New Brighton • Friday, November 24, 1961 • Evening

ConcertBy The Beatles • Part of the 1961 Liverpool Area Concerts
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United Kingdom
New Brighton
Tower Ballroom

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From The Guardian – ‘If you want to be bigger than Elvis, do what the photographer tells you’ … John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Pete Best and George Harrison backstage at the Tower Ballroom in the early 1960s. Photograph: Mike McCartney

When it comes to Paul’s extraordinary band, this is one of my favourite photos. It was taken in the dressing room at the Tower Ballroom, New Brighton, in ’61 or ’62. It had gone from holding ballroom dances into rock’n’roll, so while our kid was on the bill experimenting with his music, I was doing the same with photography. In those days, the Beatles were supporting people like Joe Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard. Can you imagine? Those gigs were extraordinary, absolute magic. I’d be shooting from the ballroom balcony and the bouncers would sometimes throw the drunks off on to the floor below!

They’d just played the show when I took this photo backstage in the dressing room. They’ve been in their leathers and they’ve come offstage. That’s why John’s hair is all slicked back. That’s not Brylcreem – it’s sweat. I’d taken a more serious photograph before this one. It wasn’t hard to direct them. I’d say to John: “If you want to be bigger than Elvis, do what the photographer tells you.” Then I told them: “Now let’s have a daft one. Do whatever you like.” […]

I call our kid “Rambo Paul” in this photo, because his look reminds me of Stallone. I think Pete was doing one of the silly voices from The Goon Show. Then there’s nipple-shooting George. I have no idea why he’s pointing at Paul’s nipple. And we can’t ask him now.

The most important thing this photograph communicates is joy. It’s all about the fun, the camaraderie. They were totally relaxed in each other’s company and bounced off each other. All this business about the Beatles’ arguments – we all have arguments, for Christ’s sake. This photograph is a much stronger reflection of the reality.

Mike McCartney – From The Guardian, December 1, 2021

Last updated on December 4, 2021

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