Rare Beatles photographs for sale: Dalya Alberge sees the Fab Four's early days in a Life portfolio

Click to follow
The Independent Online
MORE THAN 5,000 recently-discovered photographs of The Beatles are to be sold at Sotheby's next week. Not only were they taken at the height of Beatlemania - in the build-up to the performance in Madison Square Garden, New York, that was to bring them world-wide fame - but fewer than 100 have been seen before.

The pictures, taken over four months from October 1963, are being sold by Terry Spencer, 75, a former Second World War Spitfire pilot and photographer for Life, the American magazine. Through sheer persistence, he got behind the scenes, taking intimate pictures of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr at a time when they were virtually inaccessible.

'They were prisoners,' Mr Spencer said. 'They were so bored . . . They'd nick my cameras and take pictures. I taught them how to use the cameras. They'd play with toy trains . . . read magazines and papers . . .'

He recalled how day and night they would chat: 'They didn't realise, up to January 1964, what had hit them. They couldn't understand their popularity. But none of the fans could hear the music. They'd scream to the end of the performance. The sound was turned up to God knows what decibel. I was deaf after each one . . . I photographed the bodies in the foyer where girls would pass clean out.'

He also recalled seeing the group's manager signing autographs on the group's behalf: 'I was amazed at the rate he could sign them.'

When Life folded as a weekly in 1972, the magazine - which in its heyday of some 6 million readers had given his story a six-page lead - returned all Mr Spencer's negatives and reassigned copyright to him.

In return for the estimated pounds 35,000 to pounds 50,000, the package includes the black and white images, their negatives and, importantly, full copyright. The sale takes place on Thursday.

(Photographs omitted)