It Was Thirty Years Ago Today

by Terence Spencer

It Was Thirty Years Ago Today

      Their lives were about to be transformed beyond all expectations - including their own. 'They really hadn't taken in what was happening to them,' Spencer recalls, 'and backstage of course they were just normal human beings and apparently entirely unaffected by the overwhelming reception they were getting ... To begin with they did resent my presence, I think, because they felt I was intruding on their privacy, but after a while I just became part of the furniture and in the end they really didn't know that the camera was clicking.'
      The fruits of that intimacy, published here for the first time, are a collection of photographs that portray, with unprecedented candour, the Beatles backstage, on stage, behind the scenes, in front of the mirror, before the show, after the party, under the lights, over the moon, dressing up, lying down, hiding out, staying in, fooling about, riding around, trying it on and laughing it off. These pictures reveal the Beatles as youlve never seen them - as nobody has ever seen them. Here they all are, as they really were - thirty years ago today.

In 1963, when Beatlemania was just beginning to explode in Britain, photographer Terry Spencer returned from working on news stories in Africa to find his daughter - then thirteen - begging him to do a feature on 'the Fab Four'. The editors of Life magazine were at first unimpressed by the idea; in America the group were still practically unknown. But after the Beatles had agreed to let Spencer travel with them for four months, in January 1964 Life did indeed publish a feature, just before the band launched into its historic and triumphant tour of the States.
      Thirty years later, 5,000 negatives of Spencer's Beatles photographs - virtually all of them unpublished - resurfaced and were sold at auction by Sotheby's of London. It Was Thirty Years Ago Today contains the cream of these 'lost' pictures, presenting a uniquely fresh and uninhibited portrait of the Beatles at a time when they were on the very brink of international stardom - still anonymous enough to allow Spencer intimate access, yet already famous enough to need protection from their multitudes of fans.

TERENCE SPENCER was born during a Zeppelin raid in England in 1918. He took an engineering degree at Birmingham University but was saved by the outbreak of World War 11 in which he served as a Spitfire pilot, eventually commanding two squadrons. He was twice taken a prisoner of war and escaped once, and he was also awarded a place in the Guinness Book of Records for having made the lowest authenticated parachute jump on record. He ended the war with a DFC and a Belgian Croix de Guerre avec palme. After the war he flew a single-engine aeroplane 8,000 miles to South Africa without a radio or emergency supplies, and with only makeshift maps. There he set up a successful aerial photography business and met and married a London stage and screen actress, Lesley Brook. In 1952 Terence Spencer started working for American Life magazine, covering the rise and fall of the African continent; he then went on to cover stories in trouble spots all over the world. In 1963 he returned to England to cover the Beatles and the 60s cults and fashions, and when the magazine folded in 1972 he freelanced for The New York Times and other US publications. He then began to work for a new American magazine, People, which gave him the opportunity of covering numerous UK pop groups, writers, and stage and screen celebrities. His photograph collection today comprises some one million transparencies and black and white negatives, and must rank as one of the largest private collections. He continues to freelance.

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