Tuesday, January 15, 2013

With The Beatles

With The Beatles
Antonio G. Pereira © 2013 Antonio G. Pereira

        With The Beatles - Published by Life Books - Great Photographers Series - An Imprint of Time Home Entertainment Inc. New York. This is quite a collection, and quite a mighty sized book; the photographs beautifully presented. The photographer Bob Whitaker, has had collections of his photographs released in book form before http://observer1984.blogspot.com/2008/10/eight-days-week-inside-beatles-final.html and if you've followed his work, you'll recognize a lot of the pictures in this hardcover edition. This was just a case of the right man for the right job, and Epstein certainly knew what he was doing when he chose Bob Whitaker. (There is one thing I find in the Beatles chronicle that has always been historically mysterious and puzzling. In 1966, I remember seeing (what I think was) a British music paper, with a bizzare full colour picture of the Beatles standing up holding meat cleavers and plastic doll heads in their hands, with plastic doll bodies and meat strewn on the floor with blood all around them; and John, Paul, George and Ringo had the coldest looks on their faces. They are not smiling, and they are wearing the same clothes that you see them wearing in the odd album cover photo (L.S.D. inspired Pop Art?) of the group and a steamer trunk. John sitting on top of the trunk with one leg crossed and arms folded, half of George floating in the air, Ringo standing with his right arm resting on the trunk, and Paul sitting inside the trunk. They all look slightly stoned. This of course is the photo on the album cover of Yesterday and Today, that was released in the U.S.; replacing the tame (compared to the other photo I just mentioned in the beginning) Butcher cover with the group sitting down with Butcher coats on. Now the question is, 'Was there a separate photo session, and possibly contact sheet of The Beatles in plain clothes that never saw the light of day?) Anyone with a genuine interest and affection for the Beatles, what they represented, and their music, will love the collection of photographs in this book. Here you get to see them at the peak of their touring years, 1964 through 1966. Performing, backstage, with their families, during the filming of movies and promos, appearing on television, making the wonderful 'The Music of Lennon & McCartney' Television Special  for the BBC (Ah-HEM...,when is Apple/EMI gonna release that sucker on DVD?! And while we're on that subject, where's ' Let It Be'?!), making those funny, strange and entertaining Christmas Records for the Fan Club (eh... Apple/EMI, planning to release those on record anytime soon?). This is a photographic treasure. Unfortunately, when it comes to the written text throughout 'With The Beatles', the results are disappointing. The writers realm of knowledge doesn't go any further back than apparently '80s Pop music, and the rest is purely guesswork. (Surprisingly, no mention is ever made of Australian music journalist, Lillian Roxon; author of the original 'Rock Encyclopedia'; {a monumental late '60s artifact, on which all subsequent books are based}). It also appears that the writers of this... (shall we say 'biographical sketch'?) have only read one book on the Beatles, which is mentioned as reference repeatedly. (If someone had bothered to do their homework, they'd know that George Harrison owned two 12 String Rickenbackers; as he mentioned in the interview he gave to Guitar Player in the Nov. 1987 issue. The one we usually see him playing in concert, had a diagonally shaped head stock (which was the norm). The other one, which we see him admiring in the first set of picture inserts in Beatles Press Officer Tony Barrow's book, 'John, Paul, George, Ringo & Me: The Real Beatles Story' {one of the best memoirs of all}, and which Harrison said in the Guitar Player interview, was later stolen, had an unusual square head stock; and was a gift to him from B Sharp Music Store in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as cited under the photograph in the book. There are also glimpses of it in the book, 'The Beatles: Then There Was Music' by Tim Hill; a collection of rare photographs from the Daily Mail (U.K.).) Also a constant throughout the narrative (If I hear the term, 'back in the day', one more time, I'll scream.), is the '80s phenomenon that now permeates just about all media these days. This desperate need to continually keep you interested in what is being said, that results in phrases like, 'And as we will see in the following chapter...', (while you're in the middle of reading the current chapter), which is not only distracting but annoying. When did people stop having the ability of free thought and common sense, in being able to follow a story? One is left with the impression that (other than providing the wealth of photographs) the late Bob Whitaker had little to do with this book, as he passed away in 2011. His input is sorely missed, as obvious concepts like the two page spread on pages 124 and 125 are not even discussed. (It is interesting though, that from his brief mention of his slightly frosty relationship with McCartney, that we see evidence of this in the two page spread on pages 62 and 63.) In the photographer sections of the Life softback magazine, 'Remembering John Lennon' (2010), Bob Whitaker (in his short section) gave very detailed descriptions and observations of his photographs. One in particular, of Lennon resting, tenderly holding, and having his nose licked by a cat backstage on an American tour (1965?), being an example. The same picture appears spread over pages 156 and 157 in 'With The Beatles', with no explanation. It might have been helpful for the writers to explain that Lennon loved cats (our mysterious feline friends can always sense these things y'know), and that this came from his childhood, and also WHY this was such a beautiful moment captured by Bob Whitaker. (Geeez!) This could have been a much better book if more forethought had gone into it. By the way, it should be mentioned that the 'coffee house avant garde scene' in early '60s Australia that Bob Whitaker came out of, when Brian Epstein recruited him as Official Beatles Photographer, also spawned another very unique artist a few years earlier in 1960. Native Australian, musician Daevid Allen. Co-founder of '60s band, 'The Soft Machine', and later on, founder of 'Gong', he has led a fascinating life; and the extraordinary contrast of his odyssey with Whitaker's is well worth exploring as well. http://www.daevidallen.net  http://www.allmusic.com/album/the-australian-years-mw0001229765

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