Home Art Photographer David Magnus captures the high-water mark of the Beatles career

Photographer David Magnus captures the high-water mark of the Beatles career

David Magnus
David Magnus


By JP Durand


Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 6/12/17 – The extent to which the Beatles continue to capture the world’s imagination, now 47 years since their breakup, is staggering.  Every so often a new remixed CD (as with the current 2017 audio upgrade of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”), a new book or a new piece of film present the tantalizing opportunity to put the Fab Four squarely in one’s mind and heart, to again examine their legacy and provide a new perspective on perhaps the world’s most beloved and most analyzed band.

Another opportunity to re-examine the boys from Liverpool is on display at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in Hollywood, with simultaneous presentations in New York and London.  In 1963, David Magnus was a 19-year-old photographer with a unusually strong professional background for such a young man.  On April 4th of that year he was assigned to photograph the Beatles at Stowe School, a boarding school in Buckinghamshire.  For that humble gig, performed not long after the Beatles first number one single in England, “Please Please Me”, the group earned their meager 100 pound wage and rocked the joint, then posed for a series of pictures that the lads and their manager Brian Epstein enjoyed enough to eventually make Mr. Magnus part of their circle.  And Magnus went on to shoot them often before the event that is presented in this new exhibit.

The Beatles – All You Need Is Love

Fifty Years Later: The Beatles – All You Need Is Love” is a never-before-seen collection of photographs now offered for sale at the Morrison Hotel Gallery.  One gets a few immediate impressions – the band is casual before the photographer, intimate and unguarded.  One shot features a very relaxed looking Ringo – another shows John hanging with a quite friendly rival of the era, Mick Jagger (the Beatles provided the Stones with one of their first hits – go to YouTube to check out Mick, Keef and the boys bang out their second single, “I Wanna Be Your Man”).  The band looks unified in their focus to present this new song to the world via this show, which also featured presentations by opera star Maria Callas and artist Pablo Picasso.

The Beatles, Abbey Road Studios, London, England 1963

The context of these photos is crucial to understanding the moments that Magnus captured.  Between 1963 and 1966, the Beatles released 7 groundbreaking CD’s which included classics like “Meet the Beatles”, “Rubber Soul”, and “Revolver”.  On August 29, 1966, the Beatles performed their final official live concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, ending an intense multi-year run of less-than-satisfying concerts marked by inadequate sound systems rendered useless by screaming fans.  Newly unfettered from live concert obligations, the group focused intensely and then unleashed perhaps their greatest album statement, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, released on May 27, 1967 in the UK.

David Magnus (David Magnus)

Subsequently, the group was asked to represent Britain and contribute to the “Our World” TV show, the world’s first satellite-transmitted global artistic presentation.  High from the amazing commercial and critical success of “Sgt. Pepper’s” and free of touring, the Beatles were in a relaxed and expansive creative space.  They chose to feature a new song, “All You Need Is Love,” on the satellite broadcast, and prepared the necessary backing tracks to be presented in the midst of a flower-bedecked studio at Abbey Road.  It is this evening’s festivities, from June 24, 1967, that are captured so lovingly in Magnus’s photographs.


Beatles with Brian Epstein

His shots unexpectedly capture a high water mark for the group.  This would be the last time that the Beatles would be photographed working with their manager Brian Epstein, who was to die tragically of an accidental overdose on August 25, 1967, two months after the “All You Need Is Love” photos were taken.  Indeed, the Beatles Anthology quotes Lennon as remarking, “”We collapsed. I knew that we were in trouble then. I didn’t really have any misconceptions about our ability to do anything other than play music, and I was scared. I thought, ‘We’ve had it now.’

The Beatles rehearsing “All You Need Is Love” with George Martin

I had the opportunity to ask Mr. Magnus if he had sensed that anything was troubling Epstein.  Magnus remarked “Brian seemed very natural with the company of The Beatles, and very comfortable with the surroundings of the studio and for him it seemed that although this was an exciting day in the career of The Beatles it was for Brian ’business as usual’”.  This view is seemingly corroborated by the photo showing Epstein and longtime Beatles producer George Martin absorbed in the music-making process inside the studio at Abbey Road.  Despite his tumultuous personal life, his persistent insomnia and his responsibilities to his main group as well as others under his management, Epstein looks grounded and in control here.

The Beatles Tea Time, London, 1967 by David Magnus

And the boys themselves?  Magnus remarks, “There is a picture I took of The Beatles in the EMI Abbey Road Studio Canteen which shows 4 friends sitting round a table having a cup of tea, I think more than anything this sums up the relationship they had together.  For after so many years of worldwide fame, incredible music, in the final analysis they were four mates from Liverpool.”  How fortunate the music-loving public is that we have these stunning images taken of a band at ease and at their creative peak, before chaotic darker days that were soon to follow.

The Magnus exhibition is at the Morrison Hotel Gallery at the famous LA rock and roll landmark, the Sunset Marquis, through June 13.  Gallery director Casey Fannin is surrounded by incredible iconic images of bands and solo artists through the last 60 years, but she acknowledged that these shots seem to capture the attention of even the most jaded observer – they are quite special.  Indeed, the compelling mystique of the “four mates from Liverpool” remains as strong as ever.

Casey Fannin. Sunset Marquis Gallery Director. Morrison Hotel Gallery

The exhibit runs through June 13.  Thanks to David Magnus for the brief interview, as well as Gallery director Casey Fannin.