Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Curt Gunther’s Rare Beatles Photos Are a Hit

In 1964, German photographer Curt Gunther was Beatles press officer Derek Taylor’s lucky choice as official lensman for the band’s first American tour. On public view for the first time at the Morrison Hotel Gallery, the late Gunther’s black-and-white shots capture the Fab Four as just another hardworking band, albeit one with a rabid following. It’s a predictably revealing look at the group right as their popularity was exploding, but before they had iconic status thrust on them. George looks anxious and pissed most of the time; John bears a remarkable resemblance to a young David Crosby, twenty pounds heavier than he was by the time Rubber Soul came out; Paul is something of a goof, and Ringo tunes it all out. From a musician’s perspective, the most fascinating shot offers a side view of Ringo behind his kit, high on his riser, during what appears to be a rehearsal somewhere. He faces a wall covered with graffiti: squeezed into the barely eighteen-inch space below between the wall and riser are John and George. Are they even able to see their bandmate?

Another photo captures John, Paul and George walking down a tunnel, guitars in hand, possible in the bowels of a stadium. A sixtysomething security guard glances at them as they pass, warily, but obviously without a clue as to the historical significance of the moment. Several sweet outdoor shots show the band onstage, Paul sharing a mic either with George or John: take away the moptops, and the conservatively suited quartet could have been Buddy Holly and the Crickets at just another Texas football field. In the back of a limo, Paul goofs off while Ringo zones out, John hides behind his shades and George can’t wait for the end of the ride. The most playful of all of these shows Paul hiding his right eye behind the neck of his bass, George walking ahead of him with impatient unease.

There’s also a shot of the group on horseback (Central Park?); a group pose at a slot machine (nobody is playing); John in bed (still in his shades), smoking; several variously fatigued backstage scenes, a typically surreal 1960s pose with mirrors, and a few photos of fans. Only two of these really strike a nerve: one captures a cop trying to restrain a girl of about eleven who’s trying to sprint past his barricade, and there’s another of a middleaged female fan striking a “Home Alone” pose, hands upside her cheap drugstore eyeglasses and discount beehive hairdo, that wouldn’t be out of place in the Diane Arbus catalog. A must-see for all Beatles fans; prints are on sale at the gallery, and if there’s any justice in the world there will eventually be a coffee table book. The exhibit runs through July 15 at the Morrison Hotel Gallery’s SoHo space at 116 Prince St. between Wooster and Greene.; viewing hours are not listed on the gallery’s website, although they’re typically open during the day Monday through Saturday.

June 18, 2010 - Posted by | Art, Music, music, concert, photography, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. Thank you for the nice article about Curt Gunther’s Beatles photography exhibit.
    The image you spoke of; John, George, and Ringo up against a graffiti wall is actually a wall or curtain that lifts up to revel the Beatles to the audience.
    A series of images was made of John squatting down so low to get under the thing as it was lifting, it was barely up a foot and a half and John crammed and jammed himself down there just to get out on stage and start playing!
    He had the passion. I will hopefully print those sometime soon.

    Comment by Steve Gunther | June 20, 2010 | Reply

  2. My wife and I had the pleasure of meeting Curt through a mutual friend while living in California in the early 80s. we had calzone, wine and wonderful conversation at a little place down on the Sunset Strip in W. Hollywood. After dinner my wife and i were invited back to his home and he showed us many of the photographs. it was a night i will not forget and a thrill to be given the privilege of being one of the few to see them. he was a very interesting man with a great sense of humor.

    Comment by Jim Harris | February 8, 2014 | Reply

  3. Hey Steve…. I have seen a photo of your father’s on the Morrison Gallery Site. The Beatles are eating and seated with a man in sunglasses. The man is identified as Brian Epstein. It doesn’t look like him, but it does look like Marcello Mastroianni. Is this possible?

    Comment by faith Cohen | January 23, 2016 | Reply


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