Kids were quicker to catch on to Beatlemania than parents and newspapers were. But on July 1, 1963, London tabloid The Daily Sketch dispatched Terry O’Neill, 24, to photograph a Liverpool pop group recording at EMI Studios on Abbey Road.
When O’Neill walked in, they were recording “She Loves You.” During a break, he snapped them in the backyard with their instruments — Ringo Starr held his drumsticks and hoisted a cymbal stand. With the photo on the front page, the issue sold out: a wake-up call that these lads were shaking up youth culture … and the world.
The famous image is on the cover of The Beatles by Terry O’Neill: The Definitive Collection (out June 13), a 256-page hardcover crammed with photos spanning the private and public lives of the Fabs from the 1960s to the 2000s. Many are rare, previously unpublished or recently unearthed after being missing for decades.
Terry O’Neill and the Beatles
O’Neill, who died of cancer at 81 in 2019, became legendary, capturing iconic images of notables ranging from Frank Sinatra, Brigitte Bardot and Audrey Hepburn to Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela. He was also known for photographing the biggest rock stars of the era, including Elvis Presley, Elton John, David Bowie and the Rolling Stones. But he earned a distinguished status in the Beatles camp after arriving at that opportune moment in 1963.
O’Neill was granted broad access, not only in studios and on stages, but backstage, in rehearsals, at home and during private functions. The band is glimpsed performing, goofing off, smoking cigarettes, chilling with family, mingling with celebrities and enjoying solitude. O’Neill, a jazz drummer himself, was especially close to Ringo Starr, who enlisted O’Neill to photograph his 1981 wedding to actress Barbara Bach. The extraordinary results include McCartney at the piano serenading guests and Starr playing guitar at the reception.