleased to be able to exhibit this exciting collection of Tom Murray's work. We anticipate the exhibition is going to be our most popular yet.'

The 23 surviving shots taken in everyday locations have been hailed as some of the most important photographs ever taken of the group.