Ever rediscovered a memento from your past, which brought back long-forgotten memories from a special time in your life? That’s exactly what happened when Paul unearthed an extraordinary trove of nearly a thousand of his own photographs, taken in 1963 and 1964 when The Beatles were fast becoming the most famous people on the planet.
From photos of John pulling faces and Ringo trying on hats in Paris, to George swimming in Miami and Paul taking an atmospheric self-portrait in London, the photos are an inside view into the ‘storm’ The Beatles found themselves in as Beatlemania went global. There are also unique photos of the crowds chasing the band’s car through New York streets – a scenario which went on to inspire scenes in A Hard Day’s Night – intimate photos of their entourage from inside a plane, and photos from the rehearsals of their historic performances on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Now, a selection of these photographs are available for the world to see in Paul’s new book, 1964: Eyes of the Storm, and will soon go on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London in his exhibition Paul McCartney Photographs 1963-64: Eyes of the Storm. A couple of weeks ago, we flipped through this astonishing book with Paul and got his thoughts on the project – including an insight into some of his favourite featured photographs…
PaulMcCartney.com: Is there anything in particular you hope people will get from reading your new book? What do you hope their main takeaway will be?
Paul: Well, I mainly see it as a ‘behind the scenes’ publication. After all these years, it was lovely for me to be taken backstage again. I love just looking at old pictures of the guys, for example, ones of John with his glasses; obviously it's hugely sad, because I miss him so much. But this just reminds me of growing up with him and all the pleasant memories.
Whenever I see John with these sorts of glasses, it reminds me of the way he would take him off when there were girls around. For some reason people think they look better without their glasses! And now, whenever other people do that it always reminds me of John. I’d be chatting with him, or writing a song, and he would take his glasses off and clean them. And because nobody in my family had glasses, I'd never seen someone just chatting and absent-mindedly cleaning them. So, that's what this picture and really the whole book reminds me off - it just brings back all those little memories which make up a life.
[Paul looks at a photo of Cilla Black] Cilla, oh my gosh! Of course, when you get to my age now, so many of the people who feature in the book have passed away. And I would never have thought one of them would be Cilla. She was a little cloakroom girl in The Cavern, so for some reason I just thought she would easily outlast me. In my head, she's still just a young woman, you know?
But people have passed. They have sadness in their lives, they get ill and stuff. But it's still lovely to see her again: there she is, our Cilla. She was a great, fun character with a lovely distinctive voice.
PaulMcCartney.com: With the book you have these images and memories all collected nicely together. When it comes to the exhibition, it's a much more physical and visceral experience because you're going into a space where your photos are blown up, some to be larger than life. Is there anything you hope visitors will take away from that experience?
Paul: I think it’s similar to what the book gives to me, which is taking you back in time and behind the scenes. I think that will be attractive to people. It would be to me, if it was, for example, Mick Jagger's pictures of the Rolling Stones or something - I'd be interested to see that, just because it's a unique perspective that you can’t get anywhere else. They’ll see the sort of images that we [The Beatles] would see pretty much every day, all the screaming crowds and so on. I hope the visitors will get a sense of history and the sense of being allowed behind the scenes all these years later.
From what I've seen in the preparation of it, it's going to be a good-looking exhibition, because we've got some prints that are really quite big! I’ve never seen my prints printed that big before.
PaulMcCartney.com: Are there any particular favourite pictures of yours?
Paul: Yeah, I like the Miami cop with his gun and ammunition, which, as I say in the book, was so incredible for us because we'd never seen a policeman with a gun. Thank goodness! You know, that's one of the great things about Britain.
Then there's one of a girl wearing a headscarf in Washington which I really like as a photograph. I think if that had been taken by any other photographer, I would still think that was a good picture. There’s a sense of coolness: I mean, she's got a headscarf on which is a great look, but there’s also the coolness of her expression as she observes us. It really is quite unusual.
I like the one of George in Miami with his drink and the girl in a yellow bikini. I like it for a variety of reasons: I like it as a photograph, but it’s also a great memory. In these pictures there are great little moments of remembrance. There’s a photo of a girlfriend of mine, which sparks this memory of a date we had. MG cars had a branch in Miami, and they loaned us each a sports car for the week - we'd never had anything like that, especially as a freebie! So, I got to take this girl, Diane, out in an open-top MG sports car on a star-lit Miami evening. It was all a little bit perfect.
I mean, tell you the truth, it was all very platonic and very much a holiday fling. There's a kind of youthful innocence about that period, and seeing a lot of these photos brings it back.
PaulMcCartney.com: Are you still a keen photographer? What kinds of photos do you like to take now?
Paul: I am a keen photographer, and now of course it's all iPhone. It’s just too easy! The iPhone quality is really pretty good, but having a daughter, Mary, who is a professional photographer, she tells me she always takes the precaution of taking a nice picture on a what she calls her ‘real’ camera, just because, you can do pretty much anything with that.
That’s a great tip for any budding photographers – always have a back up! For those who would like the look of film photography but are not too comfortable with a ‘real’ camera, why not check out the Eyes of the Storm Instagram Filter, which shows different 35mm film effects for each city featured in the exhibition? Check it out here.
1964: Eyes of the Storm is out now – get your copy here.
Paul McCartney Photographs 1963-64: Eyes of the Storm is on at the National Portrait Gallery from 28 June – 1 October 2023. Find out more and get tickets here.