In 1964, U.K. photographer Harry Benson was headed to Africa on assignment for the Daily Express when he got a call from his editor, saying the plans had changed. He was now going to Paris to photograph the Beatles. Benson was less than thrilled. "I thought of myself as a serious journalist," he says. "But when I really heard [the music] in person ... I knew I was on the right story."
Now in his early '80s, Benson and his Beatles photographs are the subject of a massive tome, The Beatles On the Road 1964-1966, published on June 1 by Taschen and feted in Beverly Hills last week. For the occasion, West Coast Sound got our grubby little hands on some exclusive photos of the group from this era: the one above and the second one on the next page. This post also has other amazing photos from the book, all of them taken by Benson. In addition, we got the opportunity to pick his brain about the two years he spent covering the Fab Four.
The photo (above) with John, Paul and George sitting with their arms crossed and a fourth guy who's not Ringo: Who is that?
Ringo was back in London with the flu. He wasn't well. And they got hold of another drummer called Jimmy Nichol, who was a very good drummer. So this drummer did Amsterdam and Copenhagen. That picture was taken in Copenhagen.
Was he better than Ringo?
Well, I don't know about that, but [John] did say he was a very good drummer.
You took photos of the Beatles at the piano. Were you ever around them when they were writing music?
Oh, yes. A few times. They could write music with a full room, like maybe fifteen people in the room, and it wasn't like, "Oh, be quiet. Can't you see we're working here?" Nothing like that.
Tell us what was going on in the "Beatles Forever" photo.
"Beatles Forever" was them coming off the stage in Chicago. That was after John had said something like, 'We're more popular than Jesus.' That was one of the concerts that might have been cancelled because he had made those remarks -- but it wasn't.... You'll see policemen helping them ... to protect them. There were death threats.