We think we all know the Beatles, but the new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery ‘Eyes of the Storm’ perfectly encapsulates what life was like as a Beatle during that pivotal time as Beatlemania took hold in the early sixties.

It’s fair to say that as well as being the biggest music act in the world, the fab four changed both pop culture and the world in its entirety when the Beatles’ fame catapulted from local lads ‘done good’ to stratospheric levels that no one could have ever imagined.

Least of all Paul McCartney, whose artistic efforts and vision has resulted in a fascinating insight into life as one quarter of the world’s most talked about band as they hit the big time.

There are so many photos of The Beatles that are etched into my memory, largely down to having them on my bedroom wall as a teenager in the nineties, but Paul’s very special collection of photos provides a truly compelling and intimate take on not only his life, but of John, George and Ringo as well as other loved ones from Paul’s life.

This uniquely personal perspective on what it was like to be in the Beatle at the start of ‘Beatlemania’ and takes the viewer on a real journey as you join the Beatles on a magical mystery tour from the streets of London and Liverpool onwards to Paris, New York, Washington DC and the sun-dappled beaches of Miami.

Career highlights are immaculately captured such as the Beatles appearance on the biggest TV show in the world at the time – The Ed Sullivan show which was watched by over 73 million viewers.

Inspired by his parents ‘Kodak Brownie’ camera, the young Paul clearly had a knack for photos from an early age. His younger brother Michael was a keen photographer too and subsequently made a career out of his passion and has even had books published of his work.

He used a 35mm Pentax camera as favoured by professional photographers like David Bailey to take on tour with him to capture those special moments behind the scenes with both his bandmates and the extended Beatles family.

It only came to light recently that this beguiling collection of almost 1000 photos were not lost, but were in the musician’s archives.

Paul said “Somewhere in the back of my mind, I always knew I had taken some photos in the 1960s..it was a crazy whirlwind that we were living through, touring and working pretty much every day and seeing loads of people who wanted to photograph us. There were loads of eyes and cameras, at the centre of this storm”.

He insists his intention is not to be ‘seen as a master photographer’ but an ‘occasional photographer who happened to be in the right place at the right time’.

His vision of turning the camera on to the photographers themselves is a mirror into the world that he was inhabiting.

As well as his brother Mike, Paul was also influenced by the creative photographers around him which included the great Dezo Hoffman and German photographer Astrid Kirchherr who they met in Hamburg in 1960 with Astrid falling in love with Stuart Sutcliffe (a former member of the Beatles)

The exhibition starts with a striking trio of photos – a self portrait of Paul himself which shows he has always been ahead of the curve and doing selfies before a selfie was an actual thing!

It also perfectly illustrates the intensity of the band’s work schedule with rehearsals, relentless press junkets, tours, TV appearances and more.

From their UK November tour in 1963 which is captured in black and white with the instantly recognisable mop top hair, slick suits and that omnipresent cheeky glint in their eyes, you can see there were two sides to the Beatles.

The professional musicians putting on the razzle dazzle to the world and behind the scenes, four ordinary lads who wanted down time, to be a tourist in Washington and see the White House and relax and have a well-earned rest.

As well as the brilliant pictures, there’s some endearing anecdotes from Paul who reminisces about the time the band were in Paris and they heard they had reached number 1 in America where they ‘screamed and jumped on each other and ran around the hotel room and danced’.

One particular photo really shows the camaraderie that the four young men had with the band having a pillow fight at a hotel in Paris in 1964. This is not one taken by McCartney, but it effortlessly sums up life with The Beatles.

As Beatlemania increased, the Beatles world got bigger and at the same time smaller. Their journey into superstardom is further demonstrated by Paul switching from shooting in black and white into colour.

This is further magnified when they spent some time in Miami with those pinks and blues really popping out at you.

This transition is symbolic of how far they had come from the leafy streets of Liverpool to a millionaire’s lifestyle in Miami.

The Miami collection is largely behind the scenes shots of the boys relaxing, sunbathing and even attempting to water ski. These dreamy images inspired Paul to create a film exclusively for the exhibition which is unmissable.

With over 250 pictures included in this rare and electrifying exhibition, this is an absolute must to go and see, not just for fans of Paul and The Beatles, but for anyone interested in music, photography, fashion and more.

You’ll love it – Yeah Yeah Yeah!

Paul McCartney Photographs 1963-64: Eyes of the Storm is at the National Portrait Gallery, from 28 June to 1 October.


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