The problem with great moments in history is that soon enough your own lifetime encompasses so many of them, and your brain fills with images and olfactory remembrances. Well, fifty years ago today on February 7, 1964 the Beatles arrived in America. It was as much as any one cultural event, a truly defining moment. We were moving rapidly from the age of the by then murdered John F. Kennedy to the age of Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon. The early sixties were one world the ten years from say 1964 to 1974 quite another. To my mind what we now refer to as “the sixties” really spanned that shifted decade, and the Beatles arrival was one place marker of its beginning. Anyway, I remember it all too well!
Figure 1 shows the Beatles arriving at JFK airport in New York and waving to fans. It is from the archives of the Library of Congress and was taken by an unknown UPI photographer. More significantly, I was reading John Estrin’s Lens Blog in the New York Times, which details the career of Bill Eppridge (1938-2013). He is, perhaps, best known for his 1968 image of busboy Juan Romero comforting the mortally wounded Robert F. Kennedy. At age 26, Eppridge covered the Beatles’ arrival for Life Magazine. Eppridge recognized the significance of the event and followed the Beatles for the six days of their US tour. He shot an amazing 90 rolls of film. But with the exception of the four images published by Life these were unknown until this week when Eppridges work will be published by Rizzoli in a new book, “The Beatles: Six Days That Changed the World.”
Of course, there’s nothing like seeing the real thing. Bill Eppridge’s photographs of the Beatles’ tour will be on exhibit at the Museum at Bethel Woods in Bethel, N.Y., beginning on April 5, and at the Monroe Gallery of Photography in Santa Fe, N.M., starting April 25.