FLOPPY hair, pointy boots, the smell of fresh paint, a liberal sprinkling of celebrities, still enough summer to be strangled in the late evening to allow for barbeque, complimentary beer flowing freely, everyone’s favorite Beatles record ‘Greatest Hits’ playing loud over the stables speakers, ubiquitous and familiar, girls and boys singing and dancing along, lines from the songs caught in a sort of panorama, coming and going as attendees walk back and forward, tonight’s stage forever expanding and retracting with nervous preparations and introduction of yet another new instrument. Revolution is in the air – or, shall we say, on the walls.
We see the band very much at ease, going about their business as normally as four of the most famous and sought after men in the world can.
‘Revolutionary 1965’, a series of photographs of The Beatles spanning the year, taken by photographer Michael Petro. Discovered during the digitalization of Petro’s work following his death and the subsequent donation of his archives by his family to The University of Dundee. With more than 500 images captured, some never before seen captured during the same period as the recording of Rubber Soul and the filming of Help!, as well as on the same day it was announced they would receive the MBE. A truly exciting and busy year, but then I suppose every year was exciting and busy for The Beatles. Still showing signs of being fabulous, half way through their discography, tending to the seeds of potential as to the shaggy haired men they would become and their early investigation into psychedelics, a great time of change for them and culture on the whole.
Noted for his humanist approach to the medium, Petro using natural light captured intimate and personal moments in the eye of the storm, which is evident in the works on display. We see the band very much at ease, going about their business as normally as four of the most famous and sought after men in the world can. I’m sure we all have our ideas and notions of The Beatles, the over the top and the farfetched, but it is the inane and closer to home which are so captivating, a cigarette over breakfast, stirring sugar with a tea, starring out of a window during a lull in conversation, a joke between friends, it is these instances that make the four all the more real for it, these moment seemingly speaking volumes. Although the media circus they endured would make for the toughest of skin, hardened to almost all outside interaction Petro catches and displays the precious moments when the guard is down and they’re being themselves or as far as one can surmise and showing there is not all truth in the heavily perpetuated Beatles legend that John was the brooding one, Paul the sensible one, George the quite one and Ringo the funny one.
In one photograph we see them being positioned into place for the filming of a scene from Help!, styled, combed, clean, prim and proper, waiting with smiles between the call of action. In another we see Paul behind a piano, bleary eyed, tired, sporting a few days old stubble, button undone, cigarette in mouth, the caption reading how uncommon it was to witness one of them unkempt considering the image, manager Brian Epstein endured to portray (which I suppose is testament to Petro’s ‘humanist approach’). In another we see them under the direction of George Martin, the fifth Beatle, directing and crafting, adding and subtracting, casting spells and working magic. Interestingly, John is shown on numerous occasion channeling Bob Dylan in scruffy suede jacket and fisherman cap, one photograph accompanied by the quote: “If I thought I’d go through the rest of my life being pointed and stared at – I’d give up The Beatles now. It’s only the thought that one day it will all come to an end which keeps me going.” Gross exaggerator or man on the edge? Make of that what you will.
Despite some confusion of the timeline and facts out of context the exhibition paints a portrait or in this case a photograph of a group of men on the cusp of achieving greatness on their own terms, internally and externally. Loosening the shackles of their buttoned up suits and in doing so creating what is considered as one of the best Beatles records and arguably one of the best rock and roll albums of all time, furthermore popularizing a whole new culture, setting the floodgates of potential crashing, slowly introducing psychedelia and ushering in new ideas in sound and what the pop song and pop musician can achieve.
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