Paul McCartney’s photo collection, "1964: Eyes of the Storm," captures Beatlemania on the rise

In 275 never-before-seen images, McCartney's photographs brilliantly capture the onset of the group's fame

By Kenneth Womack

Contributing Writer

Published June 11, 2023 7:00AM (EDT)

John Lennon and George Harrison, Paris, 1964 (© 1964 Paul McCartney)
John Lennon and George Harrison, Paris, 1964 (© 1964 Paul McCartney)

When it comes to sketching out his concert setlists, Paul McCartney must suffer from a veritable embarrassment of riches. In the United States alone, he has authored or co-authored 32 number-one songs — enough to comprise a single live performance all by themselves. And this doesn't even begin to account for perennial Beatles- and Wings-era favorites like the Abbey Road medley or "Live and Let Die," which are showstoppers in and of themselves.

Paul McCartney's "1964: Eyes of the Storm" makes for a truly elegant collection of photographs, a Beatle's-eye-view, if you will, of the fabled group's spectacular rise to international superstardom. Comprised of some 275 never-before-seen images, McCartney's photographs brilliantly capture the onset of Beatlemania both within and beyond the shores of the Beatles' homeland.

"1964: Eyes of the Storm" pointedly begins after the band's national ascendancy during their performance on the October 13th installment of Val Parnell's popular variety show, Sunday Night at the London Palladium. With "She Loves You" burning up the charts, the Palladium served as Ground Zero for the fan frenzy that was so peculiar to the Beatles' fame. By beginning his photograph narrative a few months hence, in December 1963, McCartney's book demonstrates the Beatles and their circle in the act of not only consolidating their brand but conquering the global music scene.

In his foreword, McCartney extols the understandable joy that he and his mates experienced as the world put out the welcome mat for the four lads from Liverpool. His photographs reveal the boys' giddiness as they experience the first blush of an international celebrity that has never really ebbed. In many ways, the book's highwater mark emerges in the author's section devoted to the Beatles' bravura visit to New York City in February 1964.

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In the aggregate, McCartney's images capture a range of experience and attitudes as the 20-something Beatles prepare to take America's biggest stage at the Ed Sullivan Theatre on Sunday, February 9. Not surprisingly, many of the photos find the bandmates lounging about hotel rooms with a quiet confidence that is tempered only by their shared sense of youthful abandon. This latter aspect is revealed by the unforgettable image of the Beatles' entourage — Englishmen, no less — trying their hand at a pickup basketball game, with Big Mal Evans towering above the others like an NBA center.

In its finest moments, "1964: Eyes of the Storm" affords music lovers with vivid images of John, Paul, George and Ringo as they embark upon an unknown world where everything is still possible, including failure and the potential for slipping into the recesses of an unforgiving history. But as we devour the photos in McCartney's book, we know this simply isn't true. McCartney's images find the Beatles reveling in the moment, with nary a glint in their eyes about the artistic heights that their most unusual future portends.

By Kenneth Womack

Kenneth Womack is the author of a two-volume biography of the life and work of Beatles producer George Martin and the host of "Everything Fab Four," a podcast about the Beatles distributed by Salon. He is also the author of "Solid State: The Story of Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles," published in 2019 in celebration of the album’s 50th anniversary, "John Lennon, 1980: The Last Days in the Life" and the authorized biography "Living the Beatles Legend: The Untold Story of Mal Evans" (November 2023).  Womack is Professor of English and Popular Music at Monmouth University.

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