Vintage photos from the Beatles' 'entirely out of control' world tour
By Harriet Verney, CNN
August 18, 2017
(CNN)It was on their first ever world tour in 1964 that the Beatles were catapulted from England's national sweethearts to global superstars. Stories of fans fainting and allegedly wetting themselves were common. Police cordons couldn't control the throbbing crowds awaiting the Fab Four at each venue, and the band was successfully cracking the notoriously difficult American music scene.
"This," Brian Sommerville, the Beatles' press officer, grumbled during one particularly hectic New York press conference, "has gotten entirely out of control."
Sommerville may have been witness to the madness but it was photographer Harry Benson who was right in the thick of it.
At the time of the Beatles tour Benson was a fairly unknown photographer. The tour job came about when, as he was en route to an assignment in Africa, Benson was reassigned to Paris, where he was to capture what Beatlemania looked like in France.
Benson would spend nearly two years on and off with the band, being too close to them, however, wasn't on his agenda.
"They weren't keen at first," writes photographer Harry Benson of when he put the idea for this photo to the Beatles. "John said it would make them look childish, then he hit Paul in the back of the head with the pillow and it went from there."
"They were friendly, and I got on with all of them. "George and I even shared a room a few times. He liked the ladies that's for sure!" he recalls in his book "The Beatles: On the Road 1964-1966," which has now been rereleased by Taschen. "But I wouldn't say I was close to them, nor did I want to be."
When it comes to photography and your subjects, he writes, there is a fine line and he was not willing to cross it.
"My philosophy has always been photograph what you see, your photograph should inform, and then get the hell out."
Benson would go on to photograph the likes of Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor and the Queen. He has also photographed every American president since Eisenhower, and was was with Robert. F Kennedy when we was assassinated in 1968.
The Beatles had an incredibly loyal fan base. Stories of girls fainting at the mere sight of the band walking on stage were common, and the four would often get accosted no matter where they were in the world.
In 1966 Benson was sent to take photos of the fallout from John Lennon's infamous "We're bigger than Jesus Christ" comments in Chicago. According to Benson: "Lennon was broken, he was crying, and shattered, and the rest of the group wasn't giving him much sympathy."
Read: New intimate photos reveal Freddie Mercury's private world
Benson recalls how the band had become more "cynical, and were sick of touring. John turned to me and said: 'We aren't going to do this for much longer.' Paul added: 'Of course it's going to stop, we'd look stupid jumping around on stage at 40.'"
Months later the band would play their final scheduled show. Benson writes that the two years he spent with the band were like none he had ever experienced, or would experience again.
"With most of my pictures I think I could have done better, but this was the perfect moment, it won't happen again. I got it."
"The Beatles: On the Road 1964-1966" by Harry Benson, published by Taschen, is out now.
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