HI everyone and a 'MERRY CRIMBLE' TO ALL....
|© Otava / Katja Lösönen 2009|
I did a photograph of the Beatles covered in raw meat, dolls and false teeth. Putting meat, dolls and false teeth with The Beatles is essentially part of the same thing, the breakdown of what is regarded as normal. The actual conception for what I still call "Somnambulant Adventure" was Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments. He comes across people worshipping a golden calf. All over the world I'd watched people worshiping like idols, like gods, four Beatles. To me they were just stock standard normal people. But this emotion that fans poured on them made me wonder where Christianity was heading.
Q: How did that photo, featuring the Beatles among slabs of meat and decapitated dolls, come about? Was it your idea or the Beatles'?
Robert Whitaker: It was mine. Absolutely. It was part of three pictures that should have gone into an icon. And it was a rough. If you could imagine, the background of that picture should have been all gold. Around the heads would have gone silver halos, jewelled. Then there are two other pictures that are in the book [The Unseen Beatles], but not in colour.
Q: How did you prepare for the shoot?
It was hard work. I had to go to the local butcher and get pork. I had to go to a doll factory and find the dolls. I had to go to an eye factory and find the eyes. False teeth. There's a lot in that photograph. I think John's almost-last written words were about that particular cover; that was pointed out to me by Martin Harrison, who wrote the text to my book. I didn't even know that, but I'm learning a lot.
Q: Why meat and dolls? There's been a lot of conjecture over the years about what that photo meant. The most popular theory is that it was a protest by the Beatles against Capitol Records for supposedly "butchering" their records in the States.
Rubbish, absolute nonsense. If the trilogy or triptych of the three photographs had ever come together, it would have made sense. There is another set of photos in the book which is the Beatles with a girl with her back toward you, hanging on to sausages. Those sausages were meant to be an umbilical cord. Does this start to open a few chapters?
Q: Were you aware when you shot it that Capitol Records was going to use it as a record cover?
Q: Were you upset when they did and then when they pulled it and replaced it with another photo?
Well, I shot that photo too, of them sitting on a trunk, the one that they pasted over it. I fairly remember being bewildered by the whole thing. I had no reason to be bewildered by it, purely and simply, because it could certainly be construed as a fairly shocking collection of bits and pieces to stick on a group of people and represent that in this country.
The cover was an unfinished concept. It was just one of a series of photographs that would have made up a gate-fold cover. Behind the head of each Beatle would have been a golden halo and in the halo would have been placed a semi-precious stone. Then the background would have contained more gold, so it was rather like a Russian icon. It was just after John Lennon had said that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ. In a material world that was an extremely true statement.
|I have always liked this early Hamburg shot, it almost looks Victorian. The passers by are Stu, Paul and George. This is Lennon with his early attitude shown both in his pose and face....|
|Another great docu-social shot of John, maybe in Pauls kitchen?|
|Is that the Gallagher brothers? could be from 1996 instead of 1966...|
|There's a well know story of Ringo taking a suitcase of tinned baked beans to India in 1968 on their mediation sabbatical. He hasn't got a strong stomach apparently...|
|Sometime in 1967, probably around pre-release of Sgt. Pepper, for such an influential look and legacy it was a remarkably short period of time.|
|Nearing the end now and the tension between then is getting obvious. I think this is actually from the last PR shoot at Johns Tittenhurst Park. In many of the other shots George is distinctly seperate from the other 3 and has this 'lets get it over with pleeeese face'. They all knew it i am sure.|
|Sorry for the poor quality, anybody got a better copy please send it to me.|
|1964 The Beatles limousine gets mobbed by fans as they arrive at Futurist theatre in Scarborough.|
|Ford Zephyr 6, a 1965 reg model. Seems awefully small....|
|An Austin Princess Limousine. Now thats more like it!|
|Beatles Daimler DS420 found in 1999 Somerset|