PICTURE EXCLUSIVE: Never-before-seen images of The Beatles in 1968 may show George Harrison carrying Paul McCartney's resignation letter in his shirt pocket
· The photographs were taken in 1968 by then 19-year-old Michael Herring
· One shows George Harrison with a piece of paper in his shirt pocket
· Herring claims it was Paul McCartney's unopened resignation letter
· He took the photographs after turning up uninvited on Lennon's doorstep
· Captured the group recording and says he witnessed letter opening
By SANCHEZ MANNING FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY
PUBLISHED: 7 March 2015
UPDATED: 8 March 2015
They are extraordinary pictures of the Beatles in their heyday, images never published before.
And, it is claimed, these photographs reveal for the first time a bombshell moment in the band’s history that has left Beatles experts baffled.
It is 1968 and John Lennon coolly stares into the camera. Alongside him, George Harrison has in his shirt pocket a resignation letter from Paul McCartney – apparently written a full two years before he would eventually quit.
That is the claim of Michael Herring, who took the pictures as a 19-year-old art student during a magical day other Beatles fans could only dream about.
Hello, Goodbye: Lennon and Harrison pictured beside the murals at George’s home. Paul’s ‘resignation letter’ is in Harrison's pocket, says Herring
Mr Herring says he took these intimate pictures of the Beatles after turning up uninvited on John’s doorstep, later sharing a car ride with him to George Harrison’s house to see the Beatles recording – and witnessing the opening of a letter said to announce McCartney’s resignation.
US-born Mr Herring’s adventure began when he ‘doorstepped’ Lennon at his Surrey mansion, Kenwood, on May 28, 1968, after getting the star’s address through a friend.
Mr Herring, who at the time was studying art in Kensington, West London, said that to his surprise he was invited in.
‘John opened the door and said exactly these words: “Well then, what’s it about?”,’ he recalled.
Mr Herring said he won Lennon over by joking: ‘John, I wish you could be me so that you know what it feels like to meet you.’ He was promptly invited in for breakfast.
Mr Herring sat down to eat with the singer and Yoko Ono – who ‘never spoke a word and was just mumbling into a cassette recorder’ – and then his luck got even better.
Impressed with Mr Herring’s knowledge of Yoko’s artwork, Lennon invited him to the band’s rehearsals for the White Album, which would be released later that year.
The never-before-seen photographs have been shared by Herring who took them as a 19-year-old art student
Drive my car: George and Ringo Starr outside Harrison’s Surrey home reportedly on the day the group read McCartney's resignation letter
Herring says he rode with the group from Lennon's house in his mini to Harrison's Surrey bungalow and later to watch them record
They jumped into Lennon’s Mini and drove to Harrison’s Surrey bungalow, Kinfauns – adorned with psychedelic murals – to find George sitting on his lawn, playing the guitar. It was here that Mr Herring captured his series of evocative images.
‘George looked up and said, “Who’s this, then?”’ Mr Herring, 67, recalled. ‘John said, “This is Michael. He’s an artist. I found him in me garden.” They were chatting and the topic they were talking about was Paul. It appeared there was some question over whether Paul was going to show up for the rehearsal.’
In the house, Mr Herring was introduced to Ringo Starr and Harrison’s girlfriend Pattie Boyd.
And then came the arrival of a hand-delivered letter.
Mr Herring said: ‘There was a knock on the door. George opened it and there was a personal delivery guy. He handed him this pale blue letter. George read it and passed it to John.
‘I understood it was a letter from Paul’s attorney saying Paul wanted to quit the band. It was as if they were expecting he wasn’t coming that day. They didn’t seem that surprised. I can only paraphrase, but I recall George saying, “It’s from Eastmans and he’s not coming. Paul is quitting.” ’
Eastmans may have been a reference to the New York law firm Eastman & Eastman, the family business of Lee Eastman, father of the future Linda McCartney, who Paul had met in 1967. Linda’s brother John would later play a central role in steering Paul’s exit from the band.
Mirror image: Lennon is captured by Michael Herring as the pop star gives his young fan a lift
The Beatles spent the rest of the day rehearsing in a small room and only broke to enjoy vegetarian curries. Mr Herring said he saw no drugs or alcohol.
Later, Lennon gave Mr Herring a lift back to the station, Mr Herring capturing one final iconic photograph as Lennon glanced into the car’s rear-view mirror.
Mr Herring kept his day with the Beatles under wraps for 47 years, only going public when he contacted a Manchester auction house, Omega Auctions, to enquire about selling his photographs and other memorabilia. The rare items are expected to fetch in excess of £10,000 when they go on sale on March 24.
Last night, Mark Lewisohn, a leading authority on the Beatles, said Mr Herring’s photographs were ‘fantastic because they capture a moment in history’.
But he cast doubt on the revelations about Paul’s resignation letter, saying: ‘There’s no way that can be accurate because the Eastmans had no part in Paul’s life until his relationship with Linda began in October 1968, and there was no way Paul was quitting at this point. They had a number of sessions at George’s house and Paul was certainly at most of them – maybe not this one – because we have the recordings.’
But he added: ‘This does not undermine the general story, which I do believe.
Mr Herring, a retired illustrator now living in Australia, insists his memories of events at Harrison’s house are correct.
A spokesman for Paul McCartney did not comment last night.
Fascinating, yes... but why were these pictures kept secret all these years, asks Beatles biographer Hunter Davies
In 1968, John Lennon had all the fame and fortune most people could ever wish for.
He had been locked in hotel bedrooms for his own safety, guarded going in and out of concert halls, smuggled out of places in case he was attacked – and yet he constantly let total strangers into his own house.
Was he potty, silly, dicing with danger? Or just innocent and naive?
So the story behind these new, fascinating pictures, taken by a young man who got invited into John’s life, sounds true; the sort of daft thing John often did.
Kenwood, his house on a private estate near Weybridge, Surrey, was hard to get to, the approach intimidating, but several fans had managed to get the address, thanks to a helpful American pop magazine.
The house was large, with an extensive garden and pool and lots of rooms. It cost John £20,000 in 1964 but he had spent another £40,000 doing it up. (Last year, it was on the market for £14 million.)
The reception rooms were lavishly decorated and furnished but they might as well have been corridors – John only ever seemed to walk through them on the way to a little room with a couch and TV where he lolled most days, doing nothing.
Hunter Davies asks why the photographs have never seen the light of the day before
In 1966, when I first went there, his marriage to Cynthia was a sham, so I could see that any interruption might amuse him. But by May 28, 1968, it is harder to believe he would be so welcoming. He had recently shacked up with Yoko – their union consummated just nine days earlier, when Cynthia was away on holiday.
I am surprised John bothered to invite young Mr Herring in, when he was in the first, careless raptures with the love of his life.
George was not like that. His house, Kinfauns, a few miles away, was also on a private estate, and he guarded his privacy with great care. I was with him once when the phone rang. He picked it up and put on a silly Cockney voice. ‘Esher wine store,’ he said. He listened for a moment, said sorry and hung up.
George would not have invited strangers into his house. By 1968, he hated being a Beatle and hated even more being asked about being a Beatle. Fans would get short shrift.
John could be equally rude. But there was a part of him which found it amusing to be kind to strangers – usually if they had come a long way, such as young Americans like Michael Herring.
Taking him to watch them recording for their next album is harder to understand. The Beatles did not like outsiders present when they worked.
Confidant: Hunter Davies and his family on holiday with Paul and Linda McCartney in 1968
It took me months before I was eventually allowed to watch – firstly at their homes and eventually at Abbey Road, sitting beside them in the bowels of the studio. Wives and friends like Mick Jagger had to sit high up behind the glass panel with George Martin and his technicians.
So for Mr Herring, witnessing them perform that day was a rare honour – and he will be able to tell his story to all those PhD students all over the world currently studying Beatles music.
THE photos look genuine – that is George’s house, so I believe he was there that day. But I am not sure about the letter from Paul which allegedly says he is quitting. That would have been a dramatic moment in pop music history. In 1968, the Beatles were beginning to have tiffs and fallings out, but they were still working and composing together – and did so for at least another year.
It was in September 1969 when John said he was leaving, though it was not made public. It was in 1970 they split for good. Paul, during 1968 and 1969, still wanted them all to stay together. He was the driving force in the group by then, so why would he tell them he was quitting?
I can only assume the letter said he wasn’t coming that day. Or George might have been joking.
I also can’t understand why Mr Herring has kept these photos private all these years, as they – and his account of the day – are interesting and valuable.
His observation about the lack of drugs rings true. They did not take any while actually working.
I love the photo of John reflected in the driver’s mirror. Even now, that miniature image, so small and tight, showing little more than John’s eyes and glasses, will immediately be recognised around the world. John does live on.
Of course, being kind to Mark Chapman, a stranger, led to his death in 1980. If he had not been so accommodating to such strangers, would he be alive to this day?