Proud Chelsea is set to launch unseen photographs of The Beatles in March. Here, the man behind the lens, David Magnus, talks The Resident through a weekend with the Fab Four that he’ll never forget…
Talk about your dream dinner party: The Beatles, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Keith Moon, Marianne Faithfull, Eric Clapton, Jane Asher and Pattie Boyd. A dream to many, but all were part of one special weekend back in June 1967 when The Beatles recorded their hit song All you need is Love for the first time during a live broadcast seen by 400 million people worldwide.
‘There was a party atmosphere,’ remembers photographer David Magnus, perhaps unsurprisingly.
Magnus was one of the party crowd over the weekend of 24-25 June 50 years ago, asked to document the live broadcast for BBC’s Our World, and who will be showcasing these photographs at Proud Chelsea, many previously unseen. ‘I have never done an exhibition before – my wife has been nagging me for years and years,’ laughs the spritely and engaging 72-year-old.
‘Looking at the photographs, it all came flooding back to me. In the 60s, one minute you would be photographing The Beatles, the next the Rolling Stones, Cilla Black… It was a job, you took the photos and the client was happy, and you went on to the next job. It’s only when you look back to what you did 50 years ago that you think, wow…’
Magnus was only 19 when he first photographed The Beatles performing a gig at Stowe School in 1963, when they were on the cusp of fame.
‘A few weeks ago my grandson Sam, who is only eight, came home from school singing Yellow Submarine. Did I think when I took those pictures at Stowe School that, in the future, I would have a grandson singing Beatles songs? No. Nobody knew.’
By the time the weekend in June 1967 came around, it was a different case altogether. ‘People would say to me that the thousands of girls screaming and crying at concerts and airports was Beatlemania,’ he says.
‘But for me, it was that weekend when I was in the [EMI Studio 1, Abbey Road] and this girl, who was working there, put her hand on my shoulder and said, “I want to touch you as you were in the same room as The Beatles”, as if I was carrying some magic aura the band gave off. Suddenly I realised what Beatlemania was.’
Describing his relationship with them as ‘professional – by keeping out of their way you could get closer to them’, the result is a stunning portfolio of images of The Beatles. It was the mundane moments, however, that have always stayed with Magnus, rather than the roster of the rich and famous in attendance.
‘There’s one of the guys sitting in the EMI canteen having their tea, and in the background there are a couple of door commissioners looking not bemused, but just sitting there with the four members of The Beatles right there in front of them.
‘There’s another shot I absolutely love. It’s of George, who is at a counter with a lovely lady serving tea, and there’s John standing to the side. You can just imagine her going home saying she served tea to The Beatles!’
The Beatles Unseen: Photographs by David Magnus, runs from 16 March-14 May 2017 at Proud Chelsea on King’s Road
All photographs by David Magnus