Henry Grossman spent four years photographing The Beatles as they did everything from perform in concerts and pose for magazine covers to party late into the night and pour milk with bedhead in the morning.
Grossman recognized their prominence — it was hard to miss when he had to wear earplugs to block out the screaming beneath the stage at concerts – but he said he would have been more in awe if they had been opera stars. He just liked the guys, he said.
“It just shows me my judgment isn’t very good. I didn’t understand rock,” Grossman said about himself in the ’60s. Though now he says he loves it.
Not even The Beatles realized they would still be defining pop culture a half century after their American Invasion. Grossman recalls a long conversation with George Harrison about their fame in 1967 in which Harrison told him, “Who knows how long this is going to last.”
Grossman first photographed The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, their first show on American soil. He was just another press photographer lined up in the CBS studio on assignment.
Just six months later he was photographing Ringo Starr playing poker with friends and Harrison on the floor playing Monopoly with his girlfriend in Atlantic City.
In February 1965, Grossman spent a week in the Bahamas with the band as they were filming for the movie “Help.” He photographed Starr sitting on conch shells at the beach. These were the first color photographs Grossman took of a Beatle.
Grossman recalls picking up a piece of coral from the beach and showing it to Paul McCartney. He told McCartney, “Just think of how many millions of years it took for it to get here.”
McCartney grabbed it, tossed it in the air and caught it a few times, then threw it into the ocean.
“There, I guess we sent that one back a couple hundred years, didn’t we Henry?” McCartney said.
Grossman also photographed other well-known groups, including The Grateful Dead and The Rolling Stones, but he said he never saw this grounded wit from any other stars. Their fame grew, but Grossman says they didn’t change, whether in front of his camera or not.
“They were four unique guys that could get together and keep their individuality,” he said. “I admired who they were.”
Grossman said he enjoyed spending time with them, but recognized there were too many good opportunities for pictures with them to ever put his camera away in their company.
He took more than 6,000 photographs of The Beatles, many of which were stowed-away negatives that hadn't been developed until this decade.
It took editors Kevin Ryan and Brian Kehew more than four years to pull the best photos for a 528-page book of his work, “Places I Remember: My Time With the Beatles,” which weighs in at an arm-weakening 13 pounds.
- Lauren Russell, CNN
Related: Photos of the Rolling Stones